Yesterday I shared a post about the role of network maps. Here are a few more thoughts on the issue that might be helpful for anyone wanting to give it a try for the first time…
Network maps can be very low-tech and self-directed, or extremely high-tech and nuanced (and expensive). Most early projects/tests don’t require anything too terribly involved, so I would suggest going the tangible tech route and stick to post-its and a whiteboard. Here’s a website that offers some helpful guidance about how to do that: http://netmap.wordpress.com/about/
And here’s an example of a group that used that method (note they didn’t make their maps based on individuals, but groups, which may be a way to side-step potential discomfort of being “called out”): http://darimonline.org/blog/network-mapping-ju-chicago
And here’s an excellent overview from the always-helpful Beth Kanter which includes both an example of a low-tech network map, and some tips about putting one together: http://www.bethkanter.org/network-mapping/
You could also try something like Kumu and do it online, collaboratively, which may be better for measuring network growth over time (a useful thing to consider - one map is a snapshot, a baseline; you’re looking for growth, so you’ll need to repeat the process). I’m not terribly familiar with this tool, but it looks manageable for the more tech-savvy folks (currently adds you to a waiting list): https://www.kumupowered.com/
For a deeper look, I recommend checking out June Holley’s work: http://www.networkweaver.com/
And Valdis Krebs’ writing (can be very academic and/or business-oriented, but he knows his stuff): http://www.orgnet.com/
Finally, there is a “Network Weaver” Facebook group full of smart folks who are typically happy to answer other questions. If you’re on Facebook, it might be worthwhile to hover there for a bit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/339757846085496/
The most important things I’ve found in social network mapping are to, first, have a basic understanding of network principles and what makes networks more or less effective. And two, know what question you want the network map to answer - sometimes harder than it sounds. But it’s like any good research; more refined questions lead to more accurate or appropriate answers.
Ready to give network mapping a go? What else do you need to make your test happen?
I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the Network for Research in Jewish Education 2013 Conference on networks. My introduction was followed by an overview of the work that The Jewish Education Project has done in social network analysis, facilitated by Bill Robinson, CSO. Below is my presentation and some notes from the slides. Let me know what you think and what questions you might have!
Odds are the answers to both of these questions have to do with the networks in which you live which have a stronger influence on the choices we make and the opportunities presented to us than we may realize…
Slide 2: At its heart a network is a collection of nodes and the ties among them. I use the definition “a system of purpose-driven relationships.” But really, a network is a model. It’s a way of looking at and understanding the world around us - why, and how, things happen the way they do. And as we know, all models are wrong, some are useful. Networks happen to be a useful model.
Relationships are powerful and the number, strength or quality, depth, diversity, and frequency of those relationships have bearing on who we are and who we will be.
Slide 3: Let’s compare models.
Organization charts are a way of visualizing and explaining a small corner of the world.
Let’s compare that to a network map which illustrates which employees go to one another for help.
Look at the two images and answer the question - how does work get done? In the org chart, there is a hierarchical power structure that determines who makes decisions, who reports to whom, who does what work, etc. In the network map, we begin to unearth a more realistic picture of how work really gets accomplished.
Look at the position of the senior vice president - at the top of the org chart, but in the far right of the network. Now look at the position of “Cole” - random, low-ish spot on the org chart, but totally central to the network. He’s important to many, and many different kinds, of people at the company. Also, note the colors - folks in drilling don’t talk to one another. Folks in production talk ONLY to one another - and Cole.
What are the implications of this view?
What happens when cole leaves, for instance? The org chart doesn’t suffer - either someone gets promoted, they fill the slot, or others take over Cole’s responsibilities. But the work itself will change drastically.
Slide 4: Networks have always been around because we’ve always lived in relationship with one another.
But there’s something fundamentally different happening today, as described here by Clay Shirky.
But lest we think this is merely a technological phenomenon…
Slide 5: “Networked individualism” is a term coined in the book “Networked: The New Social Operating System,” released recently by the smart folks at the Pew Center for Internet and American Life.
It describes a trend that Tom Friedman (in “The World is Flat”) might refer to as globalization 3.0:
globalization 1.0 = countries; 2.0 = companies/businesses/organizations; 3.0 =individuals
Individuals are global. and they no longer get - or expect to get - everything they need from a single community (as with Jewish shtetl life).
What contributed to this change?
Some examples: peace accords across the world, the highway system, nontraditional families, individual retirement plans.
Slide 6: We know we turn to one another for support of various kinds, but the influence that networks have on us is also more tacit and pervasive than we might think.
Reference to Nicholas Christakis, author of “Connected,” and his work. For instance, if my friend’s friend is obese, I am more likely to be overweight as well.
“Our experience of the world depends on the structure of the networks in which we reside.” See his TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_christakis_the_hidden_influence_of_social_networks.html
Slide 7: The “network effect”: the more people use a certain service or product, the more valuable it is. The telephone is a classic example. If 2 people own a telephone, its value is low. If hundreds of people own one, the value grows immensely.
It’s not just that there are more individual users, it’s the connectivity that drives the value.
This is the effect we are trying to tap into when it comes to innovative ideas in Jewish education - there is an important relationship between the connectivity among the innovators (and those they are serving) and the real or perceived value of that innovation - it’s a virtuous cycle.
(Note: the network effect can also work in reverse as with teenagers leaving Facebook - a natural tipping point. Like the saying, “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”)
Slide 8: There are two kinds of social capital we can build in a network. Bonding social capital means bringing together people who are alike in some way, bridging is bringing together folks who are different. We are more inclined to connect with people who are “like us.”
Homophily: birds of a feather flock together. It’s an easy trap for networks to fall into, and dangerous because it creates an echo chamber, doesn’t stimulate innovative thought.
This is a network map of the political blogosphere, and whose blogs are linked to one another. With very few exceptions, right- and left-wing bloggers listen and speak only to one another.
So how do we avoid this? That’s the job of a network weaver.
Slide 9: Becoming a network weaver helps avoid the scourge of homophily (among other possible dangers in networks), and helps keeps networks healthy and open to innovation.
Network weaving is a big buzz term now, but at its heart, it’s a simple and powerful concept; this is what we are trying to do, and become, at the Jewish Education Project.
Slide 10: A healthy network (core/periphery network, also called a smart network), one that avoids too much homophily, also provides the necessary foundation for innovative thought and practice - both a strong, central support system and a diverse periphery bringing in new perspectives.
Folks on the “inside” are well-connected and supportive, but the group doesn’t become an echo chamber because there is a healthy and varied periphery bringing in new ideas and challenging assumptions.
In order to be an effective network weaver, you need to have a picture of the networks in which you are working - that’s where a social network analysis comes in.
…and this marked the beginning of Bill’s presentation on social network analysis.
Thoughts? Questions? Kvetches or kvells? I’d love to hear from you!
Often when I present on social media, I get the question of time commitment… “Social media is so time consuming!” or “There are so many things to do during the day…I just don’t have time for social media.”
So, going meta, I posed the question to the Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations Group on LinkedIn. How do you decide how much time to spend on social media?
Here’s what I posted first:
My sense is that the answer has to do with a couple of things -
1. Your goals/objectives. First of all, having them. If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish or, for instance, where social media falls in your “ladder of engagement,” then, yes, wandering around on social networks is going to be a massive waste of time. Once you have those goals set, though, you can measure the return that social media engagement is giving you based on relative time commitment.
2. Your content strategy. More intensive content (video, for instance) takes longer.
3. Where social media falls in your workflow. My sense is the better social media is integrated into what you already do, the less it feels like a burden. Getting comfortable with mobile applications, for instance, can be huge for this.
4. Internal logistics, like the number of staff devoted to social media.
And there’s more, for sure…
How do you decide how much time to allocate to social media? What questions would you recommend folks ask themselves in order to decide how much time is necessary?
And here are the responses I got from the smart folks of the LinkedIn Universe:
- “Hello Miriam, you are 100%. If someone doesn’t know “why social media?” or “how social media?” then what could have been a blessing just becomes time wastage.” -Zafar Iqbal
- “It all comes down to return on investment. How much paid time is the organization spending on each channel? Are you getting (or going to get) returns/results (e.g. revenue, event attendance, advocacy, etc.) via these social media efforts? These should be fairly easy to track and these two factors should help you objectively evaluate if your social media efforts are worth your time.” -Jason Melo Hall
- Some good points, Miriam. Also, I would set up as my first point: make sure they actually have a communications strategy! I think many NGOs probably go ahead and set up social media accounts before thinking about their overall strategy and capacities. Also, only do what you can do well! I did a webinar a little while ago about strategic social media for small NGOs which addresses the issue of trying to choose the best tools within their means: http://vimeo.com/60650090; http://www.slideshare.net/amycoulterman/social-media-for-small-ngos. -Amy Coulterman
So it seems that setting a goal and having benchmarks along the way helps you decide how to allocate time for social media. Have a strategy. Know why you’re there. Let that be your guide for time spent. It won’t feel like a waste when you know what you’re getting out of it.
Beyond that, what about the brass tacks? What other factors can help us decide how much time to spend on social media - and what’s too much or too little? And do people still say “brass tacks”?
In running sessions on social media strategy, I often walk folks through the process of creating a POST plan. As I’ve said many times before, it’s an elegant mnemonic nest used for getting one’s head in the right place - actually thinking about your audience, really clarifying your goals, and, perhaps most importantly, learning to separate strategy from tools.
Why is this important?
Because so often in planning our social media campaigns we forgo strategy altogether. Many times I’ve heard congregations, for instance, say, “Our audience is our teens, our objective is to get them involved in the youth group, and we’re going to use Facebook.”
Repeat after me: Facebook is not a strategy. It’s a tool. The outline above misses the strategy completely and puts the onus for developing the strategy on an inanimate technology. Facebook (or Twitter, or your blog, or YouTube, or whatever) will not do the work for you.
And therein lies the key. Strategy is all about the work of social media. Going back to the POST formula, ask yourself: what is the work that needs to happen in order for my audience and me to accomplish the objective?
Photo credit: Flickr user MikeFisher821
You’d never say you were building a house and the strategy is a hammer. Strategy is all about action. What’reyagonna do with it?!
There are a couple intimidating bits about thinking through strategy before deciding on tools. First, you may realize that social media - or any kind of digital technology - is not the right fit for what you’re trying to accomplish. As with the aforementioned example of getting teens involved in a synagogue youth group, yes, there may be an element of tech that will help make that happen. But we need to think deeply about our audience’s needs and desires and what actually motivates them. There are lots of factors that go into determining whether a teen gets involved, and stays involved, or not. Many of those factors may have nothing to do with the teen. And it probably has less than nothing to do with whether the youth group has a Facebook Page or not.
Secondly, working in this way means we have to stop blaming the tools (at least exclusively) for our failures. We need to recognize that the tool was never capable of doing the work for us. There will always be technical failures, and we will often choose the “wrong” tool…but that’s all part of failing forward. Think things through in this order - strategy, then tools - and you’ll be better prepared to distinguish between what was a technological impediment, and what was a failed strategy, and adjust accordingly.
In sum, when we start with strategy - what are the actions we need to take, the infrastructure that we need to support that, the people who need to be involved, etc. - then we can choose the proper tools, learn how to use them, and make sure they really match and facilitate what we’re trying to accomplish.
I’d love to hear your stories of developing social media strategy, and whether or not this resonates with you!