As a communicator whose occupational focus is educational, I often find the social media landscape both exhilarating and downright annoying. Truth be told, the never-ending stream of articles, presentations, and books that focus on social media more often than not fall into the “annoying” category. Too many of these resources lack real-world examples that include an instructional or educational component and yet they often purport to convey methods or approaches that work outside of their specific domain.

For many, the sweet spot of social media is marketing. I don’t necessarily disagree. Marketing is extremely important to any organization, but social media need not always be constrained or driven by a marketing objective. How often have you run across this basic social media message: “Product X or Group Y is über cool and you need to act in some way if you want to join the campaign or affiliate”? Or, “I wasn’t generating a lot of revenue using traditional marketing, but with social media I turned my ‘Whuffie’ into serious waffles.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach and social media can indeed be a powerful marketing tool that helps individuals feel connected with a brand, organization or other individuals. What’s more, brand management and connection with educational consumers is particularly big business and the likes of the Gates’ Foundation, Cisco and many other big players have been parked on this block for some time; looking to grow market share, influence policy, and improve the educational experience in a more equitable fashion.

But utilizing social media for educational outreach or research activities  in state-funded organizations? Over the last few years, I’ve seen numerous examples of social media working well within learning contexts here at our university (and others), but have not come across a cohesive vision that informs the practice. Is Cooperative Extension too rooted in face-to-face outreach to augment their communication efforts with social media? In fact, Extension groups are perfectly primed to leverage this form of communication based on their core goals and focus on meeting community-based needs.

A recent eXtension talk by Lee Rainey of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project unpacks this notion in brilliant detail. While the practices driving social media usage are still emerging in tandem with the evolution of the tools themselves, Rainie’s talk helped me envision a time when social media will indeed become a part of the university’s research and outreach effort and a crucial part of how it does educational business. Paired with Harold Jarche’s discussion on the historical psychology of communication (and its predictable shifts), I can only say that I was inspired. I’ve been following Harold Jarche’s blog for a few years now and have found his dialog around managing information (TMI—too much information) and network participation crucial to understanding the theory behind social media practice. Those working in large organizations where technology adoption occurs more slowly would benefit from these two presentations.

A university is in many ways an independent and relatively manageable entity, but what about an entire country that seems to push back on the use of social media, or a government?

GCN or Government Computer News provided numerous recent examples of how the U.S. Federal Government is using social media to build more transparency and efficiency into its communication practices while a Harvard Business Review article tackles the issue of social media adoption in France. Both resources document real-world examples of how social media can be used in a “blended” environment where a sizable portion of end users are still entrenched in traditional communication modes.

Filed Under (Blogging How To, Social Networking) by Jeff Hino on 02-07-2010

Tidbits of wisdom for social media as dictated by the stars, planetary alignment, moon phases, and other Earth-bound sources*.

Taurus: April 20-May 20. Not a good day to be boring. Express yourself today about what you know, and do it with passion. Don’t think of the facts, but instead think “story”. It’s the most powerful media. And follow your bliss today. It’s infectious.

Gemini: May 21-June 21. Try not to “push” your content today: celestial bodies indicate that we are in a “pull” market.

Cancer: June 22-July 22. Passing along other’s wisdom is something that is best used in moderation. The planets are concerned that you might overuse hashtagging when you are orbiting in the Twittersphere.

Horoscope Leo: July 23-August 22. You are filled with compelling, creative energy today — so create something new that uses your own voice and expands your personal brand.

Virgo: August 23-September 22. Be authentic and put your attitude in your stories. Romance–well, let’s say more effective relationships with your audience– will follow! It’s a good time to make new friends, and to expand socially.

Libra: September 23-October 23. You are a major trailblazer today, so get out there and create great content that will bring the eyes of the world to your website. Your audacious spirit can make a big difference for you.

Scorpio: October 24-November 21. Today looks auspicious for inserting yourself into other people’s online conversations. Build bridges and contacts by being heard regularly. It’s a good time to show off your connectedness and reach for your potential.

Sagittarius: November 22-December 21. Express your essence through your blog today, and know that you will be ushering new contacts to your website. Remember that Twitter and Facebook will work to your advantage to bring new relationships to your blog.

Capricorn: December 22-January 19. Your creative energies are in alignment, and you should be ready to make the most of it. Create some new inroads with your use of video, audio, as well as the written word. Experiment a little today; but make your choices wisely and follow your strengths.

Aquarius: January 20-February 18. Direct your inquisitiveness outward today. Build your online relationships by asking your clients, “What can I do for you?” Remember, the universe is always asking WIIFM? Your energy will attract all sorts of wildly different individuals your way, so you can expect some interesting conversations.

Pisces: February 19-March 20. You are in a good position to create an online space that works for your communication. Be bold, and go where your audience is. But be cautious of those who will confuse policies versus best practices as you build your identity.

Aries: March 21-April 19. Your lucky numbers are 9,22,42, and 53. Be aware that 42 is particularly important at the cosmic scale.

* All the above aphorisms taken with a grain of cosmic salt from the author’s recent interactions at the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) annual conference in St. Louis, and from a particularly invigorating presentation there by Gary Vaynerchuk discussing his ideas from his book “Crushing It: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion.”

Filed Under (New Media, Social Networking) by Jeff Hino on 12-10-2009

There’s a lot of traffic on the blogosphere about best practices for social media. But we need to be cautious not to confuse best practices with “rules.” Many of our colleagues in higher education in general, and Extension in particular, are seeking some hard and fast policies about social media. Here are four misconceptions that could encourage the development of “rules” about social media, and why I think we should totally ignore them.

1. “Social media needs to be carefully monitored for accuracy.” There is a fear in industry of compromising proprietary information, that loose social lips will sink corporate ships. Educators have their own version: removing the center of information sharing from the subject matter expert will compromise the credibility and accuracy of information. Instead of seeing value in social interaction with knowledge, they fear it. They are no longer the sage on the stage. In the Information Age, we have been taught since grade school to check our sources, to ferret out accurate, unbiased information. In the Google Age, it’s a flat out survival skill. We need to trust people’s judgments, and get over it.

social rules quote52. “Social media needs to be controlled.” In some policy conversations it’s not uncommon to see the word “manage” used in the same sentence as social media. From my perspective, managed social media is an oxymoron. It is by its very nature unmanageable; it is creative chaos. But recognizing patterns in chaos is just what the human brain is designed to do. We’re good at it.

3. “Social media can waste valuable work time.” Is time spent interacting with social media yet another way for workers to shirk their duties to engage in personal communications? Some think so. But given that social media has surpassed email as the preferred means of communication, this makes no sense. That’s where your clients are, and your colleagues/employees need to be there, too. For many newbies, getting comfortable with social media will require playing with it. Industry understands this. “Make social media part of the job, just like email,” says ENGAGEMENTdb in their report evaluating how well the top 100 global brands are engaging their consumers using social media.

4. “Best practices are the same for all.” Because so much of what is published about best practices—and policies—comes from private industry, it’s only natural that many will look to them for ideas. But the drivers for industry—revenue and profit—will influence their approach to social media, and not always apply across the board to educational settings where social media will necessarily be practiced differently. Educators need to study what industry is saying about social media, and then apply it with their own twist.

That’s just four “rules.” There are more, I’m sure, and I look forward to your additions of what else to ignore.

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (New Media, Social Networking) by crosslem on 19-05-2009

Many people think of Twitter as ego-centric micro-blogging: “Hey, world, I’m at McDonalds eating a Big Mac for lunch.”


Yeah? So what?!!

Twitter is called micro-blogging because it limits the user to just 140 characters, and as the above example illustrates, most tweeters use these precious characters to provide the world with a slice of their life.

The reason Twitter keeps tweets to 140 characters or less is that it uses the cell phone text message standard, providing anyone the ability to tweet from their cell phone. If you are really interested, here is the Twitter article at How Stuff Works.

Twitter can be used as an effective communication tool. Many people tweet with interesting factoids or websites they stumble upon. Others use Twitter for customer service questions or to listen in on what others are saying about their company or organization. Take a look at Lifehacker’s blog post on Six Ways to Use Twitter.

An Oregon company, GoSeeTell Network, is enabling visitor bureaus to use Twitter to answer tourism questions from the general public, letting brand enthusiasts (i.e., local citizens who follow the visitor bureau) tweet to answer the questions.

Someone might post a question like, “I’ll be in your city this weekend, where is a cheap place to go for a few hours?”

A potential response might be, “Take the light rail to Forest Park and walk through the award-winning rose garden or take metro bus #12 out into the valley and taste some amazing wines.”

University admissions departments could use Twitter to let current students answer potential student questions about the school. The Extension Service could enable Master Gardener volunteers to answer gardening questions via Twitter (and reach a younger audience at the same time).

Many universities around the U.S. are using Twitter to keep people informed about campus-based news. For example, Oregon State University is leveraging social media with a Powered By Orange campaign (essentially a what’s happening at OSU campaign) that encompasses a website, Facebook group, Linkedin network and a Twitter account. The campaign is intended to educate current and potential students, their parents, alumni and faculty about the cool things happening at OSU (including news items that don’t make the traditional news media).

And Online Degree World has created a list of the Top 100 University Tweeters where you can find out what other institutions are doing with Twitter.

Written by Mark Crossler and Dave King