As part of my work as Visiting Scholar at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation this year, I have been leading some peer trainings with grantees. Over the years, I have developed and refined one-day or half-day workshops on social media strategy and tactics for nonprofits. The curriculum and instructional design included "Principles of Effective Social Media for Nonprofits" and a version of the social media game created with David Wilcox.
Last week, we launched the first session of the "Social Media Lab," a social media peer group training with a small group of grantees from the Children, Families, Communities Program. I was incredibly lucky to have a fantastic group of participants, all passionate about their work, very knowledgeable, and excited about integrating social media into their work. I also was honored to work side-by-side with esteemed colleagues Shiree Teng, Cheryl Contee, Ashely Boyd, and Dan Cohen.
Here's some reflections:
Thoughtful, Intentional Experiments
Thoughtful experimentation is setting up a low-risk experiment with metrics to figure out what is and isn't working is a social media best practice. If we can be more intentional and disciplined in our experimentation, that's how we gain insights about effective social media use. It prevents us from falling prety to shiny objective syndrome.
It is also a good technique to explore the possibilities of new tools and techniques before investing more time and energy in something that isn't right for our organizations. The add-on to my previous workshops were three "experiment in a box" modules which included Listening, Twitter, and Facebook Fan Pages. The idea is that participants would learn some of the best practices for these social media tactics and then design and implement an experiment and share their results with one another.
There is one problem with this design: Many of us find experimenting difficult. Experiments require short-term losses for long-term gains. With limited time and resources, we are often hesitant to make that trade-off. It seems more direct to pay an expert to tell us what to do, not get a checklist for an experiment. As a culture, we value answers over questions because answers allow us to take action faster, while asking questions makes us think. That's hard work, but worth it because good questions and gathering evidence usually guides us to better results.
Gift of Time: Real Time Learning
The problem with one-shot trainings is that you offer a lot of content and information, people get excited, and then they go back to the day-to-day reality of their busy work lives. Where do you get the time to put some of what you've learned into practice? And, when do you get the time to put your hands on the keyboard, shoulder to shoulder with a peer?
We included a big chunk of time for participants to work on their experiments while they were in the room. This is the gift of time. After each participant selected an experiment, we grouped them together and had them work together on setting it up. I did floating consults. This required setting up online curriculum that could step folks through set up and aid their planning and implementation. I created these for Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, and Listening.
A New Definition of An Expert: Your Network
I think this is particularly important to emphasize if you want to nurture any peer learning, but especially around technology skills. I modeled that I don't know everything. I didn't have the courage to do that when I was younger, but now I understand the power of knowing what you don't know. I love not knowing because it encourages me to reach out to my network and find the answer. I feel strongly that the new definition of a social media expert is someone who has a smart network.
For example, during the lab session, we got a terrific question about bilingual Fan Pages on Facebook. I didn't have direct experience to answer it, but I remembered that my colleague, Manny Hernandez, had extensive experience in social media and bilingual approaches did. So, I demonstrated how to tag a person in a wall post and posted the question:
Manny Hernadez: Should an organization that serves both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking audience (and some only speak one language) have two different Fan Pages in the native language? What are your thoughts? How do you do it?
My tag or shout out also appeared on Manny's wall and it didn't take him long to reply with a link to his post about strategies for bilingual fan pages. But even better, this question posted on my Fan Page wall generated 14 insightful comments with useful advice, including one from the Facebook developer who worked on some Facebook translation tools!
The short answer: One Fan Page with multiple languages using Facebook Targeting tools.
Over the Shoulder Learning on Steroids: Social Learning
Ten years ago, before my son Harry arrived, I volunteered as a mentor for the Computer Club House in Boston. I wanted to get used to being around kids and what better way to do it than volunteer for a computer after school program. One thing I immediately noticed, is how the kids huddled around together at the computer screens and quickly shared what they knew with each other or how different discoveries quickly travelled from one kid to the other. There was a lot of what Nancy White calls "Over the Shoulder Learning."
We can put shoulder-to-shoulder learning on steriods by integrating the use of social media to support learning. If two minds are better than one, what about 100? The wiki and our hashtag helps bring in other people into our learning and enrich it.
Learning Together Over Time
As participants go off and implement their experiments, they will not go alone. We'll have check-in conference calls as well as use the wiki and hashtag to provide just-in-time learning. The peer learning will culminate in having each participant present what they learned from their experiment.
One of the participants was Ashley Boyd from Momsrising who has a significant amount of expertise as an early adopter of social media and genersously shared a lot of what they've learned. Ashely shared a mini case study about their Pacifier Campaign.
Ashley shared a brilliant idea and technique avoid the stigma from failure. She calls it "joyful funeral" -- that you quickly say this didn't work, reflect on why, and move on. That way, on the front end, you acknowledge that since you're experimenting not everything is going to work perfectly - and that there is value in learning from those tactics that didn't work!
I anticipate that we'll probably have some joyful funerals as move through this process, including a few of my own. I hope that we can take the flop out of failure and harness the learning.
Some things I might do differently next time around:
Making the Link To Smart Objective/Audience Identification:
I used the social media game as a peer assist exercise for the first time. In all previous versions of this game, I used simulations (a fictional example of an organization or situation that had a smart objective and audience already defined). Simulations work better because participants can focus on applying the social media principles and picking tools than on defining an objective and identifying an audience.
Next time, I will use simulations based on participants or if budget and time permits, include one-on-one coaching with participants prior to the first session. While participants do complete an assessment form, I think participants might benefit from some one-on-one coaching. It would also be great to have a bank of examples that show an organization's SMART objective, audience identification, and social media strategy.
Social Media Game
I've been using the game now for almost four years in many different versions and reiterations. Many people have also remixed it. When I use it with a large group, I do a fair amount of social engineering to ensure there is the right mix of technical experience, communications experience, and meeting facilitators. Mostly that is done in the room. I think this is still important for even a smaller group.
I also remixed the game recently to incorporate some of the latest tools such as mobile and location-based social networks. And, as such, the game was a little bit more advanced than it needed to be. And while this might have caused some confusion or even stress, I think it is good to expose people to the tools that the early adopters are playing with. Just so they know the basic concept.
Over the weekend, on the heels of this session, I attended a "Playshop" by game designer Nicole Lazzaro. I learned about the four keys of fun in game design as well as the role emotion plays in engaging people. My next task is to begin to integrate this thinking into the game as well as the overall instructional design. Stay tuned for that!
Growing My Instructional Chops
I've been delivering technology trainings as a one-woman band since 1994 when I facilitated workshops in how to use email or create web pages. I've worked with a team to do my social media module, but I've never lead a team of training. I'm learning how to scale when you collaborate with other trainers and how much you need plan or create formal lesson plans.