Thursday, March 03, 2011

Social Networking 101

Mary Kelly and I presented a program at the library on social networking basics. It was not hands-on, but a demonstration of various social networks. Our goal was to introduce people to what social networking is, look at some of the popular social networks out there, talk about safety and security, and why they might (or might not...) want to use them. We didn't want to spend too much time on any one site, but present the possibilities.

Mostly, it was a very successful program. We had a great discussion about safety, security, and privacy. We covered a variety of sites that might appeal to different people for different reasons. We hit the highlights on what each site offered and why anyone might want to use it.

The problematic part was that the group got really caught up with Facebook. We spent way too much time talking about Facebook, looking at it, explaining it, and answering questions about it. We really didn't want to turn it into a Facebook class (that's another program the library offers, but was intended to be only one of several social networks we covered in our program.)

Another problem was that while there were definitely some people interested in every site we looked at, the naysayers were very vocal. We made it very clear that we weren't advocating for any particular network, but only showing several popular options. Any one participant might find a few things that interested them, but not every site we looked at would have an application for every person in the room. A few people were so adamant that Twitter was stupid or Foursquare was a waste of time that those who might have been interested were less likely to say so. There were fewer questions about those networks because one who might have been interested was now embarassed to admit it. Mary and I were very honest about which sites we found useful in our own lives and situations, and very open about the value of each for other people.

Next time we teach this program, I'd like us to:
1. Save Facebook for last. When presented first, you haven't gotten your program timing and rhythm set for that particular audience. It's easy to spend too much time on the first site presented.
2. Include something like Good Reads, Library Thing, or Shelfari. Duh! We didn't talk about a social network for book lovers!
3. Really be strict about how much time is spent on any one site we mention
4. Ask people right up front, in the program introduction, to ask questions, to have an open mind about each site we look at, and to remember that we're there to learn what's possible. Some sites may be more applicable to certain people than others, and that's ok.

By the way, the Power Point part of the presentation is available on Slideshare. Keep in mind, it's really meant to be more for a handout that attendees can refer back to. It has a lot of bullet points and pure information on it. Most of the actual program is done live online within the actual sites.

Also, the social networks presented on this particular night were:

Next time, I think I'd add Goodreads and remove Diigo (it was sort of a back-up in case Delicious went offline shortly after the class...which we talked about as a real possibility at the time).

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