This morning we had our first conference call with 14 social media workshop participants.

Nancy's clock notes from the call

Nancy's clock notes from the call

We went around the clock (see the method described in our KS Toolkit http://www.kstoolkit.org/Teleconference+Clock) to have a chance to introduce us quickly and share the type of social media tools we are already using for personnel or professional purposes. Almost all the tools we will be discussing over the next three weeks have been mentioned: Twitter, Yammer, Blogs, Facebook, Slidesharing etc. Nancy compared this group’s feedback with the initial comments we got when we launched the first knowledge sharing workshop early last year. “It is incredible how much more tools you are using and it is only one year later”, she said.

Nancy also made the point that it is quite easy to get overwhelmed with the number of tools that are out there. “Over the next 3 weeks we will try to get to know those tools, and think about the strategic path each of you might take. The tip is to focus on what matters to you. You don’t need to look at all the tools” Nancy suggests.

We then spent some time on participant’s examples. Florence Sipalla who is a Communications Officer with the CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program tells us about the AWARD fellow ship blog which tries to “reach out to more people more frequently then the newsletter”.
Salomon, World Agroforestry’s Web coordinator seemed excited about the Slide Share site where the center shares its presentations.

Talking about slide-sharing: Social Media is indeed a lot about sharing: It is based on the assumption that you don’t have all the content yourself and that using and re-using of materials can improve the content but it can also help adapt the content to specific user groups.  Another important characteristic of social media is that the emphasis is less and less less technology, to become each day easier to set up, learn and use.

The obvious downside of social media is the bandwidth problem. “Users with low bandwidth are having a hard time in accessing some of the tools,” Nancy states: “But people are also getting creative in the way they address low bandwidth issues”. There are a series of tips and tricks that can help and that we have to learn. One example is to share on a blog a link to a power point presentation rather then to embed the presentation into the blog which makes the page faster to load.

Another participant raised the sometimes difficult choice of reaching users through email versus social media: Too much in peoples email box leads to overload and there is a need to balance. Participants seemed to agree that “email is still essential”

Maria Iskandarani from the CGIAR Secretariat asks if blogs are good discussion tools. Nancy thinks that in general discussions are difficult because of the ‘dominant role” of the blog author. A blog doesn’t put the reader and the blogger on the same level. A comment on a blog is more like an input to an author than a conversation. Also Nancy emphasizes that the adoption of a blog can really take time, as the ICT-KM Program blog https://ictkm.wordpress.com/ shows which needed almost a year to thrive including trying out different techniques, fine tuning ownership issues, getting the whole team on the blogging board, as well as adding a marketing component like Twitter.

The final issue raised was about security related to our digital identity. Nancy suggests being careful when you share information related to your location, your personal telephone numbers etc. “If you just start now with social media, choose a secondary email when you sign up.” Antonella Pastore from ICT-KM shares a great link with us:    http://security.ngoinabox.org/ Tools and tactics for your digital security!

Stay tuned….

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social mediaThe second social media workshop of CGIAR’s ICT-KM Program kicks off next Monday with 35 participants from 10 different organizations, among those IFAD, CTA, IRG, and CARDI.

The facilitators team Nancy White, Meena Arivananthan, and Simone Staiger-Rivas also welcome participants from 2 Challenge Programs, 6 CGIAR centers, as well as eco-regional and systems-wide programs, and the CGIAR Secretariat.

In this edition we are also happy to have a workshop mentor: Jonathan Thompson from the World Food Programme.

We are looking forward to three weeks of social media explorations and discussions. Pre-workshop preparations include a short survey that invites the group to share existing IDs or set up accounts for the social media tools that we will be learning about (Skype, Fickr, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) The three weeks have each a different focus:

  1. Thinking About Your Social Media Needs
  2. Exploring and Picking Tools
  3. Social Media Strategy and Implementation

The workshop menu includes also 2 optional teleconference calls and discussions on the internet platform Moodle. The facilitators provide the group with discussion starters, tools introductions and related links, and will refer to the KS Toolkit as central resource. Watch out this space for summaries of the event!

Photo Credit:  Matt Hamm

My colleagues Meena and Antonella started a great blog series on Social media tools that complement the KS Toolkit and will serve as input for the upcoming social media workshop. Antonella wondered at the beginning of this week how we know if social media is working, and mentioned social media listening as an important practice.  Here is a little bit more about it:

Good conversations require us to listen actively

Les Causeuses de Camille Claudel

Les Causeuses de Camille Claudel

“Social Media is not about technology. It is about conversations enabled by technology.” I used this quote, which can be found in many presentations, in a recent social media presentation I gave at CIAT.

So if Social Media is about conversations, we need to have at least two actors alternatively talking and listening. This is a critical point that is often questioned by social media sceptics. Just the other day, I was copied in on an email from an IT manager of a CGIAR Center who was wondering about the real level of interactivity of many blogs. Indeed, Nancy White states that only 10% of the social media content is truly interactive. The other 90% is dedicated to dissemination without any visible reaction through online comments.

Listening as a way to market our research

We can do better. Social Media Listening is a great opportunity for us to engage with stakeholders and possible users of research products, people we probably wouldn’t meet anywhere other than online. While we think about possible ways and alternatives to get our messages out more effectively, through different channels, and in different formats, we also need to keep an eye on what other organizations and people are writing about those issues that are related to our research. Reading, following and commenting on other people’s work and thoughts is essential if we are to engage with stakeholders of all kinds, and should be part of our Social Media strategies. If we want to make our media interactive, we also need to take the time to interact with others online. And all social media tools allow us to interact with authors through comments (i.e. blogs, photo and video sharing sites, wiki discussion pages etc).

In addition, social media listening is an excellent way of talking about our research processes, products and achievements.

What we can expect from practicing Social Media Listening

Social Media Listening is a new way of raising the profile of our organizations, projects and even ourselves as we gain visibility by adding value to online conversations related to topics that we care about. It should also help us find new partners, networks, research ideas and, perhaps, even new donors. By participating in online conversations, we leave footprints in the Internet sphere that raise the probability of us being found and contacted. Finally, we can hope that this practice leverages our impact paths by accelerating the effective dissemination of our work.

How to practice Social Media Listening

Comment field on a blog

Comment field on a blog

Start by following information on the Internet that is related to your work. As Chris Brogan states “Google is your front page whatever happens”, but there are other ways to find opportunities for valued added conversations:

  • Technorati is a good site to start searching for related blogs.
  • Go to Twitter and search for tweets that might be of interest. You will be surprised how many interesting links you will discover.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feeds of the sites you find interesting.
  • Join listservs and communities that tackle your or related issues.
  • Ask your colleagues and peers about their favourite professional social networking sites for you to consider.
  • Start contributing with comments, questions, answers and links to your own sites.
  • Work hard on composing and refining keywords for your own sites and searches. Keywords allow you to find the hidden treasures.

Who should practice Social Media Listening?

While all of us, researchers and research supporters alike, can gain from keeping up to speed with the latest innovations and developments in our respective areas of expertise and interest, social media listening should be practiced by all communications professionals, especially those working in the field of public relations.

Resources:
Beth Kanter and Chris Brogan are two geeks covering this area. Have a look at these:

Practice Social Media Listening and start a conversation now:

  • What are your first reactions to the practice of social media listening?
  • What would it take to make this a permanent and strategic activity?

After a successful pilot online event (See blog posts about the event), the CGIAR, through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer an online Social Media Workshop from May 25 to June 12 2009.

screenshot-moodle

“Social media is using the Internet to instantly collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media] Social media offers a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders.

Objective of the workshop: Introduce researchers, communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners to social media tools and support their social media strategy development. As a participant, you will:

  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Learn how to apply social media concepts and tools to both gather information and increase the dissemination of your information.
  • Learn how to apply social media concepts and tools for collaboration and interaction with your organization’s staff and partners.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 – Introductions, conversations and assessment of your communications needs and goals.
  • Week 2 – Social Media Tools (wikis, blogs, twitter, file and photo sharing, and many more). You can join the exploration of a range of tools or start a new discussion on tools of your own choice.
  • Week 3 – Social Media Tools and strategies. How these tools can help you to achieve your knowledge sharing goals. Develop your strategy.

Number of participants: minimum 22,maximum 30

Language: English

Dedicated time: A minimum of one hour per day, asynchronous (you decide when you go online), as well as two telephone conversations, one during Week 1 and the other during Week 3. Optional synchronous calls or chats may be offered if there is an interest.

Open to: CGIAR staff, partners, agricultural and development organizations

Platform: Moodle, Skype and/or telephone. If you choose to use a landline, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CGIAR-CIAT), Meena Arivananthan (CGIAR-WorldFish)

Cost: USD 500

Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger@cgiar.org) for questions and subscription by May, 15 latest.

Susan MacMillan

Susan MacMillan

I was happy to meet Susan MacMillan, Head of Public Awareness at ILRI, in Penang at the CGIAR strategic communications meeting. We had met for the last time at AGM08 where she attended the first day of the Knowledge Management, Education and Learning Workshop. That event had kicked off with a presentation by Steve Song from the Shuttleworth Foundation. Steve introduced participants to the fundamental changes around Web 2.0 tools. While I was fascinated by his talk, I was wondering what Susan was doing in the back of the room, very actively typing in her lap top. I am ashamed to admit that I thought she was doing email and not paying attention to what I considered as a crucial opportunity for the participants and the research and development community as a whole.  Later on, Susan shared with me the amazing article which she had written for ILRI’s Intranet during Steve’s presentation about the potential of web 2.0. Very kindly Susan authorized us to publish the text as a blog post. Now, meeting again in Penang I was even more delighted about her telling me how much this presentation had impressed her and opened the doors for ILRI’s path towards social media. While she became an ambassador for social media in her center, the Webteam already plans an ILRI Web site renewal based on the principles and tools of social media tools.

Paul Stapleton

Paul Stapleton

The second example could be called CIP 2.0. While Paul Stapleton, CIP’s Head of Communications and Public Awareness,  was one of the first to sign up for the recent social media online workshop, we discovered that he uses social media a lot for personal purposes, but hasn’t started to consider it for CIP’s communication processes. That changed quickly during and after the workshop: Paul was immediately part of the CGIAR Yammer group that was created during the Penang meeting, and has become a daily user of it. Once back in Lima, he included social media ideas into a presentation to his management, who got very excited about the prospects and so Paul is going to start a wiki for them.

Those are very encouraging examples for all of us who are working towards the use of innovative communications and knowledge sharing tools and methods.

Thank you Susan and Paul for your open minds and enthusiasm!

The workshop was only the beginning hopefully to more communication and exchange among the CG colleagues – thank you for bringing us closer togetherquote from a workshop participant

In-between all this important and exciting traffic on our blog, I am coming back to our social media online workshop to share the results of the participants evaluation.
15 of the 30 participants replied to the survey, which seems like the maximum you can get in those days of evaluation overload. 😉

The workshop was rated excellent by 57% and good by 36%.

Here is a summary of the workshop evaluation:

  • 73% of participants say that after participating in this workshop they have increased their understanding of social media principles and tools?
  • Usefulness of each activity and discussion focus: The lively welcome and introduction session was very useful for 64%. All participants found the tools exploration or very useful (50%) or useful (50%).  The suggested discussion on the opportunities of social media for the new CGIAR didn’t fully kick off, maybe because the 2-week workshop was really short. Only 36% found it useful. The teleconferences and the discussion summaries were useful for those who participated or looked into it.
  • Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, Photo-,Video-, and Slide Sharing as well as social networking sites (i.e. facebook) are the social media tools that most participants already use. After the workshop the following tools triggered interest:  Micro Blogging, the use of social media for organisational web sites, social reporting, social media listening and social media for new e-newsletters, as well as social media strategy M&E.
  • Participants found the Moodle platform good in terms of ease of use, connectivity, look and feel, and structure.
  • 65% scored facilitation excellent, 29% good.
  • For the majority (85%) the size of the group was just right. The interaction with other participants could be better: 50% found it good, 36% average.
  • Half of the participants state that they did make useful contacts during the workshop.

ICT-KM is currently thinking about offering two more social media workshops for the larger community, including researchers, partners, and development practitioners. This time the workshop would be 3-week long to respond to the mayor suggestion for improvement: Give more time for the tools exploration.

Stay tuned….

Today we had our second and last conference call with 11 participants. Before the call started Nancy White shared some statistics with me about the workshop participation. It was interesting to see that participants were more active in the first week (this week there was apparently an annual report deadline in many centers), and that there were more or less three times more reading then posting going on. This was confirmed in our call today where participants highlighted that they enjoyed the reading even if they didn’t participate that much.

In total and until today 165 posts have been shared and approximately 800 views registered. Not bad!!!

We did a first round of comments and asked participants what ideas the tools generated. Here are some examples:

  • Innovative e-newsletters using more communication channels like YouTube for example
  • Possibilities of social media as a discussion topic in the upcoming Penang workshop of Communications Directors
  • Social reporting
  • Twitter / Yammer as a short messaging system
  • Start to think about M&E of social media
  • More strategic use of social bookmarking
  • More strategic use of Wikipedia, Bioversity experience
  • Google apps for increased collaboration needs in the CG
  • Use social media promote a campaign (Facebook, YouTube)
  • Support school to school exchanges in Africa (Mobile phones)

The other topic we started to surface in the call relates to the question on how we might use social media in the “new” CGIAR: Should we have a strategic approach or should we experiment and learn first?

  • We should go the exploratory path. We could put some funds into pilot projects, learn and make recommendations.
  • We need to start to think about quantitative and qualitative analysis of the experiments we undertake.
  • We could start to more intensively aggregate feeds from different centers
  • Social media could kick off the Marketing group again who lost its energy and impact. The Marketing group was networking solution of its day. We should combine it with social media, the technological aspects and open it up to new members.
  • Social media is subversive as it goes around the formal channels element. And this is the perfect time to present the opportunities and do some positive disruptions within the CG
  • Social media represent the tools of the future. We need mechanisms to get to talk about them widely, and go beyond the experts to reach a second level of adoption.-    Social media can empower the younger CG staff. We should let them show us the way through social media instead of telling them what to do.
  • We need to show the impact of social media in research to convince.

Some closing impressions from participants

  • Now I know some people I can go to if I have questions
  • We shouldn’t be that careful and try things out.
  • The potential of social media becomes clearer
  • We have to look at the M&E of social media
  • Look at http://search.twitter.com/search?q=agriculture just to get a sense how powerful Twitter might be!