Sunday, 13 January 2013

Putting the Social into Social Media

blogged in September and October last year on my hesitation and doubts about engaging more actively with facebook, despite being an active and enthusiastic contributor in other social media arenas like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.  I set myself a challenge to face up to my reservations, feel the fear, and make a real effort to connect (and reconnect) with my social - as opposed to my professional - network through facebook.  I've been doing that for three months now and thought I give you an update on how it's going.

Initial thoughts.  I still find facebook quirky and, in some cases, downright obscure in its functionality and layout.  I still struggle to find features and, when I do find them, find them difficult to use.  That said, the more one uses any software, the more one finds out about it and the easier it becomes to use - that's how I got started in IT Training 20 years ago, after all.  (As a side note, it's nothing in comparison to trying to get to grips with Windows8 on a non-touch screen laptop! Maybe another blog on that later...)

I now log into facebook at least once a day. I don't always update my status, but I try to take an interest in the comings and goings of my 'friends', and I 'like' or comment where appropriate.  I've tried to take the same approach with facebook as I do with my other main SoMe channel, Twitter - i.e. be as authentic as possible and hope that that is recognised and responded to.

The main focus of my facebook activity has turned out to be the coordination and communication of a 40-year drama college reunion in Edinburgh in September this year - something I was encouraged to do by a couple of my old college friends when I reconnected with them back in October last year.  I accepted the challenge, both as a social/networking opportunity and as a social media opportunity - to extend my interactions and skills in both areas.

I set up a facebook Event page for the reunion and invited those friends with whom I was connected, to join and to invite their friends, with whom I was not connected.  This gave me a sense of whether or not a reunion in itself 'had legs'.  Initial feedback was positive, so I extended my search for others via old address books and contact lists, Google searches, FriendsReunited (yes, it's still out there) and email.  Several other people have now joined in and, in fact, someone else set up a complimentary facebook college Group.  Already the reunion is taking on a different shape and scope - it's getting bigger, encompassing more people than just those from my own '73-'76 alumni group, but from the years above and below my year, many of whom made contact through facebook to ask if they could participate as well.

One 'issue' I encountered early on in setting up the facebook reunion event, was selecting a date that would suit everybody. No date - no event, according to facebook. So I selected a random Saturday in September to allow me to do all the other things that setting up an event required, like inviting people.   But very soon, I began to get people saying they couldn't make the date I had provisionally selected and could we agree another date.  With over a dozen people already confirmed/maybe'd/invited, I foresaw an endless flurry of group emails to sort it out.  I remembered someone on Twitter using a calendar tool which allowed everyone to select their preferred dates in a poll-type format, but I couldn't remember the name of the tool. Back to Twitter then, to ask my #PLN (Personal Learning Network) if anyone could suggest/identify this clever tool.  Sure enough, within an hour, I had a response from @telesaur (in Columbus Ohio, no less), who suggested the Google Doodle tool.  
Sure enough, that was the tool I remembered, so I set up a poll, listing all the weekend dates in September, and posted the link into the facebook Event page, inviting everyone to select their availability, so that we could identify the most preferred dates.  So far 15 respondees have done just that and we identified 2 possible dates that everyone could attend.  I've taken an executive decision now and decided on Sunday 15th Sept.  There have been no dissensions thus far, so we now can move on to next phase of agreeing the type of gathering, timing and venue... So far, so good!

Now things are taking off and the reunion is beginning to take on a life of its own, fuelled by the enthusiasm and interest of the prospective participants. It's turning into a social event of its own volition!  Someone recently posted some scans of a programme from one of the college productions, whilst some else posted some photos from another production.  But they were all going into the facebook Events and Group pages, not where everyone else (i.e. those not on facebook) could see them or add their own material.  
This weekend therefore, I set up a virtual pinboard on, another free social tool in the Cloud  where anyone can post links, photos, scans, text, virtual sticky notes etc.  I've invited folks to visit and add their materials, and I wait with interest to see what the uptake on that is like.

So, there we are. In trying to understand and get to grips with facebook, I've found myself genuinely stretching and developing my social media - and my purely social - skills, whilst connecting and reconnecting with a community of people that I might otherwise have missed.  I've tried to show some leadership, hopefully without being too pushy, and I've invited and nurtured contribution and collaboration from others, across a variety of social media. Oh, and I'm having fun doing it.

What next?  Well, we still need to agree the where, the what and the timing.  Have YOU any ideas as to what other social media and collaboration tools we could be using between now and September, to truly make this a reunion to remember?  All ideas, comments and feedback welcome, as ever. Thanks.


  1. Hi Niall, what a great story so far! I use FB purely for 'social' as opposed to a mix of professional and social interactions which is what Twitter and other networks have become. Twitter started off as a work related tool but many relationships in my PLN have now surpassed that of just professional contacts.

    I get a lot out of FB especially as my family is spread around the world. We use it to stay up to date on every day things and also have a blog that we all have editing rights to for more in-depth updates and recounting stories etc.

    It'll be interesting to see the take up of the tool. It's not one I've used - I've had a play with Pinterest but found I haven't gone back to it.

    In addition to the tools you're already using, I'd have thought Flickr or some kind of photo sharing site will be of use, as many will bring a camera to the event and will want to share their pictures with those that don't afterwards.

    I look forward to more updates between now and the event itself and am really pleased your adventure is proving to be so fruitful - and best of all - enjoyable.


    1. Thanks Kate, really appreciate you taking the time and for your feedback as well. I love the idea of a multi-input/editing blog. And also considering how to make the event live afterwards was not something I had considered either. Great points.

  2. Hi Niall

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, always interesting.

    Have you discovered Pinterest yet? It's great fun but as always it's finding the time to keep up-to-date with all this SoMe :)

    1. Hi Vicky, nice to see you here! Thanks for commenting.

      I do actually have a Pinterest account, but - shame on me - have done nothing with it as yet. t.b.h. not even sure what it does/I can do with it. Like you say, it's finding the time to explore, but without some context, there's always something else waiting for one's attention.

      Got any Pinterest tips for us?

  3. Hi Niall

    If you ever needed to issue tickets and track, then something like would do the trick.

    If you were looking for an online area where you could share files, links, schedule events, make conference calls, virtual meetings and create documents, to dos, polls etc could be worth looking at setting up a group in Wiggio. (I have it down as a useful site but not using it in anger yet.)

    Doodle is a great tool.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Julian, more toys to explore and play with! Appreciate you taking the time to read and to comment.