OMG! If U R a Grntmkr, U can use Social Media 2! 4 Real! Just ask Jessica...
In: Ask Jessica. Out: Ask.com. So Five Minutes Ago: Ask Jeeves.
Earlier this week, Northern California Grantmakers, together with ZeroDivide and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, sponsored a workshop titled, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Social Media (But Were Afraid to Ask): A Tech Primer for Grantmakers.” The audience in the room was pretty much a cross section of exactly what you’d expect – about half of the folks were new social media users who wanted a basic lay of the land. The rest were self-proclaimed power users who wanted to add some new social media arrows to their quiver of tools. Suki O’Kane and Marisela Orta of NCG kicked off the session with a presentation on the different types of social media – facebook, twitter, rss feeds, blogs, social bookmarking, etc. They went on to discuss each type of tool, how it applies to grantees, and how it can or might differ in its application to grantmakers. ZeroDivide’s Jessica Eting followed Suki and Marisela with a presentation of how ZeroDivide uses social media to listen to, share with, and engage our constituents. Jessica described how ZeroDivide uses social media to gather information about the fields in which we work; to share our knowledge; and to promote our key findings. As the self-proclaimed blogmeister at ZeroDivide, I was curious about Jessica’s observations from being in a room full of funders all talking about social media. In my mind, I was picturing the session as a sort of “Gorillas in the Midst” meets “Inception” – Jessica as a technological anthropological version of Dian Fossey (well, except for the being hacked to death in Africa by angry poachers part…), sneaking into the dreams of grantmakers to unlock their deepest desires about social media. Or something like that. But I digress.
Jessica’s big take-away of the day was two-fold. Firstly, that people need to understand that effectively using and integrating social media are two different things. The tools are relatively easy to use and to learn from a purely operational perspective – but properly and effectively integrating them into the grantmaker workplace can be a time-consuming process. Secondly, peripheral tools have changed from supporting basic usage of social media tools (Twitter for Dummies. Or is that redundant? Doh. That’s just the blogger snob in me coming out. I mean, hey, I know how to write in complete sentences…) to new applications and new ways of using those tools. Mentionmap, for instance, is a means through which a user can visualize all of their connections being made through twitter. In fact, it seems that much of the new application world is about visualization and mapping. More pictures and fewer words. Which makes me need to suppress the inner blogger snob again (“Look at the pretty pictures…now can you make words to go with them?” Oops. Was that my inside voice or my outside voice?).
Speaking of blogger snob navel gazing, for me, one of the most interesting topics that generated discussion was, “What happens if you are blogging a lot, then fall off the wagon? How do you get back on? How do you get yourself disciplined enough to start blogging again?” It seems that people drop off of regular blogging because they start to feel like no one is following them, even if they have already built up a solid audience. (I, of course, have no such qualms. I’m USED to no one paying attention to anything that I’m saying.) For others, it’s the concern that even if they have something to say, those words are getting lost in the sea of other words being put out there at the same time. Still others felt embarrassed that they had stopped blogging, and didn’t know how to jump back into it without a proper explanation of why they had stopped. I don’t understand that last one. For me, it was pretty simple. They don’t allow you to have a laptop in solitary confinement. Oh wait. Am I oversharing again?
The session panelists had some very good advice for how to overcome blogger block. “Just do it,” was one solution. Pure discipline. Mind over matter. Put your hand over the candle, G. Gordon Liddy style. Another solution was to, “Share the problem and talk about it in your blog.” Which seems really a good one to me. Oversharing is one of my mad skills. “Have a common theme once or twice a week,” was yet another good idea – Marisela noted that she does this with themes like “photo of the day,” or, “Thursdays are who I am following on twitter today.” A series or theme gives you something to hang on to when you are looking for blogging inspiration.
This session was part of NCG’s overall training curricula series. For more information about the series, about this session in particular, and to see Suki, Marisela, and Jessica’s presentation materials, go to http://ncg.org/s_ncg/doc_event.asp?CID=449&DID=42262