Plan to learn …?

Throughout the months of July & August I identified some pre-INF2/506 social media starting points and began guessing potential personal learning goals. From a complete definition of starting points mapped against the subject-declared learning objectives I hoped to plan a personal learning journey.

Japanese Historical Map at David Rumsey Island
moonflowerdragon via Compfight

Unfortunately it seemed that the landmarks and horizons provided were more designed for students who had no prior knowledge.

So, the process devolved into notetaking: hoping to sift from old knowledge a thread or two that I might knit into new knowledge during the subject. As ever I searched backwards and forwards through the databases of two universities, G.Scholar, Google, the blogosphere for new well-founded ideas.

Guessing, imagining, sifting and searching was so time-consuming, I eventually stopped to concentrate on the second assignment.

After that  – it became even fuzzier: roughly weighing each OLJ task option’s potential to extend my understanding.  Meh. Okaay… what about ones that I would most enjoy documenting?  That lifted two.

In desperation: filter through drafts containing diversions and asides (often stuff that rules of conversation would deem unsuitable when the learning journal is online), then through notes vented in offline spaces.

How do you de-grump?  When venting through free-writing is not enough I knit, makes cups of tea, whine to brainstorm with friends and family or (guiltily) read light fiction.

Knitting progress
Knitting progress by moonflowerdragon, on Flickr

Unfortunately I see some of my grumbles slipped through to a post or two.

Where to now?  Perhaps a dozenth look at the final assignment will expose a gap.

Meanwhile: How did you plan for your learning?

Why bother with social media? (more notings)

Prefatory Sighs.

Considering that social media (or conversational web or that other over-laboured term) is merely the web with pimples (or perhaps a severe case of acne), the reasons to use social media are the same as the reasons to use the web.  As are the cautions and provisos and limitations.

For all my reading over the years very few projects of libraries involving social media leap out at me as showing significant success — therefore this is something I had hoped to receive from this subject.  By success I mean actively engaging their customer base as shown through continuing high activity *by library patrons*. Sure libraries continue to publish their blogs and post updates – but that (if without conversation) to me is *not* successful social engagement – it’s just persistent advertising — and is anyone reporting how they measured the results of such advertising?  My searching has failed to produce any papers that report significant successful patron engagement through social media, perhaps my search strategies are at fault — please tell me if you have found papers that report success on rigorous grounds.

When is our Ordeal going to be Over? (the Surreal Swallows Series Continued)
Creative Commons License Keith Williams via Compfight

Meantime, what did I get in these readings?  Please do not read if you do not enjoy moderate doses of cynicism.

notings

Brookover (2007)

Brookover, S. (2007). Why we blog, Library Journal, 15 November. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6497263.html

One paragraph has a synopsis of procedure for any library project – nothing new here.

  • why you will [do x] blog,
  • the time commitment required,
  • the scope of topics,
  • whether or not to allow public comments, and
  • how you will measure success.

institutional wall?

On reading: “Terri Bennett, … believes blogs have the power to break down the institutional wall between libraries and their community members.” No evidence of an ‘institutional wall’ was given.  Where is the evidence that there was/is a wall?  If the library was not soliciting and using feedback (through face-to-face communication and surveys) prior to blogging becoming so easy, what makes anyone think blogging [particularly if they might not allow comments] will make a difference?  If the library tends to report only positive feedback from surveys, why would blogging the same make patrons feel they’d been heard?

validation through hanging in the same space

Next it quotes Hennepin’s manager about the dialog being ramped up and reach being extended – but it does not quote any evidence she might have given.  “Reaching out to and having conversations with users through a medium they already know and enjoy send the message that you are aware of and participating in trends that matter to them.” [ I do agree with this being a potential, although the statement lacks evidence that this is the message received, and depends on an assumption that conversations will be had. ]

internal communication

An internal group blog used at one library (did not replace email or in person contact but) reportedly was more enjoyed by staff because “we use the blog to communicate about day-to-day things, to help us all keep informed about what we’re all up to and what needs doing”; and “posts cannot be lost or accidentally deleted” ; “eliminates the confusion that can result from second- or third-hand communications and offers the advantage of allowing department members to use the comments feature to discuss and resolve issues raised in blog posts”.  No actual examples are included, nor figures showing the level of engagement.  Given revelations about personality, hierarchy and workplace culture inhibiting staff engagement through social media (eg Thorn, 2005; Marten & Milve, 2011) I wonder just how far the reported enjoyment extended, whether it endured, and if so what impact it had on work processes.

expressing opinions

voicing opinions on technology” (when I look past my scepticism about the internal likelihood) reminded me to wonder whether it would be feasible to form a local social media interest group – of other public institutions, businesses and customers around experiences with social media, and potential for collaborative projects.

transparency

One of the most interesting and revolutionary uses is in the area of transparency: Josie Parker at Ann Arbor mentioned their blog’s value for revealing why decisions were made.  Their two most recent blog posts (17 & 30 July) about votes for library funding did attract more comment than event advertisements tend to; if not as much as the post about the Summer Game Shop. [Aside: Hm, Ann Arbor appears to be only 10% larger than Ballarat, would a Summer Game work here?]

Additional references

Marten, A., & Milve, L. (2011, August 30). ‘Every change is difficult’  A case study of employee behavior in Mölnlycke Health Care’s intranet. Gothenburg University Publications Electronic Archive. Retrieved from http://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/26608
Thorn, W. J. (2005, June). Developing and implementing a user-centred intranet: Organisational culture, communication and knowledge management. Auckland University of Technology. Retrieved from http://aut.researchgateway.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10292/101/ThornW.pdf;jsessionid=CC1A5111500AB6DED54D6908B3E6BDC2?sequence=1

Casey & Stephens (2009)

Casey, M. & Stephens, M. (2009). You can’t afford not to do these things, Library Journal, 15 March. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6639942.html?industryid=47356

Believe that social media…

(if planned, implemented and reviewed to involve listening, dialog, transparent actions, founded on trust and communication):

  • improves customer service
  • boosts staff morale
  • fosters change
  • builds a management & communication style that is win-win for staff and administration

Although I think that any medium of two-way communication which has those provisos (planning, implementation, review, listening, dialog, transparency and trust) would also do all four of the above.  So the challenge is not the social media, but the institutional culture and competence.

An advantage in cash-strapped times…

…the economic crisis should not stop the move to use social media (along with the underlying premises of trust and transparency and tools) because “honest dialog goes a long way toward addressing staff worries and concerns” and cost of meetings (travel) can be reduced by using online tools. Also “tight budgets should foster creativity and the exploration of free online tools for outreach and low cost programming that taps into user needs”

Casey & Stephens were identifying the importance of listening to constituents, but their example of overcoming the challenge of not being able to get to all locations is to post a video of the director talking to users. Not exactly listening. No other examples of how social media helps listen either.

reallocate time from unimportant activity

On the topic of the cost of time, they argue that time can be reallocated from activities that have little return on investment. “a few hours here and there devoted to something as simple as a bulletin board can add up to misallocated time.”  So the bulletin board passed and potentially browsed (and could also be used interactively) by everyone who walks into the library is not as important as the Facebook page potentially visited by patrons who use Facebook?

Offers ideas:

  • extend “town hall” budget concern discussions with online videos and video responses.
  • Ask users to promote the library with “their own video or graphic creations”, [the example library had 3 video responses and 66 comments]. [The proposed contest prizes are hardly inspiring.]
  • Mine the relevant data and check in with users before making sweeping changes.

“The above is within reach at little or no cost and an outlay of staff time.” Stated with no evidence to back it up, and passing over the point that staff time is usually the largest cost the library has.

Burkhardt (2009)

Andy Burkhardt’s post Four Reasons Libraries Should be on Social Media  (August 25, 2009).

A summary [and my first reactions]:

  1. Communication – “Social media is another way that you can get into contact with your patrons”
    [Humph: A slightly absurd statement? – unless there is a library out there that has already begun allowing patrons to nominate their social media accounts as a primary contact point?].  Social media still operates as broadcast.  For that purpose (broadcast), yes, some people are shifting to select feeds to read.
  2. Respond to feedback – people say good and bad things about your library in social media channels.
    [This could be a crisis if it indicates an egregious failing of care for health safety or human rights. Not such a convincing argument to spend a lot of money to watch for people complaining about the temperature, cost of printing or having trouble with computers. Except, we cannot be sure which we’ll get.
  3. simply another form of media for marketing & advertising.
    [But please don’t base your arguments on the number of people who use social media altogether… how many of YOUR section of the population use it?]
  4. Understanding Users Better – the revelatory opportunity of conversations.
    [this is an interesting promise, but Andy does not give any examples]

Griffey (2010)

Griffey, J. (2010). Chapter 5: Social Networking and the Library. Library Technology Reports46(8), 34

cites Boyd & Ellison definition of a “social network site”

=  “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.”

This definition therefore specifically includes Flickr, Youtube, LibraryThing.

Privacy tensions:

  • Libraries lean towards protection of private information of patrons [who you are and what you like].

Apparently that people might use library computers to give that information away through social networks bothered some libraries? Odd.Oh – this must be libraries who retained digital records of patron computing activity… why would they do that?

  • Libraries that blocked social networking sites contravened the bill of rights.
    Libraries that allow them breached privacy policy? [um, how? unless the library was keeping records that might be subpoenaed?]

Children & protection

DOPA “to protect children from the possibility of being preyed upon by adults”  Griffey suggests that the concern was over misunderstanding social networking sites and jumping to conclusions.  While I disagree with the Act, I also disagree with Griffey’s summary.  Social networking, by encouraging–through making it easy to give, asking for, and trivialising interpersonal knowledge of personal information and making it harder to understand how to keep that information private in that environment–does present more of a risk by children (if absent good believable trusted guidance). And predatory adults do what they do.

third-party software & unreliability

Prior to organisational pages on Facebook, accounts “were for use only by actual individuals and not by fictional characters, groups, businesses, or schools and libraries”  Good grief I cannot believe Griffey’s summary of this problem: “Some libraries spent time creating accounts within Facebook, friending and being friended by patrons, pushing content into Facebook, only to literally go in one day and fnd their accounts gone. This just highlights issues with trusting library information and communication channels with nonlibrary controlled sources and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a condemnation of social networks in general.”

THAT was what he got out of the situation?  No condemnation for libraries misrepresenting their organisation as a person and contravening the intention and probably the conditions of the service?

Ongoing issues: Facebook’s decisions about privacy and data that make people uncomfortable, including a default public setting for new services.

The question: “Why bother” was asked about libraries and social media & social networking in the title of Module 4 .  However there are other dimensions to the adolescent web discussed in the original “web2.0” meme that are less about “social” attributes and more about technological development.  Are the latter (eg: harnessing the long tail; interoperability) more important for libraries?

I guess I am frustrated that so much reading material so far has been superficial.  I wished for more from higher education: a foundation in evidence, not collections of anecdotes and promos.

Black and White Dandy
Creative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

Seeking ten attributes of website design for participatory library – Part 1

(notings)

aside:Self-discipline

Do we need to look at the basics of effective website design in every subject?  Who is not in more need of realistic practical team-based application than theory? Ah, to answer my own question even mental pathways need to be marked out by repeated treading.  Even so, couldn’t we focus on the subject? Sighs.

…self-discipline. Glen Edelson (2010). CC:BY/2.0 at Flickr.
aside: Starting point

My starting point would be from most recent studies on the fundamental goals of information architecture: findability and usability – and principles such as those outlined by Brown (2010) [pdf])

Reading agenda: ‘participatory’ attributes

This website section of module 3 begins “Imagine ten thousand members of the general public outside the entrance to your library…this is what your web and online presence is all about.”  This may be the ambition, but it is not likely to be true. “General public” implies the larger pool of community members who might not already be members and might not think about their library from day to day.  Given the size of the internet, your community members are as likely to be at the other side of the country or the world.  Bringing the community to the “door” (your website) requires (if you can resolve the relevance question) effort in all four of offline community presence, broader online presence, website information architecture and design.

Next it declares “How we engage our users and potential users with collections, research and online resources is all about web site design and social media presence. ”  I think it is all about whether–and if so how–community members *want* to (or would want to if they could) engage with library collections, collecting, and [fill-in-applicable] services. Are library goals and individuals’ goals aligned?

Audience Participation. amanda farrah (2008) CC:BY-NC-ND/2.0 at Flickr
How would this translate to community participation in library collecting?

Will this set of reading offer ME something new and reliable? Considering the topic of the module: “participatory library services” I will look to identify specific mention or demonstration of website attributes that seem likely to entice me to collaborate, converse, commune and/or create content.  AND/OR I will see how highlighted libraries incorporate social media within their websites.

For this to be useful for my final OLJ I would expect to find either:

  • ten that are new to me, or which I understand better now as a result of rereading in this subject.
  • ways that ahem “web2.0” technologies make a website more effective.

Perhaps if I am lucky
I might find examples
of excellent social media practice
to reference in the second assignment.

The task specifies four particular works, but I also have notes from David King’s presentation, do any of those speak to the library being “participatory”?

King (2011)

(worth noting that Topeka&Shawnee County Library’s (TSCPL) website (I think) and catalog have changed since David made that presentation–kudos on the catalog improvement TSCPL)

… convenience

  • for libraries to continue to appeal to community members they must address convenience
  • (compares to use of laptops with wireless internet, & DVD rental booths at McDonalds)
  • – [I agree AND believe this is doubly important if I am expected to feel inclined to ‘participate’]

… listening

  • first step in designing the experience:
    • search for mentions of the library in social networks… [I believe Aaron Tay, the ubiquitous librarian and the swiss army librarian have all explored more extensive network search strategies (for example how can you discover what people want when they’re not talking about the library?) – and a compendium of such strategies would be very handy.]
    • ask focus groups [Ask them what? if we’re aiming for ‘participatory’. ]
    • examine your website usage stats & hit-trails [I’d love to get a look at some of these]
    • observations – well this is fundamental IA (but if you’re not already ‘participatory’ what kind of observations would lead you to discover how to become so? )

… improving touchpoints

  • stickers on bananas – [triggered a line of thought about making it easy for library members to lifestream their library experiences. Applied to the website, it suggests having tweet/like-worthy content–or more than that: what would be the equivalent of members putting a sticker on their forehead and smiling?]
  • what do attractive children’s areas suggest?… marketing: having images that convey how desirable the library is as destination – meh; more on destination later
  • long lines – what is irritating about the website – FIX IT
  • consistency & wayfinding
  • don’t show “your process” – [not sure how that applies yet.]

… Going where people gather

  • mall – [does this necessarily equate to Facebook (etc) presence? or is it more:]
  • ensure you have a good mobile site. [will those ‘participatory’ elements function via mobile?]

… Its a destination

  • In terms of the website, is it just about showing what happens at the branches or
  • [is the website a destination or a doorway – should (?digital branch) show online library member activity (by library members)]

… Interaction

  • is key (I think, from his encouragement to bring staff photos and names forward, that he means between people)
  • “Foursquare, Go, Flickr, Facebook, yelp, twitter, youtube” [ and I know that TSCPL has buttons to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  While most people might only want to follow, their site does not really make it super easy to lifestream about the library’s services – such as getting a personalised reading list: wouldn’t that be something some people would lifestream (I would)?]
  • “your staff” should be highlighted – [ I agree.  I’d like to know who I’d be dealing with if I go into the library, for that matter I wouldn’t mind seeing who will be handling my requests. Not so many people appear on TSCPL’s home website now, but faces (of leaders) are visible at “Contact us”… are these the people I would see if I walk in the door?  What does that say about ‘belonging’? And some of the blogs show who authors the blogs.  Although the capacity to comment is available on blogposts, I do not see many enticing discussion – and I could not see any indicators of open discussions to browse in case I felt like chatting. But would I?  Is it not possible that the social web lets us chat with people all across the world because/when we do not want to talk to people in the neighbourhood?]

Digression – Pinterest

Last time I had visited TSCPL’s website was to the digital branch blog: reading their post about exploring Pinterest.  They also had a “follow our Pinterest” button in the footer then, and are the pins new this week?  Browsing their pins again, this one…

… made me wonder “would it be great to be able to pin from a catalogue” (one that has book covers obviously)–ooh and to see in the catalogue how people have pinned an item?  It’d also be nice to add from my local library catalogue to My Library Thing “read not owned” category with a “@TSCPL” tag (actually it would be the initials of my own local library or the consortium from whom I borrow: @SWIFT). It would be good to offer an auto tag and the option to change / add others.  All of that (if it was used) sounds like a lot more work for the catalog – all of which I guess would cost the library more?

Would libraries fear too many draws upon their server by sharing the book covers? Does Pinterest draw from the original source every single time it shows an image?

But back to the point of my digression: David was talking about interaction – the big thing discussed about all of the social tools of the last decade is that success depends on what is in it for the individual.

What do tweeters want?
Something interesting & easy to tweet.
What do Facers want?
Something interesting to share in their timeline, or something worth commenting on in yours.

Mathews (2009)

I disagree about how much you can tell about a library from their website – if it is great it might just mean they lucked upon a great designer; or that library leadership values its website face – not necessarily all of the community.  For evidence look at all the lovely/slick websites whose catalogues remain crap, and who cannot promise an information response in under 48 hours (or a week).

… Promotion (participatory)

  • hm, not finding this very practical, yes you want to promote a lot, keep it refreshed so people have reasons to come back?
    • [I don’t go back to the library website until I’m looking for another book.
    • I want to receive an email notice when new exhibits or types of programs are planned, with the option to sign up to receive reminders of particular types of programs (eg author visits, but not children’s storytime, or advanced rather than beginner technology sessions). Sure I follow the local library on twitter but who sees every tweet?
    • On the other hand, when I become aware of an interest event I want to be able to share the event through different streams.
    • When I attend I want to be able to snap a picture of something remarkable to then share ]
    • When I visit the website I want to see what others have been saying/pinning/liking about the library or what contributions have been made from the community to local collections.
  • Orange County were used as an example (although that was 3 years ago, has it changed since?)
    Not necessarily striking, but what I would want (Account links) is easy to get to.
    • All the things I regularly want to do are in one spot (if not top left where I would expect). Request a Title! that is participatory – but not enhanced with social media technology (ie no indication of how many requests the library has filled, or its response speed). While I happened to be doing that I would browse current events. It doesn’t look participatory in an online sense, in that I cannot see what anyone else in the community is saying at/about/through the library.  From the home page, if you scroll down bottom left, you can link to facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Youtube etc.  Great to see stories being told in video –no captions 🙁 — and that the storytelling video collection (and I think events & databases etc) has share buttons; but there are no invitations to comment.
    • I would not care about those awards
    • I hate it when a menu link takes me to a different layout – to me pages that use different layouts should be set apart somehow – and the top navigation space should never change except to show when one is logged in.

… Segmentation

  • Different sites for young children and teenagers. [Okay, but so few libraries do it appealingly.  How many manage to appeal to a broad range of teens?
The Orange County Library System’s Teen website is colourful. But the important thing is how teens feel about it. I see no sharing buttons.
  • Oddly, Brian highlighted academic libraries, neither of which demonstrates his point well.  Orange County on the other hand, did.  Has anyone seen any examples of libraries successfully providing (at their websites) participation opportunities for different patron groups (let alone any patron groups)?  Local issues FORUMS anyone? (It would be pointless to provide subject forums because the wider world is better at that)   ]

… visual cues

  • use icons to break up lots of text [yes but: I think this has been shown to be insufficient – more important to trim the fat, chunk information carefully and work more on better navigation menus – it is certainly not evident at his example any more]

… inspiring photos

  • use wisely, showcase distinctive features. [but beware download burdens]

… always accessible search box

  • “Embed a search box on every page, maybe in the header or in the navigation bar, so patrons can perform a search wherever and whenever they want.” – I agree: when I do happen to browse my local library’s website I get very annoyed at the stinky menu system trying to get back to the catalogue. Beautiful example of search box at University of Virginia Library

    Its responsive! Marvellous. Great search box. My account at top right- YAY. Socia media buttons below the fold. More notes at Flickr
  • “offer a tabbed, federated search box” – it does sound attractive doesn’t it… but I haven’t seen very many achieve it well. Except Colorado State University Libraries:

    Love it. Clean, uncluttered, straight to the point, and easy to find everything else.
  • okay that was fun, but how relevant to participation is the placement & design of the search box? Essential perhaps: content is still the most important thing the library has to offer – but not quite the aspect on which I am supposed to be concentrating.

Mobile-Friendly Pages

  • As a library user – I want this, or an App
  • His example is a “reported attack page”… so I could look for other examples, but my questions will be – does the library’s mobile website or app facilitate participation? (which is a different question than whether libraries facilitate participation by taking advantage of the proliferation and the lifestyle of people with mobile/smart phones & tablets?)

Feedback

  • ” Dedicate a section on your site to posting user feedback along with the library’s official response.” [I have always believed this would be a good idea, but Brian’s example only offers answers to “Frequently asked questions” and a variety of forms for different kinds of questions. David Lee King once spoke about TSCPL’s engagement with community through blogs, which is not really the same thing.  Any examples? ]

Redundancy

  • Dan Brown calls this the principle of multiple pathways.  Not expecting website users to all use the same links.  [In participatory service terms this would mean sharing buttons on every page anyone might want to share–anything else?]

Analytics

  •  No argument they’re vital in general. And equally for evaluating efforts to become a ‘participatory library’.  Combine analytics with A/B testing perhaps to find the best place for social media buttons (or more participatory invitations/displays if I ever find any)]
  • While I’m here… oh, I might have mentioned in my posts on delicious how it can be difficult (?impossible?) to detect usage of embedded content.

Easy Way To Ask for Help

  • Drat I saw a great example of this recently and didn’t screenshot it.  ? partici… – ah not really in the public-social context. Would there be a way to make it easy for happy helpees “Like”/tweet their content with help received?  I’d tweet it.

Enough note-taking and thinking for the night

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands by Patricia van Casteren (2008). CC: BY-NC-ND/2.0 at Flickr

Readings:

King, D. (2011, September 30). Creating customer experience: On the web, in the library, in the community. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/davidleeking/creating-customer-experience-on-the-web-in-the-library-in-the-community-9493673
Mathews, B. (2009). Web design matters. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6634712.html?industryid=47126

Writing in social media

Writing for the profession will be very different to writing for an online learning journal (OLJ).

  • Objectives will be different: while I try to write as if someone might visit my OLJ (because it is also on my own site), assessment criteria take precedence. Using social media for a professional information service position the priority would be to engage with communities, or at least inform and invite.
  • Audience will be different: In an OLJ (at least in this subject), the pixels, silence and the echoes of my mind are my audience, possibly other students, and for a brief time an assessor. Later I will identify different audiences through offline sources, searching and interacting in other online spaces — much as I did out of personal interest with my moonflowerdragon blog.

I wonder whether the online journal as assessment task reflects a teacher-librarian bias in the creation of this subject – an experiment in how teacher-librarians might use blogs with students?  I would find more value in practical exercises learning how to write in social media for client/stakeholder engagement.

That topic of how to engage through social media will probably arise from readings as a theme within the proposal we prepare for one assessment task.  Which is nice, theoretical ‘understanding’–but on my first glances through the modules, the activities suggested do not seem to lend themselves to conversation (they require a range of topical statements) – so I wonder why we’re using social tools?

Serendipity

I’ve been looking for a nice little image to accompany this post. Compfight, for writing in social media, included:

Customer Service is the New Marketing
Mark Smiciklas via Compfight

… which, though not a new idea for me, could be handy for representing such an argument if proposing to optimise WOM through social media.

I think I will stop my search with the image below, upon which I pondered a physical social aspect to writing in social media. With laptops and mobile devices people can write in social physical spaces. How social is that?  If I reflect on my study visits and conference – at which I saw tablets and a few laptops in use:

  • Although focussed on their writing, laptop users were visibly among people. Conceivably interruptable; they could easily look up and around, to switch from writing to interacting with people.  Does that reduce the quality of either?
  • It calls to mind the network events – at which I put my new Evernote Hello to work, and people tweeted about meeting each other.  I may have done that too, but I typically find the “at xxx with @####” kinds of tweets like hair in the drains.

A non-Apple laptop being used in a cool park full of cool people
Creative Commons License Ed Yourdon via Compfight

Social media and “empowering workers”

The Common Craft video “Social media and the workplace” contains useful suggestions for developing social media competence within an organisation, however:

Rhetorical leaps &^%$#@! annoy me

I feel grumpy because this Common Craft video appears to me to make a rhetorical leap. It purports to be about companies “empowering employees” to project a caring company through social media.  To the problem of the internet being potentially full of criticism about the company, the video suggests that systems requiring official responses (which it characterises as centralised slow approved media releases) are inadequate.  Its solution is summarised as “The web is too wide for a company to control every communication … create an environment where employees are empowered to participate and build trust with their customers”.  But this is not an accurate summary of the solutions or example that had been outlined.

  1. “Official accounts” – Wouldn’t this be managed (controlled) by an authorised person? – no change unless there is a new job created.
  2. Social media monitoring – how many employees will be doing this?
  3. “Guidelines that give employees clear direction” – now this one might be indicative of a change if a company trains all employees so they know how & to which company rep to forward problems & ideas from their networks; or if training, policies and job descriptions allow employees to respond.  However: the video uses as its example “It’s now a part of his job to identify and respond to people talking about the company online”.  Adding new time consuming responsibilities to jobs is not the same as “empowering employees”.

Boiled down to practicality, social media is no more about empowering employees than has been any public medium. A smart company has always needed to make sure that its frontline employees knew how to respond promptly and constructively. The speed from problem to public complaint might be faster, but this simply means that employees who are authorised to speak publicly need to be skilled in the social media environment. Unless the argument is that more responders are needed, in which case the need is for more jobs to allow the extra time needed for media relations–unless current employees were previously sitting around with a lot of time on their hands.

Please forgive my grumbles: Spin gives me motion sickness.

Screenshot (at t=2:56) of “Social Media and the Workplace” video by Common Craft (2010)

Back to the useful bits of the video.

Employees need to be trained

  • This point should not be skipped over.
    While the video certainly mentions training – I have to wonder just which employees and how many, what kind of training, how much practice, what kind of support?  When these questions are answered I’m guessing not much is different.

Employee on social media: Should I respond to this?

  1. Does this need a response?
  2. Am I the right person?
  3. Do I know the culture? (of the blog/network containing the comment)

This is obviously a teaser video, because I guess companies need to give a little more guidance as to what “needs a response” and who is the right person.  Nevertheless, if you are the right person in the right place with the responsibility, the video cutely sums up “How” for you (at t=2:36)

What to say

The video suggests that the organisation would want its authorised employees in the above circumstances to:

  1. Identify as company representative but provide short disclaimer.
  2. Speak in the first person
  3. Focus on the subject and not the person. Be personable, respectful and never angry.
  4. Provide a link (if possible), clear up the issue, offer to help in the future.
  5. Double check to make sure you don’t share anything confidential.

Owning my own $#@!

Maybe Common Craft were not talking about “all” employees in their empowerment proposals, or maybe I am too cynical to believe it to be realistic if they did.  Or maybe I’m wondering where the story is – haven’t the “right people” to represent a company always needed public media skills and official guidelines?