Saturday 30 June 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference - The Business of Social Media part 1

Yesterday I went to what was apparently the first conference organised by LIKE. I would never have known that  since everything went so smoothly! It was a really enjoyable afternoon and I came away really enthusiastic to get started on some social media projects of my own. As some of you may know, I'm currently writing my dissertation on the impact of social media marketing and so the conference was a great place to pick up a few extra points for the literature review. There's too much to fit into one post so I'm going to spilt my thoughts in two. This first post will cover the first three conference sessions.

The conference opened with Bertie Bosredon talking about his experiences of managing the social media efforts of Breast Cancer Care. When the organisation came to review its web presence it noticed that people were talking to each other to get information as much as they were talking to the charity. Users stayed active on the site forums for a few months and then moved on, often taking their new online friends with them to their next discussion space. The organisation saw this as an opportunity and offered training to its staff in how to use social media tools. The audience were already familiar with these tools so the organisation went to the places that they frequent in order to maintain a presence. I think this is a very important point. All organisations, including libraries, need to go where their users are going to maintain a dialogue with them rather than relying on users to come to the organisation. This is an advantage of social media that I'm not sure all people pick up on (especially those who see it as a waste of time).

Breast Cancer Care actively tries to maintain a conversation with users on its social media sites which I think is so important. The whole point of social media is that it enables contact and if it's just used to push messages out there then it's no better than a traditional webpage. I think that too few organisations miss this about social media so it was nice to see it being brought up here. Bernie highlighted how all social media developments were made organically rather than being forced. Whilst having a social media guidance policy in place is definitely a good idea (as was shown later in the conference) it's important not to be too rigid with it. This can put people off contributing as much as anything else which defeats the whole point of social media. One of the main things that I took away from Bernie's presentation is how important it is to empower the people within your organisation to use social media. Give them training if they need it, let them experiment. Have some guidance in place but don't be too strict since this can damage the flow of the conversation you have with your users.

The next session was by Noleen Schenk on how to use social media to support research. Working in an academic library this was a very interesting topic for me. She outlined how collaboration and social interaction run through all aspects of the research process - making social media an ideal medium to use. Noleen talked a lot about how important social networking can be to the research process - it can strengthen existing networks and lead to the discovery of new information. One of the most important things that social media can be used for is giving researchers access to their networks network. I know from personal experience that asking a question on Twitter leads to no shortage of answers. Different social media tools can be used for different parts of the research process, such as those for which enable collaboration and tools which can be used to store citations (something which I personally couldn't do without!). The key point that Noleen stressed was social media is not the only tool that you can use in the research process, but it's something to have in your toolbox. You don't need to use all of the tools all of the time but find the one(s) that work for you in your research.

In the final session before the break James Mullan talked about how social media tools can be used internally to enable communication throughout the workforce. He talked about enterprise social networks which will enable employees to engage both with each other and with the company's networks. When 'selling' social media tools to other employees and especially supervisors who may be sceptical, James highlighted the importance of explaining how the tool can help them. By explaining how something can make someones life easier you are much more likely to get them on board.  This is especially helpful if you can find a tool which fulfils a specific need within your organisation. Another interesting point that James made about encouraging use of social media was to make the entry point low. People just don't have the time to learn lot's of new things, especially when they are already sceptical about them in the first place. Choosing a complicated bit of software which takes hours to master will only put people off, so it's important to experiment and find something fit for purpose which is simple to use. It's also important to remember that what works for one group or set of circumstances may not work for another. There are plenty of tools out there - experiment and find the right one for you!

That's the end of part one! Hopefully I will have the write up of part two up in a couple of days.

photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc

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