Encouraging exploration in social media @ work

A friend asked me via Facebook what social media tools we’ve been encouraging staff to play with at work. (I used to say Web2.0 tools, but have now ceased using that term after reading something on Peta Hopkins Innovate blog .)
We could have gone with anyone of a dozen existing programs ranging from 16-43 “things” but decided to quickly tailor a program to our needs and our endorsed strategic directions for our website. Liz (our Web Manager) and I put it all together in super quick time by collaborating on the one Google Doc. It seems to have attracted enough keen participants and we are happy with the result so far.
So, here are our “ten things” (actually there are nine because thing #1 is an internal thing – applying for extended network access to Firefox browser, Facebook, YouTube, etc.):

  1. iGoogle and a Gmail account (I know Yahoo is another alternative, but to keep it simple we selected Google);
  2. Blogs & blogging (duh);
  3. RSS and feed readers;
  4. social bookmarks (we picked del.icio.us);
  5. sharing presentations (eg. SlideShare);
  6. social networks (Facebook & ArtShare, LinkedIn);
  7. social media “things” (including: Flickr, YouTube & Podcasts);
  8. wikis and Wikipedia.org; &
  9. “other” tools and applications we invited participants to find and explore themselves (Zoho, Google Docs, Open/NeoOffice, CutePDF, Rollyo, LibraryThing, Last.fm).

We’ve used several CommonCraft videos (which I think are GREAT!) and Wikipedia definitions where available and useful to introduce each “thing” so as not to overload them with too many motherhood statements from us.
To facilitate all of this we are using Ning. It is another social network and we think it has been very helpful in facilitating: forum discussions, user profiles, blog posts, the formation of groups for projects and the hosting of videos. It isn’t perfect (yet), but it is almost free (we pay a monthly subscription to get the adverts removed). Hopefully they’ll eventually introduce a spell checker and some easy way to export useful discussions. It hasn’t been made compulsory, but so far we’ve managed to get 52 staff involved – almost a fifth of our total staff. The groups we’ve set up focus on progressing small sub-projects such as Flickr Commons, ArtShare on Facebook, Copyright, our Digitisation Steering Group and Marketing. Just participating in our internal Ning network is itself a learning experience for some people.

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