What is digital body language?

I’m interested in how people communicate and connect when they aren’t face to face or even communicating in real time, perhaps through an asynchronous forum or community such as Slack or Yammer.

Lori Niles-Hoffman, Chief Learning Officer at Fuse Universal, has experienced “the seismic shift from classroom to digital” in her career and this is what many professionals are dealing with – either embracing or struggling.

This is a pretty epic blog post exploring the topic in a fair amount of detail, with lots of links for you to read more.

What’s the short version?

The short version of this blog post is:

  1. Digital body language is all of the electronic stuff we do (or don’t do) online that you can analyse to understand people and what they want to do
  2. It comes from marketing, but we can, and should, apply it to L&D
  3. Face to face communication and training is changing, so we need to understand how to communicate with people differently
  4. Digital body language applies to groups, forums, enterprise social networks, social media, internal and external electronic behaviour, communities, webinars and virtual classrooms.

And here’s the long version…

What is DBL anyway?

According to Lori, it was Steve Woods who developed the term “Digital Body Language” in 2009.

Steve explains it this way on his blog:

Digital Body Language is the aggregate of all the digital activity you see from an individual. Each email that is opened or clicked, each web visit, each form, each search on Google, each referral from a social media property, and each webinar attended are part of the prospect’s digital body language.

In the same way that body language, as read by a sales person managing a deal, is an amalgamation of facial expressions, body posture, eye motions, and many other small details, digital body language is the amalgamation of all digital touchpoints.

This is a great introduction from the Clicktale e-book about customer’s body language:

Clicktale goes on in the document to say:

The same level [as face to face] of interaction and interpretation is achievable in the digital world. Every mouse move, hover, scroll, tap and pinch exposes structured behavioral patterns that determine customers’ digital body language and mindset.

Digital body language is a customer’s subconscious online behavior. Being able to interpret this digital body language is a must-have standard for the next wave of digital commerce.

Jamie Good, in his LinkedIn article, defined digital body language as:

The aggregate of an individual’s passive and active online activity

This focuses on the data generated when using computers and associated devices. It’s looking at what you click, or don’t click and a huge amount of other online measurements too. It can bring up issues of privacy and who owns the data, which Jamie’s article starts to discuss.

Also this TLDCast discussion I hosted with HT2Labs CEO Ben Betts addresses some of the opportunities and challenges with data, xAPI, Learning Record Stores (LRS), the implications of GDPR and who owns what data.

This is all very well about data from platforms and websites, but we need to think about how this can apply in learning and development.

From face to face to digital comms

There’s a lot of change in corporate communications, sales, marketing and of course the way that not only do people learn, but also how we as L&D professionals communicate with our learners.

In her eBook, Lori Niles-Hoffman highlights that:

Sales and marketing departments experienced a similar challenge [to L&D departments] when customer relationships moved from face-to-face, nurtured relationships to online transactions.

…Connections are now developed via multiple and rapid online interactions.

Building on this point, Clicktale share some HBR insight:

We are increasingly seeing this change with learning offerings: not only through an LMS (learning management system); but also online communities/groups/forums as well as digital content offerings and virtual classrooms.

In her book Lori gives the example of what digital body language analysis can enable:

DBL analysis can show which content format is most appealing and at what time of day or week the customer prefers to engage.

From a marketing point of view Lori continues to explain that:

Once the DBL of a customer is decoded, then marketing can design content and campaigns that respond to these preferences.This increases the probability of positive and ongoing engagement with the brand and company.

And we can adapt this for learning and development when we are putting together learning campaigns and digital content for people at work. To this point, Lori shares that:

This type of thinking has not yet arrived in the learning industry. Every drop-off, click, or share is a learner shouting their likes and dislikes. These actions are the eye-rolls, smiles, and arms crossed from the classroom, simply in digital format. But we are not listening.

Read more about why Lori wrote her Data-Drive Learning Design eBook here.

Problems with digital body language for learning and development

Refocusing on the L&D professional, Lori highlights that that change with technology-enabled communications and learning transactions means that:

The in-person relationship is fading. Companies are shifting to digital modalities to avoid the associated travel and accommodation costs of face-to-face delivery.

This loss for learning professionals means the inability to real-time assess the engagement of learners.

Lori confirms what many face to face trainers, facilitators, teachers and presenters are afraid of:

The opportunity to read and adapt to the body language of participants in a classroom has vanished.

With regards specifically the virtual classroom, I wrote this article for Training Journal about facilitating A Group You Cannot See and what technology features are available for interacting with and engaging your attendees.

When thinking about the data to analyse, there are challenges in how to capture it. The Granify E-Commerce Blog, in an article by Lacie Larschan, highlight that:

The usefulness of digital body language depends heavily on the granularity of data captured…and even more challenging to interpret this data.

They highlight that there are ways to overcome the challenges:

This is why recent advances in machine learning have propelled the use of digital body language in marketing and sales campaigns.

A system powered by machine learning can detect patterns that might be hidden from even the best of human analysts.

This is another reason that, whilst you as an L&D professional might not specialise in this area, an awareness of computer and data trends are important as they will impact on how we work in the future.

Opportunities for digital body language

In their research paper Data-driven Learning: A Student-centered Technique for Language Learning, Touraj Talai and Zahra Fotovatnia reference Tim Johns about Data-Driven Learning:

Johns (1988) expressed that DDL entails a shift in the role of teachers and students. In other words the teacher works as a research director and collaborator instead of transmitting information to the students directly and explicitly.

If you want more depth, you can read a bit more from Tim himself in his paper Should You Be Persuaded – Two Samples of Data-Driven Learning Materials.

This is moving into an area of potentially using technology to provide curated materials to attendees, as well as analysing their online behaviour. We are moving into looking at not only the learning intervention and the ‘session’ as it is live, but also the broad and varies social interactions that surround this.

Is this still digital body language when looking at social media and the various platforms that people use for work and learning (remembering of course that there’s huge overlap between those two).

Perhaps digital body language is a strict marketing term and in L&D we should focus on different terminology to describe further what we do. Is it “electronic body language” or “virtual body language”. Is it actually about “online communications” or “online behaviour analysis”.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter and the semantics aren’t the issue here – it’s more about understanding what we CAN include rather than exclude, and what we actually do.

What can digital body language help us do?

Community Roundtable co-founder Rachel Happe wrote on her blog about digital body language:

After years of watching people interact online it is clear to me that you can infer quite a bit about people’s unwritten intent.

Rachel goes on to give some examples, such as these based on Twitter:

  • How and when someone inserts themselves into a public conversation
  • What and who a person RTs [Re-Tweets] or shares
  • How reactive and emotional individuals are (are they quick to judge or slower to respond to good/bad news?)

This is then focusing on the behaviour of an individual, and we need to include ourselves in this – as our professional profile, business owners, learners ourselves and of course in understanding the people we are interacting with in ways other than face to face.

On the Business 2 Community website, PureMatter CEO Bryan Kramer wrote an article about mastering your digital body language and stated that:

A company’s digital body language is an assessment of the collective behavior across the Internet, including marketing initiatives and user interactions in the earned, owned and paid sectors online.

As opportunities to interact socially are growing infinitesimally, paying attention to your personal digital body language – as a representative of both your personal brand and your company brand – is becoming critical.

….When you’re able to build a digital body language that reflects your authentic personal and corporate brand, true magic happens.

Bryan goes on to share ways to shape your own digital body language, which go towards the perception of your company or professional brand. His first point is “create and share heartfelt content” in order to “be authentic in everything that you represent” and avoid seeming manufactured.

Following this line of thought, Lisa Attygalle, Director of Engagement at Tamarack, wrote that:

There is a need for community engagement to become more focused on relationship-building rather than being transactional.

…Developing an understanding of digital body language may be helpful. I thought about some digital body language cues that may be visible in typical online engagement initiatives and suggested what they may infer.

Lisa goes on to give examples such as “on Facebook, responded as ‘Interested’ (not attending) to an in-person consultation event” the inference might be that they are “interested in contributing but the timing or location of the consultation may not suit.” Lisa also makes suggestions of your responses, such as inviting people to share their story on your blog if they have already commented in social media.

Lisa’s blog post is a really valuable list of behaviours, understandings and suggested responses to help with your thinking about your community, be it in a specific platform such as our own Lightbulb Moment free virtual classroom and webinar group, or your followers on social media.

So what?

With the different ways that we communicate in business, in our working lives and as learning professionals ourselves, we all need to know a little bit about digital body language. We need to understand the personal brand we have and as part of the organisation we work for.

In our organisations we need to start thinking about what data there is already that we can analyse, what can we perhaps start to collect and what we can do with that – especially with the learning management system being an ever-changing beast and there being so much rich data outside of it’s digital walls.

When thinking about our communities of practice the digital body language analysis we can make from an admin point of view of the data, as well as what community managers and contributors can understand and interpret as invested users or individual participants are going to be part of our daily lives, if they aren’t already.

And when we come to deliver learning solutions that include social learning through discussions groups/forums, maybe MOOCs and of course virtual classrooms and webinars, we need to be able to understand what the online behaviour is of people.

In the modern working and learning world, we can’t see everybody face to face. So it’s time to face up to digital body language.

#LTMOOC16 Technology to enhance

For the Beyond The Next Button MOOC from Curatr we are asked to research some technology and share about it. This is good as, to be honest, without being MADE to do it, I would have read some stuff and moved on. I wouldn’t have truly got involved. 

Periscope

I enjoyed reading about Periscope, for live video broadcast via Twitter. This has been used a lot by Kate Graham at Learning Technologies and I look forward to using this for some live events myself.

2016-04-02 12.48.02

I had a play with it last night on my iPhone and it was pretty easy to install the app, link with Twitter and start broadcasting. It took a couple of goes to play with a few basic tools, such as how to stop broadcasting!

It took a bit more looking and Googling to follow Kate Graham’s advice to save video to the device to be used later – – Periscope broadcast videos are only live for 24 hours.

I think one of the challenging things with something like Periscope is the “live broadcast” element of it. I used a Twitter account that I no longer use, so it’s basically a test rather than going out to all my followers or that of Training Journal, which is where I want to use the technology.

However there is also benefit in Working Out Loud and I will probably do this now from @LightbulbJo so that I can get feedback from my Personal Learning Network, share what I’m learning and also encourage others to do the same.

Phone technology

The other thing I’ve been playing with is a new phone. I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 that runs on Android paying system. Great phone, love it, no need to change other than upgrade hardware soon.

For a particular client and training programme soon, I need to know the hardware they have, which is a company provided iPhone 5c. So I got one off of eBay for a hundred quid, a cheap SIM for £1 (backup phone now on a different network, which is always useful) and started playing with it.

Largely I’m  using it as a small wifi tablet and must admit is turning into my Training Journal device (I’m Deputy Editor part time).

It’s interesting to consider whether it’s useful to be comfortable using technology that’s similar but different, meaning you have to be agile and flexible in your use; or if its confusing and annoying when things are in different places!

The unexpected highlight of the new-to-me iPhone is the time lapse camera. How can I use this to record something for ages, but have a super speed version to look at? Set it up in a corner whilst I deliver a webinar to see what I do behind the scenes? Put it at a training day to show people moving around? Don’t know yet, something that has got my creative juices flowing!

Also on the MOOC…

Ian Helps shared about Biteable for video editing and I want to try this out soon.

With the amount of tools available, I love this comment:

Gosh, where to begin? I think this just emphasises the need to identify the problem first. Then maybe think of a creative solution (i.e. if tech could do anything, could it do this?). Then trial 2-3 niche tools.

Craig Taylor, who designed and is facilitating the MOOC, shared a curated list of top technical tools: http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/

Right, back to the programme and learning more!

Live online learning, friend or foe? At CLC Member’s Seminar – March 2016

I was invited to the Charity Learning Consortium’s March Member’s Seminar and facilitated a session about live online learning, or virtual classroom’s. I titled the session “friend or foe” as there can be so much challenge, negativity, mindset or attitude issues when looking towards something new, especially when that involves technology.

I haven’t got any slides here to share, as it was a covnersation I facilitated that had no slides and no structure. Instead, below, I’ve captured the tweets from the session to give you a flavour and also say thank you to the kind comments that people made about my facilitation too.

If you do want some more on this subject, look on my other pages about articles, videos and recorded webinars.

Thank you to Training Journal, Tim Scott and others for their tweets.

Live online learning – article links

hI’ve written some articles about live online facilitation recently and thought I’d share with you, either for your own reference or perhaps might help with colleagues, managers and clients:

 

From the Corporate Learning Consortium, what is live online learning:
http://www.elearningconsortium.com/what-is-live-online-learning/

From Training Journal, how to facilitate a group you can’t see:
https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/group-you-cannot-see

From Learning Technologies magazine, how to design for the online classroom:
http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/19787a22#/19787a22/148

From HR Zone, How can we approach live online learning to ensure good practice?
http://www.hrzone.com/lead/strategy/how-can-we-approach-live-online-learning-to-ensure-good-practice

Live Event Tweeting

Blog originally published in Training Journal February 2014

For some L&D individuals Twitter is a waste of time. For others it’s a great way to develop a professional profile and keep in touch with a personal learning network. In the last few years I’ve gone from one end of this journey to enjoying the other.

One of the things I’ve experienced in the last few years is Live Tweeting – attending an event of some kind and Tweeting messages about the contents, speakers, discussions and my own observations or questions. At first I was relatively tentative, partly as I didn’t have a large Twitter following and partly I didn’t know what tone to use, what to say and certainly didn’t want to offend. I would also often follow this up with a blog of my experiences, thoughts and reflections.

As I did this more at the events I was attending I got more followers, re-tweets, conversations and positive comments. People seemed to appreciate the points I was picking up from speakers and broadcasting, or the research and resource links I added to the conversation, or perhaps my own thoughts or questions about what I was attending. I remember the day that Donald H. Taylor, Chairman of, amongst other things, the Learning Technologies Conference, came and shook my hand and thanked me for my tweets. I felt very honoured. A year later I was tweeting from the conference and spent much more time with Don, and others, which resulted in officially Live Tweeting at this year’s January Conference – an amazing and fulfilling experience.

Image: Sergey Zolkin from unsplash.com

Image: Sergey Zolkin from unsplash.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In between times I had honed my skills a little more – drawing on my background in journalism to try and report what was being said as well as my own professional judgement from years of different experiences in Learning and Development. I spent time Live Tweeting on Learning Skills Group webinars, usually hosted by Don, and the Virtual Learning Show put together independently by Colin Steed, CEO of the Learning Performance Institute – again I was very pleased when Colin asked me to live tweet from the online conference. I was practicing the very challenging skills of listening to the speaker and watching the content whilst trying to pick out sound bites that would fit into 140 characters for Twitter, that could be read out of context, rather than in a stream, and still make sense. It took a fair amount of work for me to get comfortable and quick doing so. I’ve had almost exclusively overwhelming positive feedback from being part of what’s called a back channel, whereby you report and converse on Twitter about an event. This is great for people to follow up afterwards, to find resources (something I find particularly gratifying to share) and follow the key points and insights from well-known thought leaders even if they can’t be there in person.

One piece of constructive feedback was around Tweeting quotes or elements that are stating the obvious. It’s a fair challenge and one to appreciate that some things might seem basic or obvious. However the conclusion I came to when these Tweets were commented upon was that this might be obvious for some who have done research, who are leading the way, who are actually doing some of these things. However for others this isn’t the case. They are still developing their skills or learning new ways of doing things. Even if we are, it can be good to see things that reinforce we are working or approaching in a way in which industry leaders are advocating. Or perhaps it’s seeing a quote, saying or reference to backup an approach we are trying to get signed-off or read in a new way.

At Learning Technologies this year it was gratifying, if a little embarrassing at times, for people to come up to me, say hello and that they are following my conference tweets and how much they appreciate them, or comment on how fast I’m able to do them. Partly this is due to the effort as described above. It’s also partly having the right kit. I use a mix of my phone, mostly for photo’s as it’s easy to point, focus and put on Twitter; my iPad, often with Logitech keyboard for speed and accuracy of typing (once the blue tooth connected!); and a laptop, as I find it even quick and easier, having been typing on computers since I was a child.

A friend in the exhibition tweeted me a picture of my profile image on the large screens, with one of my tweets, which were showing around the building. He said I was “famous”. It’s obviously a relative term but fun none-the-less! The most gratifying piece of feedback from this conference was being listed in the HR Zone’s top 50 conference tweets.  Not only was one of my tweets in at number two, I was listed three times in all. That made the effort I’ve put it on behalf of my own skills and of getting the information from the Conference out to a wider audience very worthwhile!

Jo Cook

Developing Leaders for the 21st Century – TJ Event

News report originally published in Training Journal December 2012

“Coming along to a training programme no longer cuts it” said Larry Reynolds, Managing Partner of 21st Century Leader, about Developing Leaders for the 21st Century; the last L&D 2020 event of this year. Reynolds walked a the group through six principles of a Leadership Development programme that he and David Archer, Director of Socia Ltd, used to judge the Leadership category of the Training Journal Awards. Nick Brice, TJ Award winner and Managing Director of 360 Degree Vision, was one of the delegates and commented that Leadership Development was about focusing on “how do you do with your staff what you do with your customers”.

Reynold’s principles included ensuring that the objectives were routed in business need and had senior management commitment. This is something that was highlighted in the morning session from the Co-Operative Food group Organisational Effectiveness team. Sharon Douglas said of the beginning of the Leadership Development Programme for store managers at Co-Op that “Operations got that we needed to do something different, but perhaps not so different as the HR Director’s vision was.” Tracy Taylor explained that the programme meant a “move from skills based knowledge to transformational” and that the “leadership element needed to be engaging and authentic” in order to create managers that “appreciate operations, but could step back and lead – this was a change of mind-set.” Douglas highlighted of the success of the Co-op programme “as the momentum grew, the programme became business as usual and as people saw change-ready managers there was less pressure from Operations to fill vacancies.”

Reynolds facilitated a lot of discussion with the delegates, some of which were TJ Awards runner ups. Reynold’s principles also included to use a full palette of developmental activities, to innovate and to ensure close links to the job. Reynold’s advised “you can’t afford to not understand online collaboration. Get curious about that world” and Douglas said of developing a programme “don’t try to take it all on yourself: involve the right people… and think about who the right people are.”

Jo Cook