I was just asked "should I take this class on social media." Here's my somewhat complex answer to what seems like a simple question.
Like any new field, learning how to use social media well isn't a matter of taking one class, but rather of learning a variety of skills and mental models, and then learning by doing. And staying on top of it is a matter of reading blog posts about social media, watching videos, playing with new tools as they emerge, etc.
As you dive in, I've found there are three levels of understanding:
- What is this? Just learning what Facebook is, or Twitter, etc.
- I know what the tools are, but how can we use them for government purposes?
- I know how we can use social media tools to meet our mission; now I need instructions on specific tools (e.g., how do I set up an and manage an account)?
As you research training, it's helpful to know which level you are. Learning how to manage a Facebook account isn't helpful if you don't really grasp what that tool can do for you.
The single most important thing to know is that social media is just a set of tools to help you accomplish your mission. They're free, but only in the sense of the tool cost; using them well, and accomplishing your mission, takes work.
There are also quite a few legal and ethics requirements around gov't use of social media. For example, you can't use a social media tool unless we've signed a special federal gov't-friendly terms of service.
All of this can seem daunting, but your agency likely has people in your public affairs, legal, and IT shops to help you figure out how to do it well and do it right.
There are literally thousands of ways to get started. Here are several resources I've created or know about. I'd recommend watching and reading all of it before even going to a class.
Now it's your turn: in the comments, please recommend other stuff to help people begin learning how to use social media for their agencies.
List updated February 21, 2012
Social media policies:
- EPA: http://govsocmed.pbworks.com/w/page/27519826/EPA%20Social%20Media%20Guidance%20Documents
- Many other agencies: http://govsocmed.pbworks.com/w/page/15060450/Web%202%200%20Governance%20Policies%20and%20Best%20Practices
- Information R/evolution: broad overview of how social media is changing how we think of and share information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4CV05HyAbM
- Social Media Revolution: ignore the advertising for one guy's book and just learn about some social media trends and how they're changing the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0EnhXn5boM
My blog posts (each of which has a presentation embedded at the bottom):
- Social media strategy in a nutshell: mission, tool, metrics, teach: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/social-media-strategy-in-a
- Social media: a way of thinking: http://levyj413.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/95/
- The Ultimate Social Media Policy for Government Agencies (it's short, I promise!): http://levyj413.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/socmed-policy-government/
- Social Media Strategy: Mission, Tool, Metrics, Teach (incorporates some of the same material as the other presentations below, plus walks you through creating a social media strategy for a particular project):
- Broad overview of what social media means and why we should use it: http://www.slideshare.net/levyj413/social-media-and-the-govt-presentation
- Mixing Web 1.0 and 2.0 for Earth Day: http://www.slideshare.net/levyj413/mixing-web-10-and-20-for-earth-day-presentation
- Running EPA's blog, Greenversations: http://www.slideshare.net/levyj413/from-30000-feet-to-3-feet-running-a-federal-blog
- How to Facetweet well (posting to Facebook and Twitter): http://www.slideshare.net/levyj413/facetweeting-how-to-and-lessons-learned-from-epas-experiences