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Social media – what next and what can we do with it?

By Elisabeth Goodman1

NetIKX’s first seminar of 2012 was its 3rd on the theme of social media in so many years.  Previous seminars have explored whether social media should be taken seriously, and how social media could be used to achieve organisational goals and the implications for organisational IM / KM policies and strategies.

This seminar took a broad look at emerging trends and products, their likely implications, and how social media are being, or could be used.

Our first speaker was Steve Dale, “a passionate community and collaboration ecologist, creating off-line and on-line environments that foster conversations and engagement”.

Our second speaker, Geoffrey Mccaleb describes himself as a social media  / mobile consultant.

This blog reviews some of the common themes arising from their presentations, points discussed in syndicate or break-out groups, and in the concluding Q&A, and some of the author’s own reflections.

Social media have been evolving into so much more than plain communication tools

Both speakers shared statistics on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, YouTube and other social media usage.  The conclusion: the use of social media tools is enormous and growing!   But how these tools are being used, or what they are being used for is also evolving.  Here are some examples.

1.     Facts and figures on some of the better known uses of social media

Employment

89% of companies used social media for recruiting in 2011.  One in three rejected candidates based on something they saw online.  45% of companies surveyed used Twitter to find candidates, and 80% used LinkedIn.

Politics

This is perhaps one of the most publicised uses for social media.  However, although in 2011 saw 230K tweets per day about change in Egypt the CIA were blamed for ‘missing’ Egypt protests by not monitoring Twitter.  Similarly, whilst SOPA protests were being organised online, all but one of the traditional networks in the USA failed to cover them.

Reputation management

Social media is a vital medium for managing an organisation’s reputation, and yet the average time between something going viral and an official response is 48 hours.  There are some exceptions for example Southwest Airlines who actively monitor and rapidly respond to anything posted on Twitter about them with a resultant positive impact on their reputation.  To what extent are our organisations doing this?

Publicity / PR

47% of journalists used Twitter as a source in 2011 (up from 33% in 2010).  Market-specific blogs are proving to be more popular sources of news than traditional media.

Customer support

It’s all about rethinking how companies / organisations engage with their community: social media should be a “company-wide engagement model”.

2.    A broader exploration of how social media are evolving

Sharing information on interests and hobbies

Facebook lends itself well to doing this already, and is always adding new features to take this further.  It’s new timeline tool being one potential example.  There are other tools, such as ‘Pinterest’ that take sharing of this kind of information to another level.

Curation of information from multiple sources

Scoop.it, paper.li, Storify, Flipboard are all examples of how ‘social curators’ can bring together content from several different sources that may be of interest to their audiences.  Although we did not discuss this at length, this might be a tool that Library and Information professionals could use to help their end-users with information overload?

Collaborative consumption

Some tools enable people to manage the sharing of physical resources.  Examples of this are ‘Boris’s’ bikes (the London shared bicycle scheme), sharing the use of an otherwise under-used private car, ‘airbnb’ to rent out ones house / bedrooms to visitors e.g. to the Olympics.  Might this be an alternative model for managing information resources between organisations?!

‘Managing’ big data

This is a pet subject of Steve’s, with data sets on the cloud becoming so large that they can no longer be managed with standard database management tools.  The data are usually on the cloud and include photos, traffic data, and medical data.  Visualisation and infographics tools are one way to represent and analyse these large volumes of data.

Game-ification

This is an interesting exploration of how the ‘game’ attributes of user engagement, loyalty to brands, and rewards might be transferred to a professional social network environment.  In a previous seminar we heard how The Open University Library Services were already experimenting with using virtual reality tools as a support for their services.  Game-ification may take this further?

Augmented reality

There are applications for golf that will let you know where the nearest bunker is and the direction of the wind.  Pointing your phone at the sky can give you information about the constellations. Augmented reality applications literally augment the information that you perceive and thereby help you to look at your world in a different way.

Location-based services

Tools such as Foursquare enable you to find out what’s near you, check-in, see who else is there, become ‘mayor’ of your local pub(!) etc.  ‘Easypark’ – is a Danish company which enables you to pay your parking fee and have a count-down to let you know how much time you have left to park.  There is potential for these tools to be so much more than a status update, because they tell others that you like something / somewhere.

3.     Some final reflections on technology trends and implications

Mobile platforms

Technology cycles are usually 10 years long, and we are now 2 years into mobile technology.  Anticipation is that mobile technology will overtake desktop technology within 5 years. And some surprising statistics:

  • More people own mobile phones than toothbrushes!
  • 371K children are born every day.  377K iPhones are sold every day!

Apps

2005 – 2010 was about design for the PC with consideration for mobile platforms; 2011 – 2012 (and beyond?) will be about design for mobile platforms with consideration for PCs.

The social graph

This represents all the people that we interact with online: who we know and who we respect online.  37% of US social media users trust what their friends say about a brand or product on social media.  60% will buy something on the basis of what their connections recommend.  Facebook (with shares / likes) and Twitter (with retweets) work on this basis, Google Plus is Google’s attempt at recreating the same thing.

What do people want?

To access their data everywhere – aka what is your cloud strategy?
To see things relevant to us – aka what is your social graph strategy?
To have the same experience regardless of our device – aka what is our mobile platform strategy?

4.    Implications of what we heard

We explored several themes in our break out discussions and in the Q&A that followed.

What is the role of information intermediaries in the context of social media?

Are we being pushed out of our roles by these tools – or does our ‘cyberlibrarian’ or ‘curator’ role become even more important?

What is the associated information risk?

With a lot of personal information going on the internet / in the cloud, is there more scope for criminal activity and identify theft?  There was concern that young people don’t appreciate the privacy issues.  That they are not receiving the education they need about this.  That tools such as Foursquare are invitations to burglars whilst we are not at home.

How to decide what tools to use and when?

The key is being clear about who we are trying to target and what tool(s) they would use.  We discussed the difficulty of changing mindsets within organisations where there are ingrained fears about the use of social media… and how using related case studies, collecting examples of what people have been saying about the organisation, or event taking unilateral action and showing the results (!) may be the way to do this.

Participants mentioned:

  • The BBC’s ‘YourPaintings’ joint initiative with The Public Catalogue Foundation and museums and public institutions throughout the UK encourages people to ‘tag’ their favourite oil paintings.  It currently has 104,000 pictures in the collection.
  • Phil Bradley’s presentation and notes: “25 barriers to using web 2.0 technologies and how to overcome them” might also provide good insights.

How / why could people use social media tools within their organisations

Chatter, Yammer are Twitter like tools being used within organisations, and in some cases have a dramatic effect on lowering the use of e-mail.  Chatter and Yammer threads are saved and searchable: and work well for organisations where people are working in different time zones.  We didn’t discuss this here, but such tools could be excellent for idea generation and problem solving, or ‘crowd-sourcing’ within an organisation.

Note

1. Elisabeth Goodman is Programme Events Manager for NetIKX.  She also runs her own business, RiverRhee Consulting.

Using social media to achieve organisational goals – the next steps

Blog by Elisabeth Goodman

A shift from skepticism about, to evangelism for Social Media?

On 19th January, NetIKX hosted what proved to be a very successful seminar on this theme, with speakers Dr Hazel Hall1 and Nicky Whitsed2.   It was a follow-on seminar to one hosted the previous year, where we had introduced our members to a range of social media tools, and questioned if and how NetIKX might use them and also guide people in their use3.

Although our January 2010 seminar was also very popular, there was still some skepticism about the value of social media tools, and how organisations might use them.  This time, as Hazel commented to me in an aside at the end of the meeting, the tone was perhaps more one of how organisations might be persuaded to adopt the wider use of social media.

Social Media can be used by Library and Information Departments for a diverse range of purposes

Our speakers described the wide range of uses that social media tools can be put to, and their ability, beyond that of the previous tools available to us, to connect people as well as data and information.  We and our customers, can use social media tools for:

  • Collaborating on projects and for learning through wikis and ‘tweet-ups’
  • For staff development, teaching and training e.g. through ‘amplified events’ where someone present at an event will be sharing the content through Twitter with those who cannot attend.  Or by posting a recording of the event for others to access afterwards.  The Open University use Illuminate to run and record such events.
  • Providing virtual reference sources
  • Seeking feedback or peer review on planned presentations (which Hazel did for this presentation)
  • For gaining a better understanding of customer needs leading to new service developments

As Nicky pointed out, it’s important to understand the tools that our customers are using, and to be able to deliver services through those.  In fact her department has a ‘digilab’ where they have all the latest technology and social media tools, enabling their staff to become familiar with their use, and experiment with new ways of delivering their services.

The adoption of Social Media will be evolutionary, with some people leading the way

In the syndicate discussion groups that followed the presentations, delegates discussed the already visible evolutionary pathway in the adoption of social media by organisations.

Human Resources departments are using tools such as LinkedIn to learn about potential recruits.

Sales and Marketing teams are using Twitter and monitoring the web to find out and in some cases respond to what their customers are saying, monitor the competition and also influence the perception of their organisation.

Some companies are using tools such as Yammer internally to try out the use of such tools, or even to support the ‘crowd-sourcing’ of ideas in project management or general problem resolution4.

There needs to be a fine balance between policies and trust

It’s certain that organisations need some form of policy for the use of social media to address such issues as security and ethical behaviour.  Nicky shared details of sites such as http:/socialmediagovernance.com that can help us with that.  However, policies need to allow sufficient scope so as not to discourage the use of social media.

Library and Information professionals could influence the policies within organisations, and even encourage the adoption of values or competencies within performance review frameworks that promote knowledge sharing through social media tools.

As we discussed in one of the syndicate groups, people are used to assessing and building trust through face-to-face interactions.  Social media users are now finding proxies for building that trust, for example by relying on the judgment of those whom they know already, seeing which postings are re-tweeted by others, reviewing the posting history of new people that they ‘meet’ online.

Increased adoption of social media by organisations will require a cultural change

Again, as put by one of the syndicate groups, we are operating in a ‘perpetual beta’ environment.  This is a shift for organisations that are used to making decisions on well-established software with a firm support infrastructure.

As Hazel put it, we also have a ‘youngster elders’ scenario, where people who are perhaps more used to leading and being the authority on subjects, need to be open to seeking guidance from the more knowledgeable younger generation (as some of us may already be doing at home!).

Hazel and Nicky described how Library and Information professionals can play a role in guiding and supporting the evolutionary adoption of social media tools by:

  • Demonstrating how the tools can be used
  • Experimenting and developing our own capabilities, as well as giving our users the opportunity to experiment
  • Providing training e.g. in digital literacy

Concluding thoughts

The use of social media tools in the organisation should be part of Library and Information Management strategy but they tend to be owned by Security.  We need to help organisations to switch from an emphasis on the risk of using social media, to the risk of not using these tools.

Notes

  1. Dr Hazel Hall is Director of the Centre for Social Informatics in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. She is also leads the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition. Hazel was named IWR Information Professional of the Year in December 2009.
  2. Nicky Whitsed is Director of Library Services at the Open University.  She is an experienced strategic and change manager having led successful projects in the commercial, medical and academic fields. Nicky is trained in project management and facilitation and also has experience as a trainer. She has served on a number of CILIP and JISC committees and on a number of editorial boards.
  3. Elisabeth Goodman and Suzanne Burge presented on ‘Social networking tools – should they be taken seriously’ in January 2010.  See Elisabeth’s presentation: “Using LinkedIn, blogs and Twitter for networking and communities of interest”
  4. See related blog by Matthew Loxton on crowd-sourcing
  5. Whilst writing this blog, several of the participants at the seminar also shared their accounts of the meeting.See for example the following:
  6. Elisabeth Goodman is the Programme Events Manager for NetIKX, and is also the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, providing 1:1 guidance, training / workshops and support for enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. She also provides 1:1 tutorials, seminars and workshops on the use of LinkedIn and other social media. Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.