Questions have been raised about the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project decided to examine SNS in a survey that explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.
2,255 American adults were surveyed between October 20-November 28 2010 for the report, including 1,787 internet users. Of these, there were 975 users of social networking sites. One of the great things about the Pew research is how carefully they control their findings to account for different factors:
The findings presented here paint a rich and complex picture of the role that digital technology plays in people’s social worlds. Wherever possible, we seek to disentangle whether people’s varying social behaviors and attitudes are related to the different ways they use social networking sites, or to other relevant demographic characteristics, such as age, gender and social class.
What’s in the report?
The report is full of fascinating information about who is using social networking sites, what they’re doing on them (especially Facebook), the size of their social networks and strength of their social ties. There’s a special focus in this report on whether use of social networking sites contributes to the ‘echo chamber’ effect (reducing people’s engagement with a diversity of opinions and experiences), affects the level of trust social networking site users feel towards other people, and political and civic engagement. These findings have been really well summarised on the Nieman Journalism Lab site.
Who are these people?
Amongst the people sampled for this report:
79% of American adults said they used the internet
47% of adults (59% of internet users) say they use at least one of social networking site
This is nearly twice the number found in the 2009 report, which found that 26% of adults (34% of internet users) used a social networking site in 2008. Internet users of all ages are more likely to be using a social networking site now than they were in 2008, with the most pronounced increase being in people over the age of 35.
As is common in use of social media, more women (56%) than men are users of social networking sites, and more women than men use Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. However, nearly twice as many men as women use LinkedIn.
32 – the age of the average adult MySpace user
33 – the age of the average adult Twitter user
38 – the age of the average adult Facebook user
40 – the age of the average adult LinkedIn user
And what are they doing?
The report looks closely at Facebook activity amongst the people surveyed.
Status updates are an infrequent activity for most users; 56% of Facebook users update their status less than once a week. Only 15% of Facebook users are updating their status daily or more frequently. 16% have never updated their status.
Commenting on other people’s status updates is a more common activity: 53% of Facebook users comment on other users’ status once or twice a week, and 22% are commenting at least daily. Commenting on photos is also popular: 20% of Facebook users comment on someone else’s photos at least once a day. But overall, the most popular activity, according to the the Pew Internet report, is Liking.
I’ve been completing the survey for at least three years now, and I’m always so glad I do – because either women are very underrepresented in the industry, or they don’t get round to filling out this survey. Of the 16,593 respondents to the survey, less than 20% were women:
Women make up a very large proportion of respondents working with content and in usability roles, according to their job titles: 46.3% of content strategists, 45.7% of writers/editors, and 32.5% of usability experts/leads/consultants.
Sadly, for the past three years, writer/editors have expressed under 90% confidence in the security of their roles.
For sharing (to get your content out there, so you and others can re-use it. At this point I remind people to set up accounts using generic email addresses – like [email protected] – and to look into applying CC licences to their content to enable re-use)
For communicating (this is where we really focus on time commitments required to run these channels effectively)
Blogging (1-2 hours a week for a sizable post, promotion and monitoring)
Twitter (as much time as you want to invest, but needs checking every 30 minutes at least if you want to catch people at the time they’re talking to you)
Facebook (again, as much time as you want to pour into it, but can be checked less frequently than Twitter)
And we touched on a number of other tools/sites/platforms, like Slideshare, LinkedIn, Foursquare and SecondLife (I was interested how many people in the session had seen a demo of or signed up to SecondLife, but not seen/used Twitter).
The second half of the workshop focused on how you pick which tool to use for your purposes. My recommendation is that you (or the enthusiastic person who’s bounced up to you yelling hey! we need a twitter account!) sit down and write a two-page document that answers these questions …
Why do you want to do this? (what’s the gap or need you’re trying to fill?)
What are you offering? (what content do you have? what makes this different from what you’re already doing?)
Who is this for? (who’s your target audience? where do they live online? are you already talking to them somehow?
Who will be doing this? (whose job will it be to run this channel? do they have the skills and attitude required? do they have the time?)
… before you even discuss which tool you’re going to use or open an account.
Speaking of social media, there’s been some really interesting stuff published online over the last week or so, and I thought I’d do a round-up here:
No, not adult content, but how to control Twitter to meet your needs. In my workshop, a lot of people worried that Twitter would be (a) overwhelming and (b) full of people talking about what they had for breakfast. Here Derek provides a guide to using Twitter like a grownup, by curating your follower list and by participating ‘publicly but carefully’:
Twitter is still evolving, and its usage evolves, too. How we use it now is different than how we used it a couple years ago. There is no one right way to use Twitter, and you should ignore anyone who says there is. Including me.
Twitter is not one cohesive community, but a giant overlapping cloud of mini-communities, each developing its own set of norms. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you.
Brooklyn Museum has been running membership category called 1stfans for two years now, focused on using social media channels to form a community of New Yorkers, Americans, and ‘faraways’ like me who wanted to connect to the Museum even if they were unlikely to visit.
In this blog post Shelley explains why they’re changing the focus of 1stfans, the trouble they had using Twitter, Facebook and Flickr in their attempt to bring a really diverse group together, and why they’re changing platforms (to Meetup.com) to create a better experience for 1stfans members who do visit the Museum.
Simply put, the in-person benefits rock—people socialize and meet new friends while attending awesome meetups around museum content. By contrast, the online benefits have not worked as well and when we talked to our far-away supporters informally they indicated they were joining (and continuing to renew) out of general support for the museum, not necessarily to obtain a tangible benefit.
Not quite social media, but certainly social (and really, isn’t it time to end that distinction?)…
Crowdsourcing is very popular, but what do you do with all that material at the end of the project?
One of the questions that comes up most frequently when I talk with folks about participation is: what should we do with the things that visitors create? What should we do with their post-its and stories and drawings and poems?
This question is a byproduct of the reality that most participatory projects have poorly articulated value. What’s the “use” of visitors’ comments? If you don’t have a sense of an outcome–whether that be internal research, community conversation, or something else–you can’t decide how or whether contributions should be documented or archived. When a participatory activity is designed without a goal in mind, you end up with a bunch of undervalued stuff and nowhere to put it.
Nina Simon looks at a project to make a collaborative music video that manages this well.
Mia’s notes from this conference session carry on well from Nina’s question above, looking at the results of numerous projects that aimed to get people involved in augmenting descriptions and forming a community around museum collections and projects.
The unconference is a free day-long learning and skill sharing event for people working or volunteering as webmasters in community groups, volunteer organisations and not-for-profits. Industry professionals are invited to come along as well, to share their knowledge and experience.
people communicating with member groups using the web, email or social networks
comms professionals or webmasters in not-for-profits
people responsible for almost everything in an office, including communications
industry professional wanting to give back to the community by sharing knowledge and skills.
Why should I go?
meet others with similar interests
share and learn alongside your peers
find ways improve your website, and explore other web tools.
Where and when is it?
9.30am-4.30pm Saturday, 21 August 2010
Rutherford House, Victoria University Wellington
What does it cost?
The EYC unconference is a free event
What’s an unconference?
An unconference is like a conference, in that it’s a gathering of people interested in a particular topic, who come together to share and learn. An unconference is unlike a conference, in that it doesn’t have a preset schedule of talks that you sit through: instead, the agenda is built on the day by the people who attend. Anyone can run a session, whether it’s to share something they’ve done, ask for help with something they’re trying to do, or just to kick some ideas around. The EYC unconference site has a list of topics people are interested in talking about on the day.
So what are you waiting for? Register now! And if you come along on Saturday, make sure you come say hi – I’m running the schedule board on the day, so I should be easy to find.
At the end of last week I was in Westport, running a workshop on using social media tools for National Services Te Paerangi. The weather was lovely, the people were welcoming, and the lamingtons were fabulous. And I learned something interesting.
At the beginning of these workshops I ask everyone to introduce themselves, talk about where they work or volunteer, and describe the social media/online tools they use both for work and for themselves. I’ve noticed a trend in these sessions. With a small number of exceptions people are using two tools, personally and professionally: email, and Facebook. Blogs aren’t mentioned. Few people have even heard of Flickr. Twitter has more awareness, but is usually dismissed as silly or pointless at the start of the day (after more discussion, people often warm to it). But everyone has an email address, and almost everyone has a Facebook account, and has set one up (or is considering doing so) for their organisation. In particular, older participants in the workshops say that they’ve joined Facebook to stay in touch with children who have left town (or New Zealand) and to see pictures of their grandchildren.
A few years ago – say 2006/2007 – everyone in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector was getting hot under the collar about this Web 2.0 thing. The two keynotes at the 2006 National Digital Forum conference for example were Jim Spadiccini from Ideum and Toby Travis from the Victoria and Albert Museum, both talking about ways museums could harness this explosion of new, free communication and collaboration tools to reach out to online audiences. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking sites, Flickr … we were all over it.
So I’ve been interested to see that people working in small museums who are just starting out on this social media thing are now leaping over all these options in favour of Facebook. Facebook is, of course, in some ways the new Google – for many people, it is where the internet begins. Because people often use the same tools for their organisations that they use at home, Facebook is becoming the default starting point when setting up social media presences.
Facebook is an all-purpose tool: a way to blog, share photos, schedule events, send email and post brief updates all in one place. With the spread of the ‘Like’ button, it’s all over the web. It’s great for publishing content, and for building connections with physical and online visitors. But what else might it be used for?
If you can identify similarities between the fan membership of your own institution and those of others you can start to think of new partnerships and collaborative opportunities.
Seb pointed to Pete Warden’s Fan Page Analytics as an example of a lightweight tool to look for cross-fan linkages. You just drop a Facebook URL into site, and hey presto …
Auckland Museum fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Auckland Art Gallery fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Of course, you can use Facebook’s own analytics package to delve into the age, gender, location and activities of your fans. In this sense, it’s a lot like the physical visitor surveys many museums and galleries run. Or you can just ask them questions, as Brooklyn Museum did recently when they started thinking about updating their collections handbook.
To my mind, the main point of analytics is to understand how people are finding your online presence (be it your blog, website or Facebook page) and how they respond to your content. In this vein, Beth Kanter’s (co-author of The Networked Nonprofit) blog post about ‘spreadsheet aerobics’ makes good reading. Beth uses metrics drawn out of Facebook to analyse the responses to different kinds of content she’s posting to Facebook, and tweak what she’s doing:
My Facebook page is focused on a listening and engagement objective – starting and maintaining a conversation. I view it as a focus group that offers content ideas for blog posts as well as to provide another conversation channel to share insights about social media. The target audience is people who work for nonprofits.
Here’s my description:
This is a focus group and sand box to learn more about how nonprofits can use social media effectively, especially Facebook. You are all the experts here! That statement guides how I engage and what content I share. That in turns drives my measurement strategy.
Here’s a brief list of New Zealand museums and galleries who are on Facebook – feel free to add your own in the comments!
“Return on investment for social media activities”. It’s not a sexy phrase, but it’s one I’ve been pondering hard as I prepare for a National Services Te Paerangi workshop I’m running later this month in Westport (here are some notes on the first running workshop, held here in Wellington).
The workshops are targeted at the GLAMs sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) and the people attending often come from quite small or even volunteer organisations. One of the interesting discussions we had in the first workshop was around measuring ROI (return on investment) for the social media activities.
ROI is the ratio of money made or lost on an investment, relative to the amount of money invested. It’s expressed as ROI = (X – Y) / Y, where Y is the investment, and X the final value. A good ROI might look like initially investing $100 and having a final value of $150: that’s a 50% ROI (a 50% profit). A bad one might might look like this: a $100 initial investment and a $0 final value; that’s a ROI of -100% (a 100% loss). This presentation by Oliver Blanchard gives a good overview of how this formula can be applied in a meaningful way to businesses’ social media activities, especially in terms of measuring whether there’s a link between activity and increased sales revenue.
I often struggle with the applying this idea of ROI to GLAMs activities. Firstly, for these organisations it’s rarely about investing hard money. Galleries and museums and the like are not diverting cash in their marketing budget away from one form of advertising and into social media. Instead, they’re reallocating their staffs’ or volunteers’ time and energy. Secondly, benchmarks are rarely in place to make comparisons between social media activities and other promotional activities, such as print advertising.
This is not a reason not to think about the return on effort, rather than pure cash, expended. In fact, one of the best reasons to think about measuring ROI at the start of a social media project is that it helps you clarify what you’re doing and why. I think the time of people rushing, lemming-like, towards the latest tool has passed: now when I talk to people in cultural organisations who are starting or running social media channels, they’re more reflective about who they’re trying to reach, what content they’re wanting to share, and what outcomes they’re trying to achieve. Figuring out ‘what success looks like’ is an important part of the planning process.
There are all sorts of tools out there that can help you measure some kind of ROI, beyond the simplistic follower counts and page views. This Altimeter report gives a good overview of social marketing analytics, and this Mashable post gives a good overview of tools (most better suited to large organisations, to be fair).
Of course, there are all sorts of outcomes other than making money, and different ways to measure whether what you’re doing online is benefiting your organisation. For example, looking at your Facebook stats can help you learn more about the people who are interested in you, as Seb Chan shows. Posting collection items to Flickr might drive interest, enquiries and sales back to your website, as Paula Bray’s paper suggests. Simple tools like bit.ly help reveal how and where your content is spreading. Studying analytics can help you improve what your content and communication, as Beth Kanter blogs about her own Facebook activity. Setting up funnels in Google analytics could show if efforts to publicise exhibitions and events, or fundraising drives, are paying off.
However, after covering tools and ideas like these in my workshops, I usually end with a plea. And that’s for people to think about a human measure – one that captures the benefit for the people who are undertaking the work, who are usually doing this social media stuff on top of already full workloads, and who aren’t being repositioned as well-paid social media managers in order to do so.
When I was at the National Library of New Zealand I worked with the Services to Schools team to set up the Create Readers blog. When we surveyed the staff who were contributing to the blog, one of the things we found was they almost unanimously felt good about was having learned a new communication skill (only one or two contributors had blogged before) and mastered a previously foreign technology. This is still one of my favourite examples of return on investment.
There’s also a sense of pride and community that I don’t think should be undervalued. Most people don’t work in the GLAMs sector for the generous salaries and the stock options. They work in them because they believe in the social value of what they do, and often because they love the stuff they’re working with, be it books, paintings, or bird specimens. Having an opportunity to share the things you care about with other people who’re interested too? To quote Mastercard – that’s priceless. A tweet that gets re-tweeted by half a dozen people, a blog post that garners a bumper crop of comments, a photo on Flickr smothered in notes – that’s the kind of thing that makes your heart glow. As we look for new ways to motivate the people we work with – and ourselves – I think these kinds of measures have a very valid place within discussions of return on investment.
I’ve just joined Boost after four and half years at the National Library, where among other things I helped set up and/or run the Library’s social media outreach, including the LibraryTechNZ and Poet Laureate blogs, the Library’s membership of The Commons on Flickr, and (pretty awesome, if I do say so myself) @nlnz twitter account. I definitely found being out there online and talking to people about the Library’s collections one of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of my job.
Top of the list of shiny new things is Brooklyn Museum’s partnership with the online fashion community site Polyvore. Following their belief that they need to get their content out where the people are, rather than waiting for people to find them, Brooklyn Museum have added fashion items from their collections to the store of material on the Polyvore site that members can use to create and share collages like this one by pinkopaque22
Underneath my arts and culture veneer, I’m a science geek at heart (this is one of my favourite blogs). In 2009 I got all excited about the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s astrotagging project. This year I got all excited about their Solar Stormwatch project, where people can help spot explosions on the sun & track them across space to Earth. Like the astrotagging project, this is meaningful community engagement, with the bonus of real scientific benefit.
One of the areas workshop attendees have flagged their interest in is understanding how much time social media outreach can take up, and how to manage this. There are various tactics you can take to make sure that scarce staff time doesn’t get totally diverted into managing your social media presence, starting with being smart about which channels you choose to use.
Another tactic is to run short-term projects, which is the approach of My Life As An Object. A recent project commissioned by Renaissance East Midlands and delivered by Rattle, MLAAO saw items from Nottingham City Museums and Galleries telling their stories on different social media sites – Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Ebay – for a week at a time. These short, intense bursts of storytelling are quite different from the long-term presences we normally think about creating.
I’ll be posting notes from the workshop, so check back in to see how it went. NSTP also runs a range of workshops at different levels for museums, galleries and iwi: check out their online calendar to see what’s coming up.
It’s been a really interesting month working with museums around New Zealand on their social media activities and strategies for building audiences. I’ve run four workshops for Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi – in the process, meeting fabulous, passionate museums, archives, gallery and library professionals who are curious about social media. Here are some themes that have stood out for me (to find out what the museums thought, read our workshop blog):
* Use of social media is much more nuanced than it used to be. For example – whether serendipitous or intentional – Te Papa has two twitter feeds, each for a different purpose. One focuses on promoting events, happenings, exhibitions and giveaways, and the other profiles interesting items from their collection. MORE MORE
* Whether we personally like it or not, a professional presence on Facebook enables organisations to intersect with the social lives of potential audiences. Research indicates that social interaction can be a pretext for participation, and also that people are increasingly influenced by recommendations from family, friends and even strangers over traditional forms of promotion. Facebook and services like it encourage your ‘fans’ to market your service for you.
* A website is important but not enough. A website centralises information about your organisation – social media distributes information. Some people will follow you on twitter or fan you on Facebook so that they don’t have to go to your website – your information gets fed to them in their own personal compilation or version of the web.
* Virtual visits are something that museums need to value as a legitimate cultural experience. They can generate physical visits – web cam footage of Te Papa’s colossal squid had people turning up to see it in the flesh. Curating online makes your collection or service accessible to audiences who are remote and may never be able to walk through the doors.
* For resource-strapped organisations, a blog or Facebook page may give them a low-cost web presence and also greater flexibility if they are part of a larger website run by a parent organisation. It’s also an opportunity to present a less formal, characterful and behind-the-scenes personaltiy. Of course, these activities don’t promote themselves – audiences won’t automatically appear – they need feeding. THere’s also plenty of opportunities out there to leverae other people’s efforts – sites like nzmuseums, nzlive and tourism ventures.
* ‘Under the radar’ activities are giving way to an interest in building social media into communications and marketing planning. Linking your activities to your vision and marketing objectives will help ensure your choosing the right tools for the right reasons, prioritising what your resourcing can manage, as well as thinking through the implications of organisational social media policy, branding and so on.
Joining the great examples of what NZ museums are already doing with social media, these organisations have established new social media activities since the workshop:
Great examples of museums’ use of social media, the tools and other links – see the workshop blog.
It’s been a really interesting month working with museums around New Zealand on their social media activities and strategies for building audiences.
We’ve run a series of workshops for National Services Te Paerangi (Te Papa), meeting passionate museums, archives, gallery and library professionals who want to find out more about what social media can do for them.
Here are the five themes that have stood out for us:
A professional presence on Facebook enables organisations to intersect with the social lives of potential audiences. Research indicates that social interaction can be a pretext for participation, and also that people are increasingly influenced by recommendations from family, friends and even strangers over traditional forms of promotion. Facebook and services like it encourage fans to market your service for you. Museums reported some successful forays into audience building via Facebook.
Virtual visits are something that museums can value as a legitimate cultural experience. Virtual visits can generate physical visits – web camera footage of the dissection of the colossal squid had people turning up to Te Papa to see it in the flesh. Curating online makes your collection or service accessible to audiences who are remote and may never be able to walk through the doors.
Use of social media is increasingly nuanced and discriminating. Te Papa has two twitter feeds: one focuses on promoting events, happenings, exhibitions and giveaways, and the other profiles interesting items from their collection. Ideas for blogs generated by workshop participants ranged from working with the community to identify unknown objects in a collection to presenting a characterful, behind-the-scenes museum personality.
For resource-strapped organisations, a blog or Facebook page may give them a low-cost web presence or greater flexibility if they are part of a larger website run by a parent organisation. A website is important but not enough. A website centralises information about your organisation; social media distributes information. Audiences may visit your website rarely but receive your twitter updates regularly.
‘Under the radar’ activities are giving way to building social media into communications and marketing plans. Linking your activities to your marketing objectives will help you choose the right tools for the right reasons, prioritise what you can manage, as well as think through the implications for organisational social media policy, branding and so on (see this post on the workshop blog about social media strategy).
We’ve heard from a few workshop participants who’ve set up blogs and twitter accounts, including these two new blogs: Runanga Falls and Presbytarian Research. Check out the workshop blog to read about what participants thought and to get links to great examples of museums’ use of social media and articles and tips on using social media effectively.
We’re really stoked that National Services Te Paerangi, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, has asked Boost to facilitate four workshops around the county to introduce museums to the benefits and practical realities of using social media to promote themselves and grow their networks online.
The workshops are called How to Promote Your Museum Using Online Tools. They will cover:
an overview of social media tools
what they offer and who they target
how to use them to build audiences and professional networks.
Participants will get the chance to:
get hints and tips on using social media effectively and avoiding pitfalls
see examples of how museums – big and small – are using social media
discuss approaches you might use for your organisation
build confidence to use and contribute to the growing body of practice around social media.
The one-day workshops are taking place at these locations and times:
6 October 2009 – Whanganui Regional Museum, Whanganui – register here
30 October – Westport – details and registration to be confirmed
Watch the fun unfold on a blog specially prepared for the workshops. It contains relevant links, tools and examples and – hopefully – participants’ thoughts and ideas on what social media can do for them and their organisations.
I’ve just stumbled across this blog – Technology for Communities. It’s the combined project of Etienne Wenger, John D Smith and Nancy While – all influential in the online communities of practice space.
It looks like the blog is working towards the publication of a book called Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities.