What can social media do for us?

In a internationally mixed room with a range of social media experience, but we all have in common an interest in science communication.  But how will we be different from each other, because we all need a niche, says our ‘tutor’ Nick Booth from Podnosh.

For a start we are using a variety of tools, to learn, teach and be entertained.  Each tool works differently and has different rules – different communities have different rules in the virtual world as in the real world.  But social media works best when we are prepared to be generous, giving and taking in the communities in which we operate.

Social media can be used for linking, sharing, campaigning, re-working.  The key is to think of this as a big global conversation and behave accordingly – a very big conversation with millions involved- something like 300m tweets a day – and increasingly engaging people more that traditional media.

Taking Birmingham as an example, Birmingham’s active citizens have been given a voice through Podnosh.  This started with a remarkably popular podcasting site that simply broadcast about social campaigns.  This unintentionally led to Podnosh acting as a networking node, which led to a Facebook site, then then real face to face networking of Birmingham bloggers – people with a shared interest in Birmingham.  There was no immediate goal, but a ‘stock-pot of social capital’ was created and bubbles of interest emerged and branched out on their own, eg Big City Plan Talk enabled real engagement in an important consulation exercise.

What can Birmingham Science City and its partners learn from this story of evolution?  Those of us joining the big global conversation a bit later may not have the luxury of slowly cooking our ‘stock pot’ – we join when precidents are set and we need to understand and join in appropriately.  Those of us who represent long eastablished organisations, or in the case of BSC many established organisations, with images, strategies and structures to respect might not have the freedom that this bottom up community enjoyed.  But there is no choice but to join in as the whole nature of social media is that if we don’t join in, other will do it for us in our absence.

If we do join in we will be surprised at where common interest lie – connecting niche interests across and between communities – allowing ideas to be shared and developed.  Even big organisations can be part of this as long as they are useful to people and not just self promoting, eg CoventryCC Facebooking about snow.

So, we are going to do it do it, and take Nick’s advice be open, share and collaborate because while there are challenges, there are opportunities in this world conversation!  Please tell us what you think, what you want to hear about and how you can contribute.

Pam Waddell