January 30, 2008

Should we use social networking?

A question that I've been asked a couple of times since Wikifest was how did Burleigh specifically and adventure ed at NHS in general get started with blogging. This led me to the question of how in general other programs should think about and decide if they are going to engage with social networking.

Burleigh Mountain is located quite close to our campus but might as well be a world away. It has a remote, quiet, isolated and wilderness feel to it. After my first few years of working there I found that people came to love the mountain once they knew it. On the other hand if they hadn't been there they had no idea what it was all about.

I wonder if other programs are having this dialog too? Here's some things to think about when making a decision about engaging with social media that came out of the Wikifest.

  • Understand the current reality - get to know some of the tools available, how they work and the cost of getting involved (time and money).
  • Understand attributes of successful networks - here are some attributes of successful networks, does your program have them? If not, social networking might not be for you. I could write a lot about each of these, but for now I'll just bullet them.
      • Strong existing social ties
      • Common story
      • Communications grid
      • Shared resources
      • Clarity of purpose
  • Understand your goals - what do you want to see come out of your engagement? How will you evaluate success, and justify the time and potentially money you are spending?
  • Conduct a risk assessment - is their a cost to not engaging? Are all of your competitors already engaged? Perhaps participants are already engaged on your behalf? Are active detractors giving you a bad name? Have you lost control of your message in this area?
We're trying to engage with social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for an immediate short term goal of staffing the Sophomore Expedition with our outside instructors. We'll see how that works.

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