Social Media Elementals by @FellowCreative

Written for The National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs (NACUE)
Published 15/09/2010. Last updated 9/1/2011.


The Introduction

Hello. I’m Carl @FellowCreative *~)  Accepting NACUE’s invitation to supportinspireconnect, and become an advocate for over 65 university enterprise societies across the UK, representing in excess of 35,000 entrepreneurial students is both a great honour and a great responsibility.

As I sit down to write this I’m acutely aware that the NACUE Learning Programme provides a critical knowledge base for ever-changing Student and Academic Society Presidents and Committee Members. It aims to deliver you a thorough collection of guidance documents to cover all aspects of establishing, running and developing a successful University Enterprise Society. However, in some specialist and complex areas, delivering such complete, comprehensive, failsafe documentation can prove challenging and sometimes impossible – ‘Social Media’ is one such topic. I hope to cultivate your food for thought…


Agriculture - Elementals and Food for Thought

Plate XLVII from the Yearbook of Agriculture 1901
Original illustration licensed under creative commons by PerpetualPlum


Searching Google.com today (7th August 2010) for the term ‘Social Media’ puts ‘About 276,000,000 Results’ at your instant disposal. An abundance of blog posts and video tutorials, from tips on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies to marketing techniques to ‘build a brand on Facebook.com’ and ‘increase your number of Twitter.com followers’, etc – some results are very worthy of investigation, others are not.

This document will cover what I believe to be the important stuff, with a short list of recommended reading and resources at the end.

This ‘How To Use Social Media’ guide doesn’t promise you a one-size-fits-all step-by-step manual of Social Media techniques and strategies. Instead, without Technobabble (mostly), it will explore the values inherent in NACUE and the words: University, Enterprise and Society from the heart of my intuition and experiences, from between the lines of all I’ve read, done and learnt. I underline one fact: ‘communication channels, technologies, social norms and the digital landscape evolve globally, by the second – this means what exists today, may change tomorrow’. I really hope to inspire you to question your perception of Social Media and its potential value to you and others, thus empowering you to ‘work beyond What Is to deliver What Can Be™’. As the quote reads: “We can identify trends for the future but accurate predictions are impossible”.

In the realms of the World Wide Web (commonly called the Internet) and its related technologies, my most important advice is: place strategic bets but always retain your ability to pivot – prepare to fail forward!


The Social Web
Info-graphic by InformationArchitects.jp
Original image uploaded and licensed under creative commons by Evitc

What is the Social Web?

The Internet now provides an increasingly diverse and innovative set of tools that allows people to connect with others, share information, socialise and collaborate together. The term ‘Web 2.0’ is commonly used to refer to specific websites and applications (Apps) that help facilitate such interactive information sharing, interoperability and collaborations across the Internet as a whole (and I mean across multiple platforms and online spaces, not just within so-called social networks like Facebook.com that are in fact silos of information where lots goes in but very little can be shared with people outside its walls).

New websites, platforms, applications and features launch daily if not hourly. Information Architects Inc. created the diagram ‘Web Trend Map 3’ (http://informationarchitects.jp/trendmap3-countdown-sneak-peak). It is a brilliant example of information design and does an extremely good job of visualising the connected and distributed ecosystems of Web 2.0. The diagram shows a complex and interrelated version of an Underground Tube Map, with different zones and layers. Each tube line represents a different Web Trend (e.g. Gaming, Technology, Photos, News, Video, Social Network, Politics, Innovation, Music, File Storage, Blogging), and travelling along each tube line you find community stations at every stop (e.g. Google.com, Facebook.com, YouTube.com, Flickr.com, Twitter.com, BBC.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk, MySpace.com, Amazon.com, WordPress.com).

The term ‘Social Web’ loosely describes how people socialise or interact with each other throughout and across this interconnected map and World Wide Web. It is also important to note that these connections and interactions aren’t limited to computer screens – many of the latest devices, phone handsets, iPads and games consoles now provide both Internet and App integration and connectivity. And remember, this connectivity isn’t just stationary, it’s now ‘mobile’ and on the move.

The ‘Web Trend Map 3’ mentioned above, was in fact released in January 2008; much has evolved since. The Web Trend Map 4 (’09) and Web Trend Map 5 published in 2010 demonstrate just how quickly the Internet evolves and how the ecosystems and connecting structures of today will undoubtedly adapt and develop to suit the trends and technologies of tomorrow.

Until recently most people formed their online connections and social networks through friends, contacts or shared interests. However, today a growing number of connections are being made through a geographic location, a point of interest (POI), or other forms of location (GPS) data. The fields of Augmented Reality and Social Gaming are growing, and applications like Gowalla.com are gaining traction and investment.

Increasingly, our Social Media activities and assets can be searched and identified not just by the Username(s), Publisher(s), Title(s) or Tag(s) but also by their context in time and space – e.g. a Digital Photograph taken on an iPhone or Nokia device already equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) receiver, will now likely contain (encoded into the digital file metadata) the actual mappable location (latitude, longitude, and altitude; plus the time) the photo was taken. In real-time and real-space.

The term ‘Semantic Web’ describes the methods and technologies that allow machines and devices to understand the meaning (and metadata) – or “semantics” – of information on the World Wide Web.

Only a few years ago online communication and audience engagement would have focused on a single location, your website. Broadcast monologues and advertising would have been used solely to drive customers to it. Today, we recognise that people increasingly hang out and socialise across multiple locations, different online spaces and social networks, they frequent multiple groups and tribes, and what’s more they’re now used to home delivery and on-demand. If you wish to engage them it must be within their territories, where they choose to hangout, on their terms, not yours. You must respect and value them as individuals, not as a number or mass-market. Respect has to be earned, and value(s) must be shared beyond price point.

Understanding Social Media Engagement
Engagement 1.0
Photograph licensed under creative commons by Mark Berry

What is Social Media?

It is safe to suggest that you, fellow academics, students, entrepreneurs, business leaders, marketers and technologists perceive, describe and wish to use Social Media in different ways. Most focus on ‘Social Media for PR’ or ‘Social Media for Marketing’ – hence the now somewhat throw-away terms ‘Social Media Marketing’ and ‘Social Media Consultancy’.

It seems that attitudes to the term ‘Social Media’ differ greatly and its definition seems increasingly meaningless – perhaps the inevitable result and downside of any buzz-terminology.

However, I presume: A) your University Society’s primary aim is to communicate your people-focused benefits and value(s), and B) you actually wish to engage and inspire conversations, to connect and share in activities with fellow academics, students and members. This document should help you focus on the inherent value(s) of using ‘Social Media for Audience Engagement’ – and not the questionable hijacking of Social Media channels and platforms for one-directional broadcasting of monologues or self-interested-selling as is so often the case with monetised minds and quick-win business ventures, sadly.

Christian Payne @Documentally, the man I personally recognise as the UK’s #1 Social Media Journalist says: “Social media is about communication, and community building. In the modern world with millions of people vying for attention, it’s not your presentation; it’s your connection to your community that’s important. To people bombarded every day with ‘brand’ and ‘monologue’, it’s the human touch that develops interest and loyalty. Put more simply, social media tools aren’t about you; they’re about the people you want to speak with.”

With article references and citations to Yale University Press and Penguin, Wikipedia.org (the worlds largest encyclopaedia, which is both freely available and user generated) defines Social Media as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques”. It goes on to say: “Social Media use web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues”. Now, assuming you’ve already heard some webby-speak banded about by your University ICT Department, and without wanting to get you technically lost or turn all geeky, Professor’s Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein’s definition serves as a good introduction to some of the tech-terminology often associated with the realms of Social Media: “a group of Internet-based applications built on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

Parking the reference to ‘ideological foundations’ aside for later discussion I will attempt to demystify the different types of media and user-generated content that might be created or exchanged through Social Media. The acronym used by the threaded-conversation platform Phreadz.com serves to suggest most people converse, connect and share through V.I.T.A.L: Video, Images, Text, Audio and Links (such Links may be to an online news article or website, a particular map location or point of interest (POI), a digital artefact of sorts. The possibilities grow daily…).

Thinking about Social Media in terms of socially VITAL exchanges and interactions makes it perhaps a little easier to understand the difference between Broadcast Media and Social Media. I use the acronym V.I.T.A.L with great emphasis on the essential definition of the word ‘vital’. Social Media is not about tools, technologies, websites or even the medium. It is about understanding the accepted social norms and enablers of human behaviour. It’s about retaining the core values of society, social engagement, inspirational conversation and participation, not eroding such norms or values with self-interested monologues or promotion. Being social is VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates, like-minds and people, truly supporting the development of an audience, tribe, society and community of inspirational friends and connectors.

In the introduction to his book ‘Life Inc’, Douglas Rushkoff writes:
“Sometimes it feels as if there’s just not enough air in the room – as if there were a corporate agenda guiding all human activity. At a moment’s notice any dinner party can slide invisibly into a stock promotion, a networking event, or an impromptu consultation – let me pick your brain. Is this why I was invited in the first place? Through sponsored word-of-mouth known as ‘buzz-marketing’, our personal social interactions become the promotional opportunities through which brands strive to be cults and religions strive to be brands”.

I constantly wonder to myself, and now I question you: Does the term ‘Social Media’ deserve a rethink?

Human Behaviour, Social-Norms and Elementals
Super Human Powers
Photograph licensed under creative commons by Esparta Palma

Social Media, Social Norms and ‘Elementals’

The theory of ‘Elementals’ is my own, it’s not an industry-recognised term or philosophy. I introduce it here not to confuse you, but to convey my continually developing thinking and ideology. Many of my concepts build upon already recognised principles: ‘Media Richness Theory’, ‘Media Naturalness Theory’ and Brian Solis’ ‘Hybrid Theory Manifesto’; and I remain inspired by the works of Sir Ken Robinson and motivations of Dan Pink.

Written by Sir Ken Robinson ‘The Element. How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ is an amazing book which I highly recommend to everyone – it’s certainly a must-read for anyone involved or interested in improving Education, Entrepreneurship, Creativity, Social Enterprise, Community Development or Civics and Society.

The book explores real people, as individuals, from the perspective of empowering passionate creativity, engagement, conversation and sharing, by firing up imaginations and motivations. Robinson suggests that when collections of people engage to create something much greater than any of them could create individually, they become more than the sum of their parts – he defines this as ‘the alchemy of synergy’. ‘The Element’ is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.

I firmly believe that technology should be used to inspire and empower us to be better people – the Web’s potential to connect natural talents with passion and inspiration, provides you, us, our Universities, Enterprises and Societies, with a true catalyst for brilliance and value creation.

According to Wikipedia the term ‘Elemental’ refers to “a Mythological being” and “the ancient idea of elements as fundamental building blocks of nature”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “a supernatural entity or force thought to be physically manifested”.

Through exploring the differences between the so-called Social Media and Social Networks online, in comparison to the super fundamental, super natural, ‘Elementals’ of social norms and human behaviour offline, you can begin to understand the valuable building blocks between the social and the media.

I define these ‘Elementals’ as: fun, authenticity, kindness, usefulness, challenge and inspiration – expressed and experienced through art, story-telling, memes and the wider human sense of friendship.

“Great teachers have always understood that their role is not to teach subjects but to teach students. Mentoring and coaching is the vital pulse of the living system…” ~ Sir Ken Robinson.

Measurement, Return On Investment (ROI) and Value
“Not everything that counts can be counted…”
Photograph licensed under creative commons by Beth Kanter

The Value and ROI of Social Media and its ‘Elementals’

There’s constant discussion and debate about the measurement and return on investment (ROI) of Social Media. Traditional industrialists, broadcasters and marketer minds are analytical, linear and strategic. They define measurement through a set of processes and numbers, numbers of followers, numbers of visitors and viewers, the number of potential customers, the number of sales – these minds simply don’t get the Web’s potential to create value (long-term and beyond profit) and develop long-standing relationships with and respect for people, education, entrepreneurship, society, and dare I say it ‘brand’.

For me, and hopefully you, the Value and ROI of Social Media can be found through focusing on ‘retention’, not recruitment. It’s not about the great numbers in Facebook groups. It’s in forming true communities of people and participants who engage to become more than the sum of their parts – through contacts, conversations and ideas, VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates – Social Return On Investment (SROI).

Through conversation with and listening to your societies and members as individuals, you can learn to answer all their questions and needs, empowering your forging of long-term relationships and friendships. Inevitably leading to improved ‘people-centred’ services and societies, and better understanding of future trends and values, and hopefully resulting in some additionally VITAL and much appreciated word of mouth.

Practical & Actionable Advice
Practical Pieces of Advice!
Photograph licensed under creative commons by Munir Squires

Practical & Actionable Social Media Advice:

In the realms of the World Wide Web (commonly called the Internet) and its related technologies, my most important advice to you is as follows:

  • Focus on ‘retention’ not recruitment! Cater to your existing community’s needs while placing strategic bets for the future, but always retain your ability to pivot – prepare to fail forward!
  • Think long-term flexibility, short-term scalability – Deliver today but plan for tomorrow!
  • Logic makes people think, emotions make people act! Organizational charts can show your Societies hierarchy and structure but sadly they don’t capture how your organization or Society really works. Social communities are not like mechanisms; they are more like organisms – each is different, each requires a different approach, and all continue to evolve.
  • Is your audience worthy of investment? Social Media is often viewed as an inexpensive tool for audience engagement. Many of the applications and media services are indeed free to use and simple to setup but Social Media is far from inexpensive if your time is valuable – be prepared to dedicate plenty of time and enthusiasm. Free tools and services are usually sustained by intrusive third-party advertising packages, be mindful that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Great Products sell companies but Great People sell Services and Societies!
  • It’s about behaviour not tools!
  • People and participants who truly engage can become more than the sum of their parts. Supporting them is VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates!
  • Lead through example and education! Students, colleagues and potential advocates aren’t born knowing how to use Web tools and technologies, or how to navigate Legal Requirements, Copyright or Facebook Privacy Settings – explore your organizational policy towards Age Of Majority (legal terms of Understanding and Agreement) regarding student consent (to appear in content, photos or film), and explore Data Protection and Social Media Policy.
  • Investigate your ‘Audience Persona(s)’ (hypothetical archetypes)Understand your people!
  • Understand your own (personal and organisations) value(s) and identity – Adopt a relaxed but appropriate conversational tone and find your accent!
  • You have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you talk – Talk with people, not at them!
  • Make VITAL content for individuals’ sensibilities! Effective conversation and engagement requires different media for, and understandings of, natural human sense(s) and ability (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learning and communications).
  • Attention to detail delivers 30% more engagement! Good Design, Copywriting, and Content Editing matters. *
  • Is it useful or is it compelling? And is it easily sharable or embeddable elsewhere? Social interaction encourages dialogue not monologue. Engaging conversation and content means ‘compelling, fun, authentic, useful, challenging and inspirational’ – often expressed and experienced through art, story-telling, memes and the wider human sense of friendship.
  • Share other peoples’ insights and timely goodness! Useful means contextual and relevant – not everything has to be written by you. Develop a network of relevance but always remember to credit your sources. It’s their content – respect it, and them!
  • Create the Theatre not the Play, but don’t be afraid to provide Props! Community Management means facilitation of multiple personas, tribes and belief systems across multiple places. Inspire participation and crucial debate, don’t dictate or control it.
  • Communicate organizational change quickly, simply, as it happens!
  • Admit your mistakes and lessons learnt! Expect and encourage constant dialogue, engagement and comments. The web is a conversation, so join in with clear and frequent feedback!
  • Test tools, features and viewer devices with users – accessibility is not an optional extra!
  • Make sure your content can be searched and linked to, forever! Optimize your content with continuity and useful Account Names, Usernames, Filenames, Categories, Permalinks, Tags (metadata), RSS, Trackbacks, Pingbacks and Hashtags (#Tag).
  • Google Yourself! Monitor value and success every day. Search your visibility metrics with services like ‘HowSociable.com’, ‘Klout.com’ and install ‘Google.com/Analytics’ on your website(s) so you can measure progress, success and failure (find out if your existing website already has measurement tools and reporting to help guide your planning).

Thumbs Up! Recommended Tools & Apps
Thumbs Up!
Photograph licensed under creative commons by ChicagoGeek

Recommended Tools and Applications:

If your University, Enterprise or Society doesn’t already have a website (and even if you do), a good starting point is to sit down with 4-6 people (these should be actual students, potential users and members; not people in the organizational chain) and discuss what actually works and what doesn’t. Focus on needs, wants and values. Focus on retention not recruitment. Research what others are doing successfully and poorly; and if applicable explore your pre-existing websites, communication channels and legal policies. Go through the full list of highlighted points in the ‘Practical and Actionable Social Media Advice’ section of this document.

Once complete you should have a good understanding of your existing User Personas and your potential ambassadors. You should also understand your values, voice and tone. You should have a basic understanding of your VITAL media requirements and constraints – What media and application features do you need?

The following list outlines a host of my recommended tools and applications. Please make sure you examine your own internal policies and data-protection guidelines, and all the applications terms of service and subscription contracts, before you make any decisions – the responsibility to make the right choice for you and your Society is yours alone, not mine. Many of these services are privately owned and free-to-use (funded by advertising, most of which isn’t too intrusive) – but please remember, what exists today may change tomorrow:

WordPress.com – is a free to use, semantic publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. Often used for personal weblogs (blogs), it provides social media support through embeddable media, widgets and content aggregations; along with basic design/theme customization and community features like commenting, search engine optimization (SEO) and content sharing goodness such as RSS and Analytical Stats. The WP platform is also available as a free open-source product via WordPress.org; increasingly used by self-hosted bloggers and organisations (both personal and commercial websites), with a constantly developing array of community features and Plugins. WordPress.org is fully customisable, reliable and secure (as now used by Number10.gov.uk).

Facebook.com – undoubtedly the UKs biggest social network; a free-to-use social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. Currently home to 500 million active users globally. Developments like Facebook Connect, Facebook Social Plugin, Mobile App, Facebook Questions, Social Gaming Apps and GEO location features (Facebook Places), mean it’s here to stay and an extremely valuable channel for audience engagement. Keep up to speed with Privacy Settings and remember, Facebook is currently a silo of information – place strategic bets but always retain your ability to pivot!

Twitter.com – a free-to-use micro-blogging platform with a limit of 140 characters per post or update (commonly known as a tweet). Defined as ‘the best way to share and discover what is happening right now’, much of its success has been built upon dedicated mobile apps and third party services. Increasingly being used by Students, Enterprises and Societies it is likely to prove a valuable part of your conversational and personal connection toolkit. Daily content and conversation can be searched, shared and aggregated across the Web in the form of RSS Feeds (and increasingly JSON), and embedded into websites and blogs (as well as such things as auto-updating your Facebook and LinkedIn status). Hashtags (#Tag) and Twitter Lists are two ways in which you can organize information, people, members and groups but Twitter continues to make deals with the likes of Google Realtime and DataSift so expect frequent change and new features relating to real-time and real-space.

Flickr.com – a free-to-use image and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. Free accounts provide some extremely useful but limited features (low quality image hosting and sharing, creative commons licensing, etc.). A subscription fee (approximately £16 per year) provides ad-free browsing and sharing features, archiving and search facilities, high-definition imagery and HD video hosting, accessible viewer counts and statistics and unlimited uploads, storage and bandwidth. (Also worth checking out Google’s option: Picasa.com).

Viddler.com – a free-to-use interactive online video platform for uploading, sharing, enhancing, tagging, commenting on, and forming groups around videos. Competing against the more popular YouTube.com (and services like Vimeo.com, Wistia.com and Blip.tv), Viddler provides an ad-free subscription account and some additional business specific services. YouTube.com is likely to remain the Web’s largest community library of searchable video content so I’d certainly recommend Optimising, Tagging and Uploading your content to it but I’d recommend investigating Viddler as your core video sharing service. Equipped with video analytics, HTML5, brand-able and customizable video players and an impressive feature-set of embeddable Viddgets.

Audioboo.fm – because sound is social and real voices are personable. AudioBoo provides a free-to-use mobile and web platform that effortlessly allows you to record and upload audio for your friends, family or the rest of the world to hear. With a diverse community of users, from Journalists to Independent Podcasters, Musicians to people having everyday conversations. It might just spark your imagination for the potential uses of sound and provide you with a simple insight into the more complicated world of Podcasting, iTunes, non-streamed webcasts and digital media syndication (as well as a host of other audio services: Spotify.com, SoundCloud.com, BandCamp.com, Mixlr.com, Blip.fm, Last.fm and RootMusic.com, http://listen.grooveshark.com etc.).

LinkedIn.com – is a free-to-use business-oriented social networking site. It is mainly used for professional networking. With 75 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, it provides a continually developing set of features that allow you to share your career development, contacts, life, blog posts, tweets, upcoming events etc. with a growing network of professionals and industry groups.

MailChimp.com – start with a free account, upgrade at anytime. MailChimp provides an email marketing service to design, send, and track HTML email campaigns with a simple set of tools. An ad-supported but fully functional account provides the capacity to send 3,000 emails per month to up to 500 subscribers. A Pay-As-You-Go account removes any third-party advertising, and a range of monthly subscription packages can cater for an unlimited number of emails (approximately £20 per month if your mailing list is no bigger than 2,500 members).

SurveyMonkey.com – is a free online survey software and questionnaire tool. Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time. A free account allows up to 10 questions per survey and a maximum of 100 responses, while a monthly subscription (approximately £20) provides customisable and branded survey tools with unlimited questions and responses, and downloadable results and analytics.

Eventbrite.com – a free-to-setup online event registration tool, everything you need to bring people together for an event and sell tickets. Creating an event page and adding it to your blog or website takes about 5 minutes, define your ticket types and price, track sales and attendees with an event summary – simple. Eventbrite takes a small commission on the tickets you actually sell. Additional features include event/conference Name Badge design, etc.

Bit.ly – allows you to shorten, share, and track links (URLs). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier, especially if you’re using services like Twitter.com that limit your updates (tweets) to 140 characters in length. Bit.ly also provides management and analytics for your shortened links so you can track popular links and traffic locations. Bit.ly is still a relatively new service, free-to-use and currently free from ads. It is certainly useful and I recommend it, but make sure any links you use within your own website content don’t reference bit.ly because if bit.ly doesn’t exist tomorrow neither do all your shortened links.

Bambuser.com – Live video streaming from your mobile phone or webcam (other live-streaming services include Ustream.tv and ‘now Skype owned’ Qik.com). Bambuser lets you instantly share your experiences with friends, family and followers all over the globe, whilst at the same time interacting with your audience through web-to-mobile chat. Bambuser also integrates with a wide range of global platforms and social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, as well as your blog or website – you decide where you want to share your real-time broadcasting experiences. Commercial packages are available; otherwise ad-support is likely.

Mendeley.com – is a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers, discovering research data and collaborating online. For a University or student Society, Mendeley’s growing popularity and social sharing features make it a potential gold-mine for inspirational content, connections and advocates – certainly one to look into!

Paper.li – creates an online newspaper built from all the articles, blog posts, videos and photos shared on Twitter – Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or Hashtag (#tag). Paper.li is an interesting example of how content, people and advocates from different places might be brought together (aggregated) to provide something greater than the sum of their parts. Other *filtering by collective trend* services like Flipboard.com help demonstrate what is both technically possible and increasingly popular.

Flattr.com – is a social micropayment platform (somewhat similar to the more widely known Chipin.com). Developed to help support you and the organizations and Societies people like. Adding a Flattr-Button to your website content might well help you fund future activities. Flattr is the newest and least proven service on my recommendations list; but if you’ve got some worthy content and Society activities planned it might be worth further investigation.

Gowalla.com – is a location-based social networking service that gives people around the world a new way to communicate and express. Users ‘check-in’ at Spots in their local vicinity, either through a dedicated mobile application or through the mobile website. As a reward users will sometimes receive virtual items from check-ins. With 150,000 active users in April 2010, this is certain to increase into 2011. As crazy as the concept may sound, if you want to explore the potential of social gaming and GEO location for community building and Society engagement this is my recommended place to start.

Google.com/Analytics – is a free web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Powerful, flexible and easy-to-use features let you see and analyze your traffic data – enabling you to write better-targeted content and strengthen your marketing initiatives. Google also provide Email services and a suite of Google Apps (document, presentation, spreadsheet and collaboration tools). If you are looking for more specific business performance monitoring it might be worth investigating kissmetrics.com and thesunnytrail.com.

NameCheck.com – is a free service that checks your society/group/business/brand ‘name’ against a global registry of website domain names and social media account status’, to indicate their availability or current use. Ud’s NameCheck.com is not the only online service providing such ‘name research and analysis’. NameCheckList is also worthy of investigation, it provides ‘goodness’ analysis on search engine results for ‘names’ on Google, YouTube, Yahoo! and Flickr. If you do decide to purchase a domain name I recommend checking GoDaddy.com (sure you can buy domain names cheap elsewhere but for customer service and useful/scalable features they’re a solid point of call for small organisations, SME’s and NGO’s).

Klout.com – helps you understand and potentially leverage your influence, audience reach and engagement online. The industry of social media measurement and influence analysis is still in its infancy. Alongside Google Analytics, NameCheckList and other free services like HowSociable.com, Klout provide a somewhat solid foundation for exploration. Klout Labs are working on additional paid services: Social Search, Media Management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Lead Generation. Other social metric services are also very worthy of investigation: chartbeat.com, woopra.com, gosquared.com.

SocialMedia.PolicyTool.net – is far from perfect, but does provide you the ideal introduction to an important topic – Social Media Policy. PolicyTool helps streamline the process of policy development. Answering a brief questionnaire provides you with a customized document upon which to build. Social Media Policy is not yet a legal requirement but there are certain aspects of it that you really should be aware of. Please make sure you examine your own internal policies and data-protection guidelines, and all the applications terms of service and subscription contracts, before you make any decisions – the responsibility to make the right choice for you and your Society is yours alone, not mine.

CreativeCommons.org – is a non-profit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Free licenses and other legal tools mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof. Providing a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators.

Dropbox.com – is a digital storage service that syncs your files online for backup and sharing. Put your files into your Dropbox on one computer, and they’ll be instantly but securely available to you (and those you choose/invite) via any other computers (or mobile devices) with Dropbox installed (its even cross-compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux). A basic 2GB Dropbox account is free, with additional Pro storage available from £6.50 per 50GB (approximately).

Wikipedia.org – is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopaedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. If you require additional information or further explanation of the concepts explored in this document Wikipedia is a good place to start your research, but please be advised that it is often not seen as an acceptable academic source for reference or citation.

[A few additional things to watch out for include: http://dailybooth.com, http://datasift.com, http://instagr.am, http://scvngr.com, http://Lanyrd.com, http://picasa.com, http://groupon.com, http://storify.com, http://kickstarter.com, http://quora.com, http://www.co-ment.com, http://peerindex.net, https://joindiaspora.com, http://civiccommons.org, http://doodle.com, http://path.com, http://groupme.com, http://belugapods.com, http://performable.com, http://www.geckoboard.com, http://kissmetrics.com, http://thesunnytrail.com, http://chartbeat.com, http://pingdom.com, http://www.cloudflare.com]

Epilogue:

Quite simply, I really do hope that my insights inspire you to question your perception of Social Media and its potential value to you and others, thus empowering you to ‘work beyond What Is to deliver What Can Be™’. As the quote reads: “We can identify trends for the future but accurate predictions are impossible”. I wish you good luck!

I’m off to develop some real-space dialogue, research the information ecology and realms of social cultivation, joining dots with an emphasis on discovery not theory (more info here if you’re at all interested).
Positive thoughts, Carl. *~)


In March 2010, as part of the National Student Enterprise Conference, NACUE invited Carl Jeffrey of FellowCreative.com to share his experiences, insights and beliefs surrounding Social Media and the ever-changing digital landscape. Although Carl insists he’s neither a Social Media Consultant nor an academically qualified Marketer, in recent years his reputation as a design innovator, educator, trend spotter, commentator and facilitator has grown rapidly through involvement in social media communications and the wider social web – his clients include UK Universities, the Worlds #1 Sustainable Technology Company and the UK’s #1 Specialist Social Media Agency – his bio reads ‘Creative Midwife™ & Joiner-of-Dots… attracted to inspiration & shiny things…’


Recommended Reading and Resources:

Social Media for Audience Development and Community Building:
http://ourmaninside.com/2009/12/28/social-media-for-audience-development-community-building
Engaging Through Social Media (a PDF Guide aimed at Civil Servants)
http://coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=264
Brain Solis: Hybrid Theory Manifesto (broken into three parts)
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/the-hybrid-theory-manifesto-the-future-of-marketing-advertising-and-communications-part-one
Information Architects Inc. created the diagram ‘Web Trend Map 3’
http://informationarchitects.jp/trendmap3-countdown-sneak-peak
13 Qualities of a good Social Media Voice
http://socialmediatoday.com/ckochster/155676/13-qualities-good-social-media-voice
The Impact of a good Editor on Content*
http://www.ikiw.org/2010/07/16/ibm-web-team-measures-impact-of-an-editor-on-content
Helen Keegan: Social Media, Education, Industry – and motivation
http://heloukee.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/msc-social-media
RSA Video – Daniel Pink on intrinsic motivation
http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/2010/04/08/rsa-animate-drive
The 15 Web Principles as published by the BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/03/ten_publishing_principles_for.html
Sound-bites about social-media usage and strategy – some are worth your attention, others are not
http://whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com
Habbo Hotel (habbo.co.uk) – understanding and developing your user Personas
http://www.clubhabboforum.net/showthread.php?p=3262438
How to manage a Sustainable Online Community
http://mashable.com/2010/07/30/sustainable-online-community
Seth Godin: Tribe Management
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/tribal-manageme.html
Where does responsibility for digital communications sit within a large organisation?
http://neilojwilliams.net/missioncreep/2010/death-of-the-web-team
Should publishers be running towards or away from Facebook
http://poynter.org/latest-news/media-lab/social-media/122934/should-publishers-be-running-towards-facebook-or-away-from-it
A Guide to Facebook Social Plugins
http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/technology/article/a-guide-to-facebook-social-plugins-for-small-business-amy-mae-elliott
A Collection of Social Networking Statistics for 2010
http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/01/19/a-collection-of-social-network-stats-for-2010
Information Age vs Attention Age
http://aaronendre.com/2009/10/26/step-aside-information-age-the-attention-age-is-here
Please be very mindful of Information Gluttony
http://www.toggle.uk.com/journal/information-gluttony
Ken Robinson: the moving case for creating an education system that nurtures
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html
Seven Lessons from games for transforming engagement
http://tomchatfield.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-ted-talk-seven-gaming-lessons-for.html
57 Social Media Policy Examples and Resources
http://socialmediatoday.com/davefleet/151761/57-social-media-policy-examples-and-resources
Teaching Digital Literacy and Citizenship
http://www.commonsensemedia.org/schools
How to Get More Privacy From Facebook’s New Privacy Controls
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/05/more-privacy-facebook-new-privacy-controls
The Internet Identity Workgroup for Identity Commons
http://www.internetidentityworkshop.com/about/
Douglas Rushkoff – Life Inc.
(ISBN 978-0-141-04525-2. Book available at http://rushkoff.com)
Ken Robinson – The Element, how finding your passion changes everything
(ISBN 978-0-224-08203-7. Book available at http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/the-element)

How to Use Social Media: the Elementals
NEWER DOCUMENT VERSION AVAILABLE

The newly revised version of this post is available here:
2010/09/social-media-elementals-by-fellowcreative/



Written for the NACUE Learning Programme. The following text was originally drafted and posted on 12/08/10.
_

In March 2010, as part of the National Student Enterprise Conference, NACUE invited Carl Jeffrey of FellowCreative.com to share his experiences, insights and beliefs surrounding Social Media and the ever-changing digital-landscape. Although Carl insists he’s neither a Social Media Consultant nor an academically qualified Marketer, in recent years his reputation as a design innovator, educator, trend spotter, commentator and facilitator has grown rapidly through involvement in social media communications and the wider social-web – his clients include UK Universities, the Worlds #1 Sustainable Technology Company and the UK’s #1 Specialist Social Media Agency – his bio reads ‘Creative Midwife™ & Joiner-of-Dots. Brand-Communication, Digital-Ideation, Sustainable-Creativity, Social-Enterprise… attracted to inspiration & shiny things…’

The Introduction

Hello. I’m Carl *~) Accepting NACUE’s invitation to support, inspire, connect, and become an advocate for over 65 university enterprise societies across the UK, representing in excess of 35,000 entrepreneurial students is both a great honour and a great responsibility.

As I sit down to write this I’m acutely aware the NACUE Learning Programme provides a critical knowledge base for ever-changing Student and Academic Society Presidents and Committee Members; it aims to deliver you a thorough collection of guidance documents to cover all aspects of establishing, running and developing a successful University Enterprise Society. However, in some specialist and complex areas, delivering such complete, comprehensive, failsafe documentation can prove challenging and sometimes impossible – ‘Social Media’ is one such topic.

Searching Google.com for the term ‘Social Media’ puts ‘About 276,000,000 Results’ at your instant disposal – some results are very worthy of investigation, others are not. A growing abundance of information, video tutorials, case studies, search-engine-optimisation (SEO) strategies, and marketing techniques to ‘build a brand on Facebook.com’ and ‘increase your number of Twitter.com followers’, etc. – for this very reason I’m not intent on re-inventing the generic wheel – at the end of this document you will find a short list of my recommended reading and resources, but first I intend to cover what I believe to be the important stuff.

This ‘How To Use Social Media’ guide can’t promise you a one-size-fits-all step-by-step manual of Social Media techniques and strategies. Instead, I’ve prepared this document for those whom don’t speak in Technobabble (mostly), to explore the values inherent in NACUE and the words: University, Enterprise and Society. I write from the heart of my intuition and experiences, from between the lines of all I’ve read, done and think I’ve learned from. I underline one fact: ‘communication channels, technologies, social-norms and the digital-landscape evolve globally, by the second – this means what exists today, may change tomorrow’. I really hope to inspire you to question your perception of Social Media and its potential value to you and others, thus empowering you to ‘work beyond What Is to deliver What Can Be™’. As the quote reads: “we can identify trends for the future but accurate predictions are impossible”.

In the realms of the World Wide Web (commonly called the Internet) and its related technologies, my most important advice is to: place strategic bets but always retain your ability to pivot – prepare to fail forward!

What is the Social-Web?

The Internet now provides an increasingly diverse and innovative set of tools that allow people to connect with others, share information, socialise and collaborate together. The term ‘Web 2.0’ is commonly used to reference the specific websites and applications (Apps) that help facilitate such interactive information sharing, interoperability and collaborations across the Internet as a whole (and I mean across multiple platforms and online spaces, not just within ‘so-called’ social-networks like Facebook.com that are in fact silo’s of information where lots goes in but very little can be shared with people on the outside of its walls).

New websites, platforms, applications and features launch daily if not hourly. Information Architects Inc. created the diagram ‘Web Trend Map 3’ (http://informationarchitects.jp/trendmap3-countdown-sneak-peak). It is a brilliant example of information design and it does an extremely good job of visualising the connected and distributed ecosystems of Web 2.0. The diagram conveys a complex and interrelated version of an Underground Tube Map, with different zones and layers, each tube-line represents a different Web Trend (E.g. Gaming, Technology, Photos, News, Video, Social Network, Politics, Innovation, Music, File Storage, Blogging, etc), and travelling along each tube-line you find community stations at every stop (E.g. Google.com, Facebook.com, YouTube.com, Flickr.com, Twitter.com, BBC.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk, MySpace.com, Amazon.com, WordPress.com, etc).

The term ‘Social Web’ loosely describes how people socialize or interact with each other throughout and across this interconnected map and World Wide Web. It is also important to note that these connections and interactions aren’t now limited to computer screens, many of the latest devices, phone-handsets, iPads and games-consoles now provide both Internet and App integration and connectivity – and remember, this connectivity isn’t just stationary, its now ‘mobile’ and on the move.

The ‘Web Trend Map 3’ mentioned above, was in fact released in January 2008; much has evolved since. The Web Trend Map 4 (’09) and Web Trend Map 5 published in 2010 demonstrate just how quickly the Internet evolves; and how the ecosystems and connecting structures of today will undoubtedly adapt and develop to suit the trends and technologies of tomorrow.

Until recently most people formed their online-connections and social-networks through friends, contacts or shared interests. However, today a growing number of connections are being made through a geographic location, a point of interest (POI), or another form of locational (GPS) data – the fields of Augmented Reality and Social Gaming are growing, and applications like Gowalla.com are gaining traction and investment.

Increasingly, our Social Media activities and assets can be searched and identified not just by the Username(s), Publisher(s), Title(s) or Tag(s) but also by their context in time and space – E.g. a Digital Photograph taken on an iPhone or Nokia device already equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) receiver, will now likely contain (encoded into the digital file meta-data) the actual map-able location (latitude, longitude, and altitude; plus the time) the photo was taken.

The term ‘Semantic Web’ describes the methods and technologies that allow machines and devices to understand the meaning (and meta-data) – or “semantics” – of information on the World Wide Web.

Only a few years ago online communication and audience engagement would have focused on a single location, your website, and broadcast monologues and advertising would have been used solely to drive customers to it. Today, we recognise that people increasingly hangout and socialise across multiple locations, different online-spaces and social-networks, they frequent multiple groups and tribes, and what’s more they’re now used to home-delivery and on-demand – if you wish to engage them it must be within their territories, where they choose to hangout, on their terms not yours, and you must respect and value them as an individual, not as a number or mass-market. Respect has to be earned, and value(s) must be shared beyond price-point.

What is Social Media?

It is safe to suggest that you, fellow academics, students, entrepreneurs, business-leaders, marketers and technologists perceive, describe and wish to use Social Media in different ways; most focus on ‘Social Media for PR’ or ‘Social Media for Marketing’ – hence the now somewhat throw-away terms ‘Social Media Marketing’ and ‘Social Media Consultancy’.

It seems that attitudes to the term ‘Social Media’ differ greatly and its definition seems increasingly meaningless – perhaps the inevitable result and downside of any buzz-terminology.

However, I presume: A) your University Society’s primary aim is to communicate your people-focused benefits and value(s), and B) you actually wish to engage and inspire conversations, and connect too and share in activities with fellow academics, students and members. This document should help you focus on the inherent value(s) of using ‘Social Media for Audience Engagement’ – and not the questionable hijacking of Social Media channels and platforms for one-directional broadcasting of monologues or self-interested-selling as is so often the case with monetised-minds and quick-win-business-ventures, sadly.

Quoting his article ‘Social Media for Audience Development & Building’, Christian Payne @documentally (the man I personally recognise as the UK’s #1 Social Media Journalist) says:
“If you’re using social media properly your audience is your community, social media is about communication, and community building. Community Building is developing your audience. The moment you have a community, you have participants, not observers. People. Not Bums on Seats.
In the modern world of millions of people vying for your attention, it’s not your presentation; it’s your connection to your community that’s important. This is where social media comes in. Social media offers invaluable tools in accessing the hearts as well as the minds of your participants. To people bombarded every day with ‘brand’, it’s the human touch of organisations that gets your interest and loyalty. Put more simply, social media tools aren’t about you; they’re about the people you want to speak with.”

Wikipedia.org (the worlds largest encyclopaedia, which is both freely available and user generated) defines Social Media as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques”. It goes on to say: “Social Media use web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues”. Now, assuming you’ve already heard some webby-speak banded about by your University ICT Department, and without wanting to get you technically lost or turn all geeky, Professor’s Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein’s definition serves as a good introduction to some of the tech-terminology often associated with the realms of Social Media: “a group of Internet-based applications built on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

Parking the reference to ‘ideological foundations’ aside for later discussion I will attempt to demystify the different types of media and user-generated content that might be created or exchanged through Social Media. The acronym used by the threaded-conversation platform Phreadz.com serves to suggest most people converse, connect and share through V.I.T.A.L: Video, Images, Text, Audio and Links (such Links may be to an online news article or website, a particular map location or point of interest (POI), a digital artefact of sorts; the possibilities grow daily…).

Thinking about Social Media in terms of socially VITAL exchanges and interactions makes it perhaps a little easier to understand the difference between Broadcast Media and Social Media. I use the acronym V.I.T.A.L with great emphasis on the essential definition of the word ‘vital’. Social Media is not about tools, technologies, websites or even the medium. It is about understanding the accepted social norms and enablers of human behaviour; it’s about retaining the core values of society, social engagement, inspirational conversation and participation, not eroding such norms or values with self-interested monologues or promotion – being social is VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates, likeminds and people; truly supporting the development of an audience, tribe, society and community of inspirational friends and connectors.

In the introduction to his book ‘Life Inc’, Douglas Rushkoff writes:
“Sometimes it feels as if there’s just not enough air in the room – as if there were a corporate agenda guiding all human activity. At a moment’s notice any dinner party can slide invisibly into a stock promotion, a networking event, or an impromptu consultation – let me pick your brain. Is this why I was invited in the first place? Through sponsored word-of-mouth known as ‘buzz-marketing’, our personal social interactions become the promotional opportunities through which brands strive to be cults and religions strive to be brands”.

I constantly wonder to myself, and now I question you: Does the term ‘Social Media’ deserve a rethink?

Social Media, Social Norms and ‘Elementals’

The theory of ‘Elementals’ is my own, it’s not an industry-recognised term or philosophy. I introduce it here not to confuse you, but to convey my continually developing thinking and ideology. Many of my concepts build upon already recognised principles: ‘Media Richness Theory’, ‘Media Naturalness Theory’ and Brian Solis’ ‘Hybrid Theory Manifesto’; and I remain inspired by the works of Sir Ken Robinson and motivations of Dan Pink.

Written by Sir Ken Robinson ‘The Element. How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ is an amazing book which I highly recommend to everyone – it’s certainly a must-read for anyone involved or interested in improving Education, Entrepreneurship, Creativity, Social Enterprise, Community Development or Civics and Society.

The book explores real people, as individuals, from the perspective of empowering passionate creativity, engagement, conversation and sharing, by firing up imaginations and motivations. Robinson suggests that when collections of people engage to create something much greater than any of them could create individually, they become more than the sum of their parts – he defines this as ‘the alchemy of synergy’. ‘The Element’ is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.

I firmly believe that technology should be used to inspire and empower us to be better people – the Web’s potential to connect natural talents with passion and inspiration, provides you, us, our Universities, Enterprises and Societies, with a true catalyst for brilliance and value creation.

The term ‘Elemental’ is currently referenced by Wikipedia.org as a “Mythological being”, “the ancient idea of elements as fundamental building blocks of nature.”

Through exploring the differences between the ‘so-called’ Social Media and Social Networks of online, in comparison to the very natural ‘Elementals’ of social norms and human behaviour offline, you can begin to understand the valuable building blocks between the social and the media.

I propose these are the ‘Elementals’ of: fun, authenticity, kindness, usefulness, challenge and inspiration – expressed and experienced through art, story-telling, memes and the wider human sense of friendship.

“Great teachers have always understood that their role is not to teach subjects but to teach students. Mentoring and coaching is the vital pulse of the living system…” ~ Sir Ken Robinson.

The Value and ROI of Social Media and its ‘Elementals’

There’s constant discussion and debate about the measurement and return on investment (ROI) of Social Media. Traditional industrialists, broadcasters and marketer minds are analytical, linear and strategic. They define measurement through a set of processes and numbers, numbers of followers, numbers of visitors and viewers, the number of potential customers, the number of sales – these minds simply don’t get the Web’s potential to create value (long-term and beyond profit) and develop long-standing relationships with and respect for people, education, entrepreneurship, society, and dare I say it ‘brand’.

For me, and hopefully you, the Value and ROI of Social Media can be found through focusing on ‘retention’, not recruitment. I suggest it’s not about the great numbers in Facebook groups. I propose it’s in forming true communities of people and participants who engage to become more than the sum of their parts – through contacts, conversations and ideas, VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates – Social Return On Investment (SROI).

Through conversation with and listening to your societies and members as individuals, you can learn to answer all their questions and needs, empowering your forging of long-term relationships and friends – this inevitably leads to improved ‘people-centred’ services and societies, and better understanding of future trends and values, and hopefully resulting in some additionally VITAL and much appreciated word of mouth.


Practical & Actionable Social Media Advice:

In the realms of the World Wide Web (commonly called the Internet) and its related technologies, my most important advice to you is as follows:

What exists today may change tomorrow, so place strategic bets but always retain your ability to pivot – prepare to fail forward! Focus on ‘retention’ not recruitment!

Organizational charts can show your Societies hierarchy and structure; sadly they can’t capture how your organization or Society really works. Social communities are not like mechanisms; they are more like organisms – each is different, each requires a different approach, and all continue to evolve. Logic makes people think, emotions make people act!

Social Media is often viewed as an inexpensive tool for audience engagement, many of the applications and media services are indeed free to use and simple to setup but Social Media is far from inexpensive if your time is valuable – be prepared to dedicate your time and enthusiasm. And be mindful that if something seems to good to be true, it usually is – free tools and services are usually sustained by intrusive third-party advertising, Is this price worth paying or is your audiences full-consideration worth the paid-for version?

Great Products sell companies but Great People sell services and Society’s!

Social Media are enablers for human behavior – It’s about behavior not tools!

People and participants who truly engage can become more than the sum of their parts – Supporting them is VITAL to inspiring, connecting, and engaging advocates!

Students, colleagues and potential advocates weren’t born knowing how to use Web tools and technologies, or how to navigate Legal Requirements, Copyright or Facebook Privacy Settings – explore your organizational policy towards Age Of Majority (legal terms of Understanding and Agreement) regarding student consent (to appear in content, photos or film), and explore Data Protection and Social Media Policy – Lead through example and education!

Investigate your ‘Audience Persona(s)’ (hypothetical architypes) – Understand your people!

Understand your own value(s) and identity – Adopt a relaxed, conversational tone; find your accent!

Listen before you talk – Talk with people, not at them!

Effective conversation and engagement requires different media for, and understandings of, natural human sense(s) and ability (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic learning and communications) – Make VITAL content for individuals sensibilities!

Good Design, Copy-Writing, and Content Editing matters – Attention to detail delivers 30% more engagement! *

Social interaction encourages dialogue not monologue – engaging conversation and content means ‘compelling, fun, authentic, useful, challenging and inspirational’ – often expressed and experienced through art, story-telling, memes and the wider human sense of friendship. Ask yourself: Is it useful or is it compelling? And is it easily sharable or embeddable elsewhere?

Useful means contextual and relevant – Share other peoples insights and timely goodness! But remember it’s theirs, respect it, and them – always credit the source!

Community Management means participation and facilitation of multiple persona’s, tribes and belief systems across multiple places – Create the Theatre not the Play!

Communicate organizational change, activity and crucial debate – Quickly, simply, as it happens!

Expect and encourage constant dialogue, engagement and comments – The web is a conversation, join in with clear & frequent feedback! And admit your mistakes and lessons learnt!

Test users, tools, features and viewer devices – Accessibility is not an optional extra!

Think long-term flexibility, short-term scalability – Deliver today but plan for tomorrow!

Optimize your content with continuity and useful Account Names, Usernames, Filenames, Permalinks, Categories, Tags, RSS, Trackbacks, Pingbacks and Hashtags (#Tag) – Make sure your content can be searched and linked to, forever!

Monitor value and success every day. Search your visibility metrics with services like ‘HowSociable.com’ and Klout.com, and install ‘Google.com/Analytics’ on website(s) so you can measure progress, success and failure (find out if your existing website already has measurement tools and reporting to help guide your planning) – Google Yourself!


Recommended Tools and Applications:

If your University, Enterprise or Society don’t already have a website (and even if you do), a good starting point is to sit down with 4-6 people (these should be actual students, potential users and members; not people in the organizational chain) and discuss what actually works and what doesn’t – focus on needs, wants and values – focus on retention not recruitment. Research what others are doing successfully and poorly; and explore your pre-existing websites, communication channels and legal-policies – go through the full list of highlighted points in the ‘Practical and Actionable Social Media Advice’ section of this document (above).

Once complete you should have a good understanding of your existing User Personas and your potential ambassadors. You should also understand your values, voice and tone. You should have a basic understanding of your VITAL media requirements and constraints – What media and application features do you need?

The following list outlines a host of my recommended tools and applications; many of the written definitions are derived from WikiMedia.org and WikiPedia.org for description accuracy. Please make sure you examine your own internal policies and data-protection guidelines, and all the applications terms of service and subscription contracts, before you make any decisions – the responsibility to make the right choice for you and your Society is yours alone, not mine. Many of these services are privately owned and free-to-use (funded by advertising, most of which isn’t too intrusive) – but please remember, what exists today may change tomorrow:

WordPress.com – is a free to use, semantic publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. Often used for personal weblogs (blogs), it provides social media support through embeddable media, widgets and content aggregations; along with basic design/theme customization and community features like commenting, search engine optimization (SEO) and content sharing goodness such as RSS and Analytical Stats. The WP platform is also available as a free open-source product via WordPress.org; increasingly used by self-hosted bloggers and organizations (both personal and commercial websites), with a constantly developing array of community features and Plugins. WordPress.org is fully-customizable, reliable and secure (as now used by Number10.gov.uk).

Facebook.com – undoubtedly the UKs biggest social network; a free-to-use social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. Currently home to 500 million active users globally. Developments like Facebook Connect, Facebook Social Plugin, Mobile App, Facebook Questions, Social Gaming Apps and GEO location features (Facebook Places), mean its here to stay and an extremely valuable channel for audience engagement. But remember, Facebook is currently a silo of information – place strategic bets but always retain your ability to pivot!

Twitter.com – a free-to-use micro-blogging platform with a limit of 140 characters per post or update (commonly known as a tweet). Defined as ‘the best way to share and discover what is happening right now’, much of its success has been built upon dedicated mobile apps and third party services. Increasingly being used by Students, Enterprises and Society’s it is likely to prove a valuable part of your conversational and personal connection toolkit. Daily content and conversation can be searched, shared and aggregated across the Web in the form of RSS Feeds, and embedded into websites and blogs (as well as such things as auto-updating your Facebook and LinkedIn status). Hashtags (#Tag) and Twitter Lists are two ways in which you can organize information, people, members and groups.

Flickr.com – a free-to-use image and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. Free accounts provide some extremely useful but limited features (low quality image hosting and sharing, creative commons licensing, etc.). A subscription fee (approximately £16 per year) provides ad-free browsing and sharing features, archiving and search facilities, high-definition imagery and HD video hosting, accessible viewer counts and statistics and unlimited uploads, storage and bandwidth.

Viddler.com – a free-to-use interactive online video platform for uploading, sharing, enhancing, tagging, commenting on, and forming groups around videos. Competing against the more popular YouTube.com (and services like Vimeo.com and Blip.tv), Viddler provides an ad-free subscription account and some additional business specific services. YouTube.com is likely to remain the Web’s largest community library of searchable video content so I’d certainly recommend Optimising, Tagging and Uploading your content to it but I’d recommend investigating Viddler as your core video sharing service. Equipped with video analytics, HTML5, brand-able and customizable video players and an impressive feature-set of embeddable Viddgets.

Audioboo.fm – because sound is social and real voices are personable. AudioBoo provides a free-to-use mobile & web platform that effortlessly allows you to record and upload audio for your friends, family or the rest of the world to hear. With a diverse community of users, from Journalists to Independent Podcasters, Musicians to people having everyday conversations. It might just spark your imagination for the potential uses of sound and provide you with a simple insight into the more complicated world of Podcasting, iTunes, non-streamed webcasts and digital media syndication (as well as a host of other audio services: Spotify.com, SoundCloud.com, Blip.fm, Last.fm and RootMusic.com, etc.).

LinkedIn.com – is a free-to-use business-oriented social networking site. It is mainly used for professional networking. With 75 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, it provides a continually developing set of features that allow you to share your career development, contacts, life, blog posts, tweets, upcoming events etc. with a growing network of professionals and industry groups.

MailChimp.com – start with a free account, upgrade at anytime. MailChimp provides an email marketing service to design, send, and track HTML email campaigns with a simple set of tools. An ad-supported but fully-functional account provides the capacity to send 3,000 emails per month to up to 500 subscribers. A Pay-As-You-Go account removes any third-party advertising, and a range of monthly subscription packages can cater for an unlimited number of emails (approximately £20 per month if your mailing list is no bigger than 2,500 members).

SurveyMonkey.com – is a free online survey software & questionnaire tool. Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time. A free account allows up to 10 questions per survey and a maximum of 100 responses, whilst a monthly subscription (approximately £20) provides customizable and branded survey tools with unlimited questions and responses, and downloadable results and analytics.

Eventbrite.com – a free-to-setup online event registration tool, everything you need to bring people together for an event and sell tickets. Creating an event page and adding it to your blog or website takes about 5 minutes, define your ticket types and price, track sales and attendees with an event summary – simple. Eventbrite takes a small commission on the tickets you actually sell. Additional features include event/conference Name Badge design, etc.

Bit.ly – allows you to shorten, share, and track links (URLs). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier, especially if you’re using services like Twitter.com that limit your updates (tweets) to 140 characters in length. Bit.ly also provides management and analytics for your shortened links so you can track popular links and traffic locations. Bit.ly is still a relatively new service, free-to-use and currently free from ads. It is certainly useful and I recommend it, but make sure any links you use ‘within’ your own website content don’t reference bit.ly because if bit.ly doesn’t exist tomorrow neither do all your shortened links.

Bambuser.com – Live video streaming from your mobile phone or webcam (other live-streaming services include Ustream.tv and Qik.com). Bambuser lets you instantly share your experiences with friends, family and followers all over the globe, whilst at the same time interacting with your audience through web-to-mobile chat. Bambuser also integrates with a wide range of global platforms and social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, as well your blog or website – you decide where you want to share your real-time broadcasting experiences. Commercial packages are available; otherwise ad-support is likely.

Mendeley.com – is a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers, discovering research data and collaborating online. For a University or student Society, Mendeley’s growing popularity and social sharing features make it a potential gold-mine for inspirational content, connections and advocates – certainly one to look into!

Paper.li – creates an online newspaper built from all the articles, blog posts, videos and photos shared on Twitter – Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or Hashtag (#tag). Paper.li is an interesting example of how content, people and advocates from different places might be brought together (aggregated) to provide something greater than the sum of their parts. Other *filtering by collective trend* services like Flipboard.com help demonstrate what is both technically possible and increasingly popular.

Flattr.com – is a social micropayment platform (somewhat similar to the more widely known Chipin.com). Developed to help support you and the organizations and Societies people like. Adding a Flattr-Button to your website content might well help you fund future activities. Flattr is the newest and least proven service on my recommendations list; but if you’ve got some worthy content and Society activities planned it might be worth further investigation.

Gowalla.com – is a location-based social networking service that gives people around the world a new way to communicate and express. Users ‘check-in’ at Spots in their local vicinity, either through a dedicated mobile application or through the mobile website. As a reward users will sometimes receive virtual items from check-ins. With 150,000 active users in April 2010, this is certain to increase into 2011. As crazy as the concept may sound, if you want to explore the potential of social gaming and GEO location for community building and Society engagement this is my recommended place to start.

Google.com/Analytics – is a free web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Powerful, flexible and easy-to-use features let you see and analyze your traffic data – enabling you to write better-targeted content and strengthen your marketing initiatives. Google also provide Email services and a suite of Google Apps (document, presentation, spreadsheet and collaboration tools).

SocialMedia.PolicyTool.net – is far from perfect, but does provide you the ideal introduction to an important topic – Social Media Policy. PolicyTool helps streamline the process of policy development. Answering a brief questionnaire provides you with a customized document upon which to build. Social Media Policy is not yet a legal requirement but there are certain aspects of it that you really should be aware of. Please make sure you examine your own internal policies and data-protection guidelines, and all the applications terms of service and subscription contracts, before you make any decisions – the responsibility to make the right choice for you and your Society is yours alone, not mine.

CreativeCommons.org – is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Free licenses and other legal tools mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof. Providing a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators.

Dropbox.com – is a digital storage service that syncs your files online for backup and sharing. Put your files into your Dropbox on one computer, and they’ll be instantly but securely available to you (and those you choose/invite) via any other computers (or mobile devices) with Dropbox installed (its even cross-compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux). A basic 2GB Dropbox account is free, with additional Pro storage available from £6.50 per 50GB (approximately).


I really do hope that my insights inspire you to question your perception of Social Media and its potential value to you and others, thus empowering you to ‘work beyond What Is to deliver What Can Be™’. As the quote reads: “we can identify trends for the future but accurate predictions are impossible”. Good luck and positive thoughts, Carl. *~)

Recommended Reading and Resources:

(This document URL: http://fellow.ventures/2010/08/how-to-use-social-media-the-elementals)
Social Media for Audience Development and Community Building:
http://ourmaninside.com/2009/12/28/social-media-for-audience-development-community-building
Engaging Through Social Media (a PDF Guide aimed at Civil Servants):
http://coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=264
Brain Solis: Hybrid Theory Manifesto (broken into three parts):
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/the-hybrid-theory-manifesto-the-future-of-marketing-advertising-and-communications-part-one
Information Architects Inc. created the diagram ‘Web Trend Map 3’:
http://informationarchitects.jp/trendmap3-countdown-sneak-peak
13 Qualities of a good Social Media Voice:
http://socialmediatoday.com/ckochster/155676/13-qualities-good-social-media-voice
The Impact of a good Editor on Content: *
http://www.ikiw.org/2010/07/16/ibm-web-team-measures-impact-of-an-editor-on-content
Helen Keegan: Social Media, Education, Industry – and motivation
http://heloukee.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/msc-social-media
RSA Video – Daniel Pink on intrinsic motivation:
http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/2010/04/08/rsa-animate-drive
The 15 Web Principles as published by the BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/03/ten_publishing_principles_for.html
Sound-bites about social-media usage and strategy – some are worth your attention, others are not:
http://whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com
Habbo Hotel (habbo.co.uk) – understanding and developing your user Personas:
http://www.clubhabboforum.net/showthread.php?p=3262438
How to manage a Sustainable Online Community:
http://mashable.com/2010/07/30/sustainable-online-community
Seth Godin: Tribe Management
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/tribal-manageme.html
Where does responsibility for digital communications sit within a large organisation?
http://neilojwilliams.net/missioncreep/2010/death-of-the-web-team
A Guide to Facebook Social Plugins:
http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/technology/article/a-guide-to-facebook-social-plugins-for-small-business-amy-mae-elliott
A Collection of Social Networking Statistics for 2010
http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/01/19/a-collection-of-social-network-stats-for-2010
Information Age vs Attention Age:
http://aaronendre.com/2009/10/26/step-aside-information-age-the-attention-age-is-here
Please be very mindful of Information Gluttony
http://www.toggle.uk.com/journal/information-gluttony
Ken Robinson: the moving case for creating an education system that nurtures
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html
Seven Lessons from games for transforming engagement
http://tomchatfield.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-ted-talk-seven-gaming-lessons-for.html
57 Social Media Policy Examples and Resources:
http://socialmediatoday.com/davefleet/151761/57-social-media-policy-examples-and-resources
Douglas Rushkoff – Life Inc.
(ISBN 978-0-141-04525-2. Book available at http://rushkoff.com)
Ken Robinson – The Element, how finding your passion changes everything
(ISBN 978-0-224-08203-7. Book available at http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/the-element)

Q. What do we actually need? #DigitalEconomyBill #debill

Q. What do we actually need? – Please put forward your answers…

*a better process for finding & writing to an MP* ???

A site that has a generic letter to an MP that covers all the major issues with the existing Digital Economy Bill – in the form of a concise list that uses plain English not technical jargon or long words.

Such a letter would be in the form of clickable/selectable/applicable tick boxes to highlight what paragraphs the letter writer wanted to keep or amend. Once selected the text is 100% customisable. The User adds their name, address and based on their postcode a selection of MP’s is displayed (they can select all of them if they so wish). The system tracks the receipt of such a message and sends a tweet out to the users network that is trackable – a GoogleMap is created of letter senders. Perhaps Audio and Video messages too? Plus a feature that allowed Bloggers to submit their related blog posts (just like the http://www.blogactionday.org) ? with an integrated Twitter Avatar feature?

Is this doable? Is it worth doing?
How long might it take?
Who might be able to do it easily? The following sites/APIs already exist:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com
http://belocal.com
http://www.writetothem.com (run by http://www.mysociety.org)
http://www.hearfromyourmp.com
http://tweetminster.co.uk
http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp.cfm
http://audioboo.fm

Who might sponsor such a system? Google/Yahoo/eBay/Facebook

I feel helpless & pissed off, this is extremely unusual!

I write this at 20:37 on Friday 4th December 2009

For me this has been the toughest and most unproductive week of this year – my mind is elsewhere…

I’m frustrated and extremely concerned that very few (Designers, Developers, Freelancers, Bloggers, General Public, Politician’s etc) seem to recognize a major problem looming above us – in addition to that of next weeks Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

I urge you, please do your own research into the proposed Digital Economy Bill – trust me, its a big deal and it needs to be stopped!

Its likely The Bill will be passed by the House of Lords on the 16th of December, and it’ll be heard in the House of Commons on the 6th January.

Please help spread this message in any way you can! Things you can do:

Add a Twibbon to your Twitter Profile
Write & Promote a blog post and Tag it with #debill or #DigitalEconomyBill
Contact or Write To Your MP < this is the most important! MPs need to be aware of the problems!