“the Internet, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts…” with apologies to Douglas Adams.
The addition of Google plus to my seemingly ever increasing arsenal of social media (sic) tools has left me feeling a little overwhelmed. In a recent discussion with Dave White we came to the conclusion that there is less and less cycling of social media tools. Looking back down the 2.0 road travelled we see that it is littered at the start with a host of abandoned vehicles, but unsurprisingly, as we have continued on our journey the ones that are still travelling are a mixture of reliable, popular, usable, widely applicable, niche and so on. New vehicles are being launched that build on their designs and learning and as broadband and devices get faster and cheaper more and more people start driving these vehicles, and test driving lots of new ones. That’s where we switch from the road metaphor, which would lead us to a traffic jam and no one going anywhere, to Douglas Adams’ entry about space in the Hitchhikers guide. The Internet is big, there are no road blocks, or bottlenecks as we approach busy intersections. We spread out with the tools and go in any direction we want. And that can be scary, especially if you are trying to keep abreast of ‘everything’.
But is it a problem?
Well, maybe. It depends on what you do, what you want to do and what you have to do. Recently I was given an organisations social media strategy and its policy to read. They were very good, they covered major issues; IPR, Copyright, Terms and Conditions, online safety etc. The strategy also demonstrated an emerging framework for using social media to align with what the organisation wanted to do. But it had one major flaw, it assumed that an employee’s social media experience, and driver was based solely on the organisations approach to social media and didn’t account for an individual’s role or aspirations.
Good examples of staff development for social media
As more tools become available to us in both our personal or professional role in both the public and private space we need a integrate our personal and professional development planning in these online spaces in such a way that is servicing the needs we have now, where we aspire to get to and be flexible enough to change when needed. That means, for example, in University staff development programmes, PGCerts, researcher development initiatives we must have some kind of tools available for staff to access the potential of the media, and skills to understand what their peers and leaders in their field are already doing. Once they have got to the foot of this ladder then we need to be able to support them in their aspirations, in the same way as we would in their publishing or teaching roles.
Dave White et al have started by putting together a framework based on visitor – resident principles but this binary approach may not support all of the roles that individuals have within an organisation. A multi axes matrix approach based on professional and personal aspirations and public and private spaces may have more relevance, and be more accessible to individuals trying to understand where they should put their efforts. Once they have become more sophisticated users and have clear ideas about what they want to achieve with the media, they could place a third axis based on whether they are visitor or resident as a way of evaluating their impact.
The internet is really, really big, and whichever tools staff end up using, it is clear now that social media is not a fringe activity, and as such it needs to be properly supported. That means flexible policies and processes that will accommodate the media that is already well known and used in the myriad personal and professional contexts, and the emerging tools.