Yo! Social Learning Isn’t Going Anywhere

One of the biggest challenges facing social learning technology is the “fad” factor. Much the way games are looked down upon as frivolous, the word social often evokes similar feelings of time about to be wasted. Still today the idea that employees will spend their time Facebooking and Tweeting rather than learning keeps many organizations from pushing forward on social learning initiatives.

I and my colleagues spend time and screen space talking about the benefits of social media tools and how they can bring an organization to the next level of learning, connecting learners, instructors and content in ways never thought possible.  And then comes something like Yo.

Yo is an app that at least does what it says. It allows a user to send the word “Yo” to another user. That’s it. No hidden surprise, just two letters. It’s hard enough convincing organizations that their people can communicate in 140 characters or less. Now they can do it with two, and they don’t even have to type them.

At first glance, this appears to be the height of frivolity. How dumb can an app be, right? How about $1 million worth of dumb. That’s how much venture capital Yo raised last month. The app’s creator says that the word “yo” is universal and can be sent with almost any meaning behind it, depending on the sender, the recipient and the situation. It’s the social media equivalent of “aloha.”

The app itself wouldn’t have caused much of a stir, but the investment sure did. It was seen as the first pop in the social media tech bubble. Analysts began reminiscing about the last bursting bubble, when you could no longer raise millions by adding “.com” to the end of absolutely anything.

But, guess what? The app now has over a million users. And as for practicality, Israeli users of the app now get “yo” sent to their device when there is an imminent rocket strike. The idea is that it is “one-bit communication.” There is no content necessary, and both the sender and the recipient understand the meaning of the message.

What I’m saying is that if anyone gets up on their soapbox and starts yelling “I told you so!” about how social media is the new pet rock, say “Yo, calm down.” With social media technology, it’s often important to see the underlying context rather than the fluff on top. App creator Or Arbel put it best: “If you think this is just an app that says ‘yo,’ you are getting it wrong. It’s a new way to get lightweight, non-intrusive notifications. We are here to cut through the noise. We like to call it context-based messaging.”

David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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David Wentworth



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