Social Media: Diving into The Deep

social media

I have been involved in social media for over ten years now. What once was my hobby and passion, became my profession (and passion) five years ago. I eat, drink and breathe social media every day.

Even as a full-time social media professional, I have problems keeping up with the hundreds of social media tools, their features and possible applications, even within the niche market I work in: social media for nonprofit research organisations.

So, I can imagine how “the social media world” looks like for someone who doesn’t work on it full-time. That’s why I love to share my digested view on the social media world with others, as a way to introduce them into the plethora of tools, their applications and how to use them strategically.

And that is one of the reasons why we organised a social media introduction webinar last week.

The webinar

Our “social media for professionals” webinar was organised by GFAR, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, and supported by the CGIAR Consortium’s Shared Services team.

What started as an ad-hoc initiative, seemed to steer up quite some interest. 72 people registered, a mix of scientists and professional communicators, both novices and more experienced. Those looking to strengthen their current social media use as well as those looking for an introduction.

We had two sessions, of two hours each, walking participants through a systematic overview of social media galaxy:

  • What makes “social media” so different from the “traditional” online media tools we “used to have” – websites?
  • An overview of all social media outlets, divided up between networking tools, repositories and productivity tools
  • A brief introduction into how to use these tools strategically, through a social media strategy?

Burning questions

Based on the questions raised during the webinar, here is a selection of what I see as “the struggles” people have:

  • Many scientists are getting a feel for what social media can contribute to them and their work, but many struggle to select those tools of immediate benefit to them.
    My tip to them: start with plugging into networks of other scientists (LinkedIn or ResearchGate are excellent places to start.)
  • Professional communicators struggle to keep up with the multitude of social media tools on the market. Often they are -rather randomly it seems- engaging in one or the other tool, but fail to use these tools strategically. This drains their resources.
    My tip to them: Take a step back and think first who you want to reach, what content you want to reach them with, and only then think of the tools you want to use to link target audience with target content.
  • Communicators continue to have challenges in engaging the scientists in their community. Some try to train their scientists into the art of blogging in an effort to get good content. Most of the communicators seem to find little or no support from their scientists in any of their communication projects.
    My tip to them: Few scientists are born story-tellers. For those few, guide them to write good blogposts. But don’t concentrate all of your efforts on “how to convert good scientists into mediocre bloggers”. Blogs are subjective and enticing stories in the margin of the core research, much against the principles scientists were brought up with: objectivity. The key is, as a communicator, to nuture your relationship with scientists so they allocate time to you, to tell their story. But you, as a communicator, write the story.
    Show the implications of your outreach to the scientists, within the area they are interested in: show the increase of downloads of their research reports, after you wrote a blogpost about it.
  • Communicators also struggle on determining what should go onto their website, and what goes onto a blog. How to distinguish between both -technically and content wise-.
    My answer: the technically platform for websites and blogs continue to functionally merge. Nowadays it is difficult to look at a website and a blog, and see -first hand- if either is running on a conventional website Content Management System (like Drupal, Joomla or Typo3), or a blog system (mostly WordPress). But the distinction is more on content: websites are becoming the home of static information (who are we, what do we do) and our scientific repository (our core data and research publications), while the blogs become the home of the dynamic and timely updates, the stories around our research, and the online discussion platforms.
  • Pictures, videos, podcasts, presentations… Should we publish everything?
    My answer: Many of these are intermediate content, and not core content. They are teasers, a transition stop on the way to your core content, so don’t stop there. Yes, do publish this content and be selective – concentrate on the quality rather than quantity, but give each piece a proper title and even more importantly, add a proper description adding a link to your core content where the public can “read more” about the research related to that content. So many organisations publish great pictures, videos, slides and podcasts, but there is no hint where “to read more”. So allocate a bit of time to add links to “If you are interested, here is where you can find more information”…

More, more, gimme more!

While on a winning streak, we’d like to introduce two more webinars, organised by GFAR and supported by the CGIAR Shared Services team. Wanna keep on scratching with the chickens or do you want to soar with the eagles? 🙂
Join us!

Blogpost by Peter Casier (GFAR Social Media Coordinator)
Blog also cross-posted on the CGIAR Consortium Shared Services site.
Picture courtesy Pixabay


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