You can’t learn all there is to know about social media through slides, however for many the reliability of presenting off a loaded deck is too comfortable. Most can’t step away and leave it behind. I recently had the opportunity to join a group of Federal social media experts who dared to take hundreds of participants through the wilds of the the most popular social media tools in action. And despite a rugged path traveled, a more authentic narrative arose and improved it. The Approach
I had the privilege of leading a diverse panel of presenters Jan. 26 for “Engaging Audiences with Twitter,” a Web Manager University webinar with a quite common sounding name that was pulled off in an anything-but-common way. Around 250 participants joined Scott Horvath of U.S. Geological Survey, Victoria Portway of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Stacey Palosky of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Tammi Marcoullier of General Services Administration and I for an unscripted, hour-long primer for Federal employees new to Twitter that ditched the presentation slides for a live-action experience in the social media environment.
We promoted an interactive format, with participants (those using Twitter) encouraged to ask questions and provide insights on using the tool through the #Fedtweets hashtag, and those who aren’t currently using it to follow along with the creation of their accounts. Starting with the registration of a new account, @FedRockStar, we explored not just how to customize an account, but why decisions are made on options. Our intended demonstration of online conversational styles and compositions hit a temporary snag when Hootsuite failed to load in an amazingly ill-timed outage, however we quickly switched to Tweetdeck and in the process illustrated how technical difficulties will occur in navigating social media but can be mitigated through diversifying your tools. Phew.
Later, the agencies took a deep-dive into their unique mission needs and approaches to micro-blogging, discussing managing multiple accounts, analytics, and engaging audiences. By the time we reached the question and answer phase, the place where many presenters fear the worst (the sound of crickets), we instead found that the conversation was just beginning.
Throughout the webinar, nearly 100 participants engaged on the #Fedtweets hashtag, which consequently rose to a top trending top in Washington, D.C. However, it was not the volume that was impressive to me as much as what that participation entailed. People were taking the opportunity to not only ask questions, but answer them thoughtfully. Within a few hours of the webinar, Federal Computer Week published “Tips for Getting the Most Out of Twitter,” while NextGov posted “Agencies Know When to Lead, But How About When to Follow?” – both efforts by the community to curate and share the knowledge that was contributed.
Prof. Ines Mergel posted “#Fedtweets Network Still Going Strong,” an illustration of the online dialogue found after the event, versus discussion on the hashtag before hand found in the comparatively sparse “#FedTweets network in preparation for GSA Webinar.” I’d like to think that for the next training session, even more voices will join the collaborative ruckus.
GSA’s Web Manager University wasted no time in announcing that all their social media trainings would include the #Fedtweets hashtag moving forward, and who can blame them: with a community so quickly assembled even for this early step into live-environment training, you go with what wins and they clearly launched a winner.
Looking forward, I plan to see a continued effort from Web Manager University in creating accessible, interactive training for large audiences. Eventually, this could even take the form of full live-environment simulations that shape training around gaining specific performance outcomes from their engagement.
In the meantime, hesitate not to join the conversation online, shout out examples of best practices you see, and both post and answer questions. If you need a slide deck to follow along, we can always reach back into 2009 and get you one.