Connecting to Youth: Leveraging social media for work with young communities


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This presentation was prepared for the Connected Generation conference on May 7, 2010, in Bristol, England. You can find details about the event at:

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  • Hi! I’m Amy Sample Ward and am really excited to be here today, kicking things off this morning. I know that we’ll be covering a lot of ground today and hope that I can send us off on a good direction. For a bit of background, I am, obviously, from the States and studied New Media Journalism at university. I’ve worked in advocacy organizations, nonprofits and foundations all in roles centered on technology, information, and public engagement. I currently work with NetSquared where I’m the Global Community Development Manager overseeing the strategy and implementation of our online and offline programming focused on communities. I’m also a facilitator and blogger, and last year co-authored Social by Social with David Wilcox and Andy Gibson.
  • I like to orient agendas around questions because that helps us identify jumping off points, instead of conversation stoppers. This morning, I want to be sure that before you hear stories from others working on these issues and with various tools that we spend a couple minutes discussing the principles that guide our strategy. Then we’ll explore a few trends that are emerging relevant to the youth work sector before examining a few case studies. At the end, I want to give you a couple items you can do right away as well.
  • So, starting at the beginning: where do I start? You start with your goals.
  • First: Do the goals of the project, campaign, or activity match the vision of the work? If you want to eliminate youth crime, the goal that the campaigns or projects center on shouldn’t be anything less than supporting youth communities to be free of crime.
  • Do your goals empower the audience? are your goals ones that empower the youth community to be involved, make a difference, change their lives? Goals that focus on empowerment or even engagement make for campaigns, networks, or communications that can spin and develop and grow – whereas goals that are focused on transactions create very little potential for your community to really act like a community.
  • Shiny object syndrome is really contagious and can be lethal. As tempting as it may be, you never want to adopt social media tools because they are cool, new, fun, or popular. You want to first be sure that you know what your goals are and who your community is – especially which tools they are also using. Choosing tools that help you and your community reach your goals seems like the obvious thing to do. You’d be surprised how difficult that may be to really do. Groups often hear facebook or twitter and think that they should just do it, too. But, if you can be specific about your goals and your audience first, the tools that are appropriate start to stand out from the rest.
  • Lastly, are your goals measureable? Identifying from the beginning how the goals will be measured will help you in selecting the most appropriate tools, evaluating them consistently, and evaluating the larger project or campaign. Many of you are probably used to metrics and evaluations but many find that the idea of social media so too gooey to use traditional measurements, and it’s true. Having an offline event, and counting the number of people that showed up is a much more powerful number than the number of people who have joined your newsletter. The action is different and the actions are different. In that case, talking about an email newsletter, the more appropriate number may be to watch how many people are clicking through, are taking action, or are giving you feedback. Creating measureable goals will mean measuring them is possible and reaching them is more doable.
  • Working hand in hand with the goals are the questions around audience. I’ve also found it helpful to remind people that you may have more than one audience, and that’s okay – but better to realize it now and select tools, share communications and calls to action, and build relationships appropriately than to figure it out later after invested work and energy.
  • Who is the audience? Who makes up your community? Who are you trying to reach and who will help you accomplish your work? Those questions may have different answers, especially when working with youth. The youth may be your audience for your services and many of your messages, but you may also work with schools or other educators or even other service providers which means they are part of your community. You may also have times or campaigns where you are hoping to reach out to parents or other adults to help you accomplish your work, even if they aren’t the main audience for the services. It’s crucial to recognize who your various groups are so that you can be sure you have content that is delivered in the appropriate channels to match.
  • Where does that audience go? If it’s a group that falls in the 17 million in the UK without internet, maybe a mobile approach is best. If they have access to the internet, where are they going online? You can find statistics that detail the demographics of different social media tools, but you can also ask your community. Go straight to the source for the information about where they go online and where they would want to connect or learn more. Asking the audience invites them to immediately take a stake in the development and eventual product or outcome which can be key to adoption. And asking never hurts right? What’s the worse that could happen – you don’t get any responses? Well, that’s where you already are, but getting any feedback is a step ahead. There are many different options for how you can start asking depending on what tools you are already using – whether you want to post a poll on your website, send out a survey via email, or just post a discussion thread for feedback about social media tools people are interested in using.
  • Now that you know where they go online, ask what they want to do! If the audience is often visiting social networks, is it because they want to connect with their friends or they want to share content? If they are visiting a video site like YouTube, is it because they want to watch videos, upload their own, or start conversations in the often long comment threads? These different options can greatly impact a campaign or project online – after you identify where they go, it’s important to know why they go there. And even more important to identify how your goals intersect with theirs.
  • How does your audience talk online? You don’t want to show up or create a space and then inherently exclude or turn visitors off to your content or services simply by the way you explain things or talk. Invite members of your target audience to contribute content and help shape the space so it is an appropriate match to the end users. Again, inviting participation will increase the audience’s likelihood of participation.
  • How does the audience want to be involved? If your users want to get involved in a local volunteering project the content and calls to action will be dramatically different than if they want anonymous advice about their sexual health. Identify the core ways the audience will want to take action and craft the opportunities and content around these options. This is closely tied to the other questions about where they go online and why they go there.
  • Lastly, we have resources. Before you dive in to using social media at all, let alone create any projects, campaigns or networks, you want to know what resources and capacity already exist.
  • To start with, what experience, skills, or knowledge do you have inside your organization? Even if you organization isn’t using many tools online, the chances are that many of your staff are doing so on their own. Find out what tools people already use. It’s hard to know how to use a tool even if you think it would be right for your goals and your community if you’ve never had any experience with it. If there are tools your team members are already familiar with that are also appropriate in your work then the lead time you’re going to need will be much less than if it was a brand new tool to work with.
  • Now looking at your whole organization, your board, your partners, your funders, and your community: what are the strengths? Are others working on a tool that can you could support instead of building something different? Is there an opportunity for collaboration? Are there experts in campaigning or community building already in your network? Just as I said earlier that you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your audience what tools they are using and how they’d like to connect with you online – don’t be shy about asking your network. It’s an invitation to help and share – and an opportunity to help them, too!
  • There are a few ways you can identify the kind of involvement expected from your community. Firstly, by making clear the groups that comprise your community you’ll be able to connect clear options with the corresponding groups based on basic elements of who those groups are. You’ve already answered the question earlier about what your audience wants to do online and what they may be interested in connecting with you about – those goals have involvement or actions associated that you can assume you should plan for. Secondly, the tools you use will predetermine quite a bit about the actions or involvement to come. You’ll be able to eliminate certain actions by the tools or methods you choose – for example, you can’t expect a lot of people will be making videos about you if you set up a blog. The content just doesn’t match. And thirdly, if you are collaborating with other partners, or sharing services or messages, the involvement you can expect from those partners is pretty clear (or at least should be!) and the expected involvement or response from the community to your work should be shared across the partnership.
  • Lastly, as far as resources go – you want to identify from the beginning how you are going to share resources. Whether it’s across your internal team, across partnerships, or across the community. It’s best to create or design ways to share your knowledge, your evaluations, and your ideas both internally and externally – the more opportunity you provide for your community to share the more ideas you’ll get to help improve your work.
  • Social media has now been around, iterated on, and explored for long enough that trends are starting to emerge.
  • Firstly, when it comes to engaging with youth via social media, make it fun and engaging. Really, this goes for anything you’d do, on or offline. But especially in this situation.
  • Make it shareable. Content on the web today is meant to be shared, linked to, reposted, emailed, and then repurposed. If your messages, calls to action, or information is interesting and worth looking at, it should also be worth distributing to friends or networks. So find and include ways that make sharing easy.
  • More than any other demographic, youth today are using the web to create, remix, and personalize the content they interact with online. Be sure that your services, programs, and messages are ones that the youth involved can make their own.
  • In a media landscape where Twitter and sms are rule, keep it short. There aren’t many characters to spare in a text message, and long boring paragraphs just take up space on your profile. If you want to make your stuff shareable, it needs to be short. And the more you can keep it short and ready to be shared, the faster it can get picked up and pushed out.
  • Just like with creating content or messages you want to be shared, remember that social media and social people operate in a networked way. You may not know my friends, but keep the campaigns or options open to the potential that I rope all my friends into joining me, or that I remix your campaign flier into a picture I create and share on flickr. Will you find it? Be sure you are operating across the network and supporting networked actions.
  • Thankfully I am not the only speaker today – others will be coming up after me sharing their experiences and stories. To jump start that conversation I have a few to share as well.
  • FreqOUT! is a citizen empowerment initiative to engage with young residents of deprived London neighbourhoods in order to raise their self-belief and help them acquire life-skills and employability. The project, funded by a partnership committed to positive change, enables its participants to learn – from volunteer activists – innovative ways to use communications technologies such as mobile phones, GPS tracking and an AV edit suite. These, together with a social network on Facebook , Bebo and MySpace , are enabling the creation of individual and collective art works that have already been showcased in world class institutions. The project’s success is measured in terms of recruitment, retention, individual learning plans, opportunities created and routes to employment. The project was launched three years on from the original idea, and benefited some 500 participants in the first six months. Building on this, FreqOUT! Is now poised to increase capacity and reach out to young people in other disadvantaged communities.
  • This social network has evolved in an unusual way. It started in early 2008 as a citizen journalism training initiative for marginalised communities. Funding of £82,000 was provided to enable 50 young Gypsies and Travellers to use social media, and a website using the free Ning platform was used to link the widely dispersed students with their trainers and each other. Within two months many more Gypsies had signed up to the discussions as the users themselves decided to use the site as their own private social network. These young people are subjected to racist abuse, and rather than broadcasting their stories in public, what they needed was a private space to socialise. The award-winning Savvy Chavvy site now has 2200 members – a high proportion of the Traveller community – and is widely used for exchanging photos and video clips and joining campaigns. Natural leaders have emerged who have now been trained to administer and moderate the site.
  • Talk2Croydon is an innovation in e-democracy which launched in 2007. It is an interactive website created by a multi-agency team with the aim to support grassroots public engagement in local decision making. The site is managed by Croydon Voluntary Action and is supported by local public sector partners in Croydon. Despite setbacks and false-starts including the first development team pulling out, the resulting £10,000 site now supports user-generated content on local issues, debates, polls, user-posted videos and games. The success of the initiative has been recognised by national and international awards. Membership has grown to over 1,500 and a second site especially for children was launched in 2008. On Kids Talk2Croydon you navigate by clicking on bubbles – ‘What matters to you?’, ‘Playing games’, ‘Staying safe’, and so on.” The discussion areas are very active. Some eight to eleven years olds from deprived housing estates have one for discussing their school project work. Another is called ‘Peppermints in Danger’ – about a local community centre that may be closed. The site helps mobilise peers and enables participants to reach practitioners to improve the situation for themselves and for other children.
  • Epic Change is an organization focused on amplify the voices and impact of grassroots changemakers and social entrepreneurs. Thei Tweetsgiving campaign asks people to share things they are thankful for during the Thanksgiving holiday and to do so in a number of ways: on the website, via twitter, facebook, and so on. All people are asked to do is share what they are thankful for and include the hashtag so it can be collected together across the web. There is, though, the option to donate to the Tweetsgiving campaign which supported the building of a classroom at Shepherd’s Junior School in Tanzania. The twittersphere came together and supported the project and donated enough funds to build the classroom and more. The twitterkids as they came to be known were those students who benefited, and when the Epic Change team and others arrived to the classroom where all the donors’ names appear on the wall, they helped them set up the internet, get on twitter and tumblr and start joining in. You can follow the twitterkids and Epic Change helps connect them with the global conversation as they continue to hold campaigns that benefit their school.
  • Lifetracks is a project from YouthNet and others that was codesigned with the youth who it would benefit. They formed and still continue to involve a youth committee for feedback, direction and even help designing the site. Some aspects of the design and the functionality were, as the YouthNet team has admitted, against what they originally planned. But, they recognized that involving the end users was done as a way to establish what would be used and adopted, they decided to go with the recommendations from the youth committee and have had success throughout the development and implementation.
  • That was a lot. But, what can you do today? Or, rather, tomorrow as you’ll probably be pretty engaged in this room today! First, start listening. There are various tools you can use to listen online including google alerts, rss, and so on. Start asking. I covered this quite a bit but it’s because it really is that important. Talk to your community, just like Lifetracks did, and see where it leads you. Start inviting your community, your partners, your staff even to join you, share their knowledge or skills, and then, together: try something! You’ll never until you try, right? So, even if it’s small, dip your toe into social media so you can start to have a better idea of how it works and what’s useful for you.
  • Here are some links for resources and more information. These slides are available for everyone so feel free to use this page as a jumping off spot later.
  • If there were any photos you especially liked, you can find them all here.
  • Thanks so much! I’m available online on twitter or email to answer questions, share ideas, and keep brainstorming with you about how to use these tools in your work.
  • Connecting to Youth: Leveraging social media for work with young communities

    1. 1. Amy Sample Ward Global Community Builder, Facilitator & Blogger, Connected Generation 2010: Social Media & Work with Young People Connecting to Youth: Leveraging social media for work with young communities
    2. 2. Agenda: <ul><li>Principles - Where do I begin? </li></ul><ul><li>Trends – What changes are emerging? </li></ul><ul><li>Case Studies – What have others done? </li></ul><ul><li>Today – What can I do right now? </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Goals </li></ul><ul><li>do they match the vision? </li></ul><ul><li>do they empower the audience? </li></ul><ul><li>do the tools help achieve the goals? </li></ul><ul><li>are they measureable? </li></ul>Where do I begin?
    4. 4. Do they match the vision? Goals
    5. 5. Do they empower the audience? Goals
    6. 6. Do the tools help achieve the goals? Goals
    7. 7. Are they measureable? Goals
    8. 8. <ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>who is the audience? </li></ul><ul><li>where does the audience go? </li></ul><ul><li>what does the audience want? </li></ul><ul><li>how does the audience talk </li></ul><ul><li>how does the audience want to be involved? </li></ul>Where do I begin?
    9. 9. Who is the audience? Audience
    10. 10. Where does the audience go? Audience
    11. 11. What does the audience want to do? Audience
    12. 12. How does the audience talk? Audience
    13. 13. How does the audience want to be involved? Audience
    14. 14. <ul><li>Resources </li></ul><ul><li>what knowledge/expertise do you have internally? </li></ul><ul><li>what are the strengths of your network? </li></ul><ul><li>what involvement can you get from the community? </li></ul><ul><li>how are you sharing your resources? </li></ul>What are your resources?
    15. 15. What knowledge or expertise do you have internally? Resources
    16. 16. What are the strengths of your network? Resources
    17. 17. What involvement can you expect from the community? Resources
    18. 18. How are you sharing your resources? Resources
    19. 19. <ul><li>Trends </li></ul><ul><li>make it fun and engaging </li></ul><ul><li>make it shareable </li></ul><ul><li>let youth create and personalize it </li></ul><ul><li>keep it short </li></ul><ul><li>keep it networked </li></ul>What changes are emerging?
    20. 20. Make it fun and engaging Trends
    21. 21. Make it shareable Trends
    22. 22. Let youth create and personalize it Trends
    23. 23. Keep it short Trends
    24. 24. Keep it networked Trends
    25. 25. <ul><li>Case Studies </li></ul><ul><li>FreqOUT </li></ul><ul><li>Savvy Chavvy </li></ul><ul><li>KidsTalk2Croydon </li></ul><ul><li>Twitterkids </li></ul><ul><li>LifeTracks </li></ul>What have others done?
    26. 26. FreqOUT! Case Studies
    27. 27. Savvy Chavvy Case Studies
    28. 28. KidsTalk2Croydon Case Studies
    29. 29. Twitterkids Case Studies
    30. 30. LifeTracks Case Studies
    31. 31. <ul><li>Today </li></ul><ul><li>start listening </li></ul><ul><li>start asking </li></ul><ul><li>start inviting </li></ul><ul><li>try something </li></ul>What can I do right now?
    32. 32. Research and Resources: Social Media for Social Benefit: http:/ Links
    33. 33. <ul><li>Slide 4: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 6: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 7: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 10: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 11: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 12: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 13: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 15: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 16: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 17: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 18: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 20: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 21: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 22: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 23: </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 24: </li></ul>Photo Credits
    34. 34. Twitter: @amyrsward Email: Connect