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Needs Assessment for Social Networking

May 26th, 2010 · 3 Comments

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In March, Rachael Clark discussed the necessity of completing a needs assessment as one of the important skills used in developing a digital collection. I would definitely agree that it is a vital skill for any information professional. Cliché as it is, one of my go-to phrases is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and performing a needs assessment is an essential part of the planning phase for any project. This includes diving into the world of social networking.

The first decision to consider with your team is what kind of social media outlet will be most beneficial. There’s more to the world of social networking than microblogging on Twitter. You can get your professional persona out there with LinkedIn, share attention-grabbing images of your collection using Flickr or post a webinar on YouTube. Consider your needs, speak with people who are fully immersed into the world of social networks and learn from them. There are many options from which to choose. Do a bit of research into what will work best for your organization before you spend too many “hit and miss” hours. Time is money, folks!

Once you’ve decided on the tools of choice, you probably think that adding social networking to your organization seems like such a simple thing. Go to your social networking site of choice, register and start posting, right? But before you dive in, stop and consider what kind of benefit you’re expecting from these popular tools. Do you want to reach out to patrons? Are you interested in generating buzz about your company? Do you hope to gain new clients? Perhaps you just want to keep in touch with colleagues around the world. No matter what your purpose, you’ll be doing a little writing and though this is writing on a small scale, the importance of writing for your audience cannot be underestimated.

More things to consider when creating a needs assessment are, how often and how much of information is being shared? How often are you going to use this tool? You will need to think about quality and quantity if you want to reach people and make the most of your social networking tool of choice. For example, if you’re using Twitter or Facebook, you will want to build an audience of people who read and repost or retweet your updates. If you want to attract loyal readers,  frequent, appropriate and relevant posts and tweets are vital.

Decisions will also have to be made about who will be the social media guru of your organization. You may find staff resistant to using these tools or you may have staff members who are ready to make it their full-time job. The right person will have enthusiasm for this new way to communicate, but it’s important that he or she will be literate in the language of social networking. They need to know that it’s “tweeting” NOT “twittering,” and they need to have the ability to tell the difference between useless information and great things to know. Many social networking sites have users who are spewing a lot more garbage than gems. The person doing the majority of work with social networking tools will have to do quite a bit of filtering.

In this day and age it seems as if everyone and their grandmothers have at least dipped their toes into the giant pond that is social networking. If you take your time to examine your needs, then plan and execute a process to get the most out of the social networking tool of your choice, you will add volumes to the intellectual value of your organization.

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Category: New Tools · Social Media