Social web case study: solving problems for your institution


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  • Introduction to my blog and Twitter.
    Skills and knowledge learnt through these gave me ideas of how to solve some of the problems I was experiencing on a day-to-day basis in my working life. This presentation will share my experiences and some of the ways I have used social web to solve some every day problems within my institutions.
  • As Ann mentioned in her presentations this morning, social web tools aren’t something that should just be used for the sake of it; they should only be used when appropriate.
    I’d like to present some of the examples from my own experience of when social media has been a suitable solution to a problem. Each example will follow the same structure to demonstrate why there was a problem, what we needed, what the solution was, and how it benefitted us.
    I’d like to give examples both for problems relating to our communication with our users, and also problems internally for staff.
  • A common issue in most (if not all) organisations is ensuring you engage with your users or customers. The easiest way to achieve this is to go to where your users already are – you may do this physically, but do you do it virtually?
    So the solution here is to discover where your users are in the virtual world, and see if you can join their conversation there.
    Some suggestions include Facebook and Twitter which I’ll explain a little more in a minute.
    These help enable a two way conversation with users – we can get information about our services out to them, and they can provide feedback which is useful to us. We need to encourage this sort of feedback, even if it is negative – it’s useful for informing future decisions, and if it’s in your space you will know about it and can perhaps put things right.
  • Facebook now allows anyone to set up a “public profile” which means it is possible to use Facebook for organisations or specific purposes. Facebook was one of the first uses of the social web for the Learning Centres at University of Wolverhampton. We wanted a way of reaching our users where they already were. In our case, a walk through our IT suite would quickly identify where our students were – on Facebook. The University already had a presence, which had a network of thousands. We worked with Marketing and Communications to set up a page for the library, and a number of library staff from different areas became administrators of the page. Functionality has changed a few times since 2007 when we set up the page but the principle features have remained the same – communicating with people who “like” the page, delivering news and updates to them, details or events and links to website etc., and providing somewhere “official” for discussions.
  • Another option is a Twitter account – a particularly good tool for communication (though only if your users are there already, not quite the mass appeal of Facebook yet).
    Twitter enables short updates and is increasingly being used by organisations to improve communication. You can monitor what people are saying about your brand, get involved in conversation about your products/services, and offer assistance to potential users/customers.
    It’s also a good way to get involved in a community – by replying to and retweeting other’s tweets.
    If you are going to use Twitter, use it little but often; this is far more effective and people expect quick responses to their tweets.
  • Both Facebook and Twitter can be used to update users, but it’s more of a secondary feature. So how can we make sure there is a definitive place to ensure people are kept up-to-date with our news?
    What you need is a convenient, efficient tool to convey these messages easily to a large mass.
    One solution to this is to use a blog or a news feed. Some websites have a feed, but for most it is easiest to set up a blog as these are usually much easier to update than a website.
    The benefits of a blog are that users can choose to subscribe to the updates if they wish, in a convenient format for them. Many blogs can be subscribed to either by email or RSS feed. There are also easy for staff to administer, and can be used to encourage further discussion if you enable comments.
  • This is a blog I set up when I was a subject librarian responsible for a specific collection of teaching resources. The collection was going through a major update, and I needed a way to keep people up-to-date on developments. I used a free blog, created some information on the page about the collection, and started blogging. I used it to highlight new or noteworthy stock, developments in the collection, useful online resources, and other general news. Trainee teachers (and their lecturers) could subscribe by RSS or email to keep updated.
  • At my previous workplace, we ran a series of information skills workshops but we struggled to find a way to let people know about the events, particularly if they weren’t frequent visitors to the library.
    We needed a central place online to keep a record of all our events.
    We decided to use Google Calendar due to its ease of use and its functionality – you can embed it into your website and people can easily subscribe to the whole calendar or just add one event to their own calendar.
    With very minimal effort from us, this meant that the website was always up-to-date (including last minute changes) and there is a central place to go for event information.
  • This is a screenshot of the calendar as it is embedded into the website. This shows the events during November, but you can also change the view to just show events for the week or a list of all events.
    The pop up shows the details of the event (this is very minimal - more can be added if necessary), and enables people to add the event to their own calendar.
  • The best bit about using these social web tools to solve these problems is that you can then bring them together. The glue that holds them together is RSS and various widgets which enable you to link them together.
    So you can pull in your blog, your calendar and your tweets to your website, publicise your events and blog posts on Twitter or Facebook etc.
    RSS also enables anyone to subscribe to any of these individually so that they don’t have to keep visiting lots of different places.
    Moving on to a couple of internal problems that can be solved using social web tools...
  • The issue I’m referring to here is I am sure something that you will be familiar with, it’s something that breeds confusion and can lead to gossip. You know the situation - a colleague mentions something which has changed (maybe a policy change) and you weren’t aware. You’d like to find out more but don’t know who to ask and wonder why you hadn’t been aware of the change, chinese whispers and messages from other people cause things to blow out of proportion and no one is sure what is fact and what is fiction. This isn’t the only issue with staff communication, I’m sure you can think of many more problems you have encountered.
    What you need is a collaboratively working space that all staff use as their main communication tool – the go to place for all up-to-date operational information.
    One solution for this is a wiki or an intranet such as Sharepoint.
    This will help improve communication and document control, ensuring staff are well informed.
  • At Evidence Base, we use Sharepoint for internal communication. The main uses for us are the shared documents and the calendar which we use to keep each other updated on our activities. We also share common links.
    Sharepoint is an expensive option (something our organisation already pays for), but you can achieve very similar results using other wikis (such as PB Works) or other online intranet services.
  • A common complaint from many service based organisations is that they don’t get much feedback from their users apart from the odd comment form which usually contains complaints.
    You need to monitor your reputation and one way to do this is online.
    You can set up RSS and alerting service and use these to receive updates whenever someone mentions those keywords. You could use this for your organisation (this was something I did at my previous workplace) or you could use keywords or phrases, maybe for a particular feature or event you are hosting.
    This means you will know what people are saying about you online and you can use this as valuable feedback for future.
  • Google alerts is a good tool to set up searches across the web. You can use search algorithms such as a phrase search and can choose to receive alerts by RSS or by email (if you choose email you can select the frequency).
    You can also set up searches on Twitter for keywords or phrases, as well as setting up saved searches for certain hashtags and archives for hashtags which is particularly useful for getting feedback on your events.
  • I hope that has provided you with an idea of some of the ways I have used social tools within my workplaces; hopefully it’s given you some ideas to take away with you. Thank you.
  • Social web case study: solving problems for your institution

    1. 1. Social web case study: solving problems for your institution Jo Alcock Evidence Base Birmingham City University
    2. 2. Introduction Personal use of social web • Blog at Joeyanne Libraryanne • Tweet as @joeyanne Institutional use of social web • Keen to introduce social web in workplace • Implemented social web at current and previous workplaces (University libraries)
    3. 3. About solutions, not tools Social web shouldn’t be used simply because a tool is available; it should only be used if it meets a need. Each of my examples follow the same structure: Benefit Solution Need Problem
    4. 4. Engagement Engaging with users Presence where our users are Facebook page and Twitter account Engage in online conversation with users
    5. 5. Facebook Facebook page engage in discussions. deliver news and updates about the service, and details of events.
    6. 6. Twitter Twitter account to engage in conversation, share updates, and pass on useful information (through retweeting)
    7. 7. Updates Communicating news/updates to users Avenue to communicate efficiently Blog/RSS feed Users can choose to subscribe to updates
    8. 8. Blogs Blog used to deliver updates about the collection or service. Easy way to keep content fresh and deliver news conveniently to end users.
    9. 9. Event promotion Low awareness of events Central place with details of all events Google calendar embedded into website Website always up-to-date, easy for staff to update, users can subscribe
    10. 10. Google Calendar Embedded into website – easy to use (similar to Outlook for adding events), ability for people to subscribe or add events to their calendar.
    11. 11. The best bit? Engagement e.g. FB/Twitter Communication e.g. Blog/RSS Event promotion e.g. Google Calendar Website Many of these solutions can work together
    12. 12. Internal communication Communication between staff is ad hoc Collaborative working space Internal wiki/intranet (e.g. Sharepoint) Well informed staff able to work as a team
    13. 13. Sharepoint Collaborative working area – shared documents (with version control), calendar, links, announcements and discussions.
    14. 14. Gathering feedback Would like feedback from users Monitor reputation RSS and alerting services Know what people are saying, giving valuable feedback
    15. 15. Monitoring services Set up searches to receive alerts when certain keywords are mentioned (such as your organisation).
    16. 16. Thank you for listening Presentation: Images from Iconfinder Jo Alcock @joeyanne