Our office has been receiving numerous requests to help incorporate social media tools into a variety of communication and education projects. Our clients want help creating blogs, wikis, collaborative workspaces, and social networks.
We’ve responded with cautious optimism. We’re always happy when our clients want to try out something new with technology. But we also have to be frank and point out that if you create a social networking space, there is no guarantee that it will be used. You can’t mandate that your audience “be social.”
In several recent cases we suggested our clients survey their intended audience before launching into social media. Here are a few of the questions we’ve developed and have subsequently used in our surveys:
• What social media tools (if any) are your target audiences currently using?
• Do the audiences currently participate in collaborative work online?
• What is their comfort level with social media?
• How do they characterize their online technology profile? Are they toes-
over-the-edge pioneers or information grazers? Or something in-
• What features would they find useful? Working collaboratively on
projects? Accessing news and events? Sharing best practices?
Q&A? Chats? Tweets?
Here are some initial observations we’ve made regarding our clients:
• The majority consider themselves “everyday communicators” and “online information gatherers.” Only a few consider themselves “digital pioneers” or “creative online users.” Interestingly, our findings don’t reflect the commonly assumed age-level biases: 50-60 year-old baby boomers characterize themselves as digital pioneers as often as do the millennial 18-30 year-olds.
Approximately one-half use social media (e.g., Facebook); the other half shun it.
• Those who rarely use online collaboration and have a low comfort level with social media anticipate greater participation in the future. (Read that as “There’s hope!”)
• It’s about them, not you. Not surprisingly, using social media for top-down communications from administrators doesn’t score high on their wish list.
• The three highest ranked desirable features for an online social network are
o Getting access to shared material such as videos, slideshows,
presentations, and photos
o Keeping current with colleagues
• They don’t know what they don’t know. For example, our target audiences indicate great interest in receiving timely information about useful URLs, but they see absolutely no value in Twitter. But Twitter has become one of the most valuable sources of quick notification about links.
Questions to be tackled
Many questions about assessing readiness for social media remain unanswered. We’ll share more observations and lessons learned from our survey in the near future.
In the meantime, we invite you to share survey questions you’ve found useful in tackling the issues of bringing social media to your clients.
[…] You can lead them to social media, but can you make them drink?- Electronic Papyrus, August 25, 2009 […]
Having read your comment on “creating blogs, wikis, collaborative workspaces, and social networks and media tools into a variety of communication and education projects” you then went on to say “there is no guarantee that it will be used. You can’t mandate that your audience “be social.” this is just backward thinking, maybe cars should not have been invented because people would not use them, do you catch my drift?