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A final ramble up and down the SMDL

Hurrah! This is the final week of the Social Media Driving Licence, 8 weeks of intense and fun learning.  We ventured into the obscure and unknown world of social media, and guided by the hand of super savvy online gurus we’ve been enlightened and given a solid grounding on the use of the most popular applications.

I joined the programme with one clear objective in mind; I wanted to stop being only a visitor and become a resident on the different platforms. I’ve been using social media for some time, both personally and professionally, but always lacked the confidence to interact with people I didn’t know. What this course has given me it’s the perfect motivation to be more active, mainly on Twitter, and to reinforce my understanding of social media in general.

Am I a Twitter resident now? I’ve definitely stopped being an observer, I’ve tweeted more on these last 8 weeks than what I tweeted in the 3 years since I signed up. As a consequence, my number of followers has gone up and I have even had conversations, how exciting! Having more followers me gives me a kind of (good) pressure to keep tweeting and also a motivation to be out there. I’ve learned to enjoy Twitter, and I feel a lot more confident and a lot less apprehensive when tweeting on behalf of my team. So, maybe not a full-time resident yet, but I’m a Twitter resident in the making.
What have I enjoyed the most? First of all, listening to other participants’ experiences and views on the different tools.  The Lego Serious Play session was a great opportunity to unite our experiences, fears, learnings and views on the course. I also enjoyed learning new tricks or tips on using the different tools, i.e. Twitter etiquette, live-tweeting. And loved the opportunity to explore new products, such as Google+ and Storify. I might no be adopting these tools, but I’m glad I tried them and now I know how they work.

The SMDL has helped me to realise that, at least for me, sometimes it’s ok to be a visitor. Some tools suit my personality and working style better than others, and I’ll be a resident on those that I feel comfortable enough to leave a trace. What’s important for me is not to be afraid of social media, to be aware of its pros and cons, and learn how to use it for my personal and professional development.

Finally, a BIG thank you to Ange, Andy, Georgina and all the people that helped to put this course together. It was an awesome experience!

Image credit: peddhapati via Flickr Creative Commons

Being a good online citizen

This week on the Social Media Driving Licence we’ve learned what it means to be a good online citizen. A good citizen is someone who makes fair use of other people’s work, is someone who respects and gives credit to the original creator. Good citizenship also involves leaving comments on blogs, retweeting or liking posts, sharing the content, spreading the message and helping others to diffuse their work.

This week we also had a chance to explore Flickr and Photopin to source Creative Commons images. I’ve used both before, but Flickr has become my favourite since they made the option to filter CC images easier to use without having to go to the advanced search. Flickr interface isn’t the nicest, it’s quite busy and slow at times, but all worth with the amazing images available.

Then we had a go at PicMonkey, a super easy, super fun online tool to edit images. The beauty of it, it’s not only that it’s cool to use, but the fact that you don’t need to sign in or create an account in order to use it. There are many other similar online tools to manipulate images and create designs, one that I use a lot is LightShot, a desktop and browser application that looks like a free version of Photoshop. And if you want to create amazing posters or any kind of web designs, then you need to try canva.com.

Image credit: Kalexanderson via Flickr Creative Commons

… all the colours of the rainbow

“Yeah, you know, that thing that is on all the computers and it tells you very interesting stuff, especially about dinosaurs. You can ask anything! And it’s got all the colours of the rainbow…”

This is how my five-year-old described Google to me only a few days ago. I was shocked first when I listened to him, but then I realised that his description was quite accurate: Google is indeed all that he said… and more.

This week on the CJBSsmdl we explored Google and some of its products. By far, Gmail is my favourite and I rely heavily on it. Gmail has become like my virtual brain, acting not only as my main email hub, but also allowing me to do more than just composing emails. From Gmail I can see my calendar and get reminders, I can see my list of tasks and pending jobs, I can send files directly to Dropbox or Evernote, and my Gmail even tells me what the weather is like!

Working on a library I’m well aware of students using Google Search for their projects and assignments. And as much as we, the I&LS team,  would love to hear that they only use it as a last resource after they have explored all of our very expensive and unique library databases, this is not the case. And I totally understand why they google it before anything else, as my son said it to me, Google can tell you very interesting stuff… but only when used correctly and with a good sense of criteria.

Google+

Despite its 1.15bn registered users and the possibility of having video chats with many people at a time, I’m still not convinced about Google+, at least not from a personal perspective. I recently read an article that described the typical Google+ user: men, aged between 25-34, single and with an annual salary of over £35000 – I don’t tick all the boxes. It also mentioned that of the 1.15bn users, only 32% are active, and the US and India comprise almost 45% of the total users. The UK only accounts for 3.9m active users.

What Google+ is good at is helping brands (48% of Fortune Global 100 companies use it) and individuals (freelancers) to increase their online visibility and create connections. Looking at CJBS Google+ page with its 358 followers and 20,320 views, it’s become clear that Google+ can’t be ignored and it should be considered as another (and very important) social media platform to diffuse your message and reach other people.

Image credit: {Balázs} via Flickr Creative Commons

One size doesn’t fit all

We’re on week 5 of the CJBSsmdl. This week we’ve been asked to listen to one of the very interesting  podcasts recorded by the coordinators and blog about it.

I’ve chosen Nathalie’s podcast on using social media from an External Affairs perspective. She starts by explaining that the only way to get social media right is by knowing and understanding your audience. You (or your organization) will have different types of audience, these people will be on different platforms, looking for different content and engaging on different ways. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all. Content needs to be tailored to the audience and the channel you’re using. Some of them are better for creating conversations, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, others are great to push and broadcast content like Soundcloud.

Nathalie also described the 3 main types of audience at CJBS: colleagues within the School, the rest of the University and the wider world.  This last category can then be sub-segmented into more specific groups, such as Alumni, prospective students and the general public. The key for the External Affairs team is to privide these groups with relevant content, at the right time and using the right tone.  Content must also be consistent and it must reinforce the image that CJBS wants to project: a place that is an intellectual powerhouse.

Image credit: NetDoktor.de via Flickr Creative Commons

Feedly – what’s there not to like?

I’m a big Google fan, I’m not going to deny it, and I rely heavily on many of its products. One of them used to be the now defunct Google Reader, a website aggregator where you could bring the latest content of all your favourite websites into one single place. But as much as I liked the idea and the convenience of it, Google Reader had the most awful and uninspiring interface! It wasn’t the most user friendly tool and as my list of websites got longer, it became more difficult to manage. My enthusiasm didn’t last long and soon I gave up.

I heard of Feedly shortly afterwards, when it was still only a Firefox add-on. I loved the clean and smart-looking interface, but the lack of browser compatibility and problems to sync across computers didn’t work for me. Luckily, in 2013 Feedly finally became a cloud-based service that works with all browsers and mobile devices. Its popularity skyrocketed in the same year after Google announced the closure of Google Reader, gaining over 500,000 new users in less than 48 hours. By August 2013, Feedly users were up to 12 million.

With its clean and minimalist design, which I like, it’s also very easy to use. Feeds can be organised into folders or categories, and you can share with many other social media platforms – e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Evernote, etc. – from right within Feedly. There’s a mobile app, which I understand is brilliant, and being a cloud-based service Feedly syncs across devices. Adding websites is just as easy as doing a copy-and-paste of the url, or you can subscribe to the sites suggested by Feedly. What’s there not to like? Free, easy to use, nice-looking and convenient.

I currently use Feedly for both personal and professional content. At CJBSInfoLib we curate a very comprehensive Feedly list that includes all kinds of business, libraries, university and technology news, that we use to find content for our other social media channels. Personally, I have a similar list, plus a few other blogs that I follow on parenting, cooking, home-deco, and basically any other interesting website I find online.

Image credit: violinha via Flickr Creative Commons

Live reporting… or maybe not

We’re on week 4 of the CJBS Social Media Driving Licence and this week we’ve been tested to the limit with a Tweet-a-thon. For most of us, this was our very first live-tweeting experience and reactions came in a wide variety of tones.

The tweet-a-thon left me with mixed feelings about the whole idea of live-tweeting. Yes, it was my first time and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I felt overwhelmed trying to do hundred things at once: listening, processing the information, writing an interesting tweet,  don’t forget to include the relevant hashtag and Twitter handles, follow other tweets and reply to those that needed your attention, keep listening and if possible, take pictures to add to your tweets. All of this amid the frenetic tapping of 20 colleagues… I’m exhausted just by thinking about it! Live-tweeting goes beyond the simple concept of ‘multitasking’.

But leaving aside the brain-draining first experience, I’m still unsure about the benefits of live-tweeting, other than for personal reasons. I’ve tried following live-tweets before, and even when I trusted the people tweeting and the quality of their tweets, I couldn’t really understand what was happening.   Live-tweeting to me is like when you look at a presentation that only has images, but unless you were there to listen to the presenter, the images on their own don’t make any sense at all.  I also realised that live-tweeting is a massive distraction and that you end up missing part of the session.

Having said this, I believe that live-tweeting can be useful as a note-taking practice, a place where you can reflect on the event and keep your thoughts in one place. And that your tweets might lead to conversations and connect with other people.  It can also be useful to promote your institution and showcase your events.

Will I live-tweet again? I’m glad I’ve done it as part of the CJBS SMDL. I’m not sure I’ll try again anytime soon, at least on a personal level. But I had exactly the same reaction when I first tried Twitter a few years ago; chances are that I may change my mind about live-tweeting in the future…

Image credit: Laurie Pink via Flickr Creative Commons

Rambling down Twitter Lane

Using Twitter hasn’t really been a pleasure walk in the countryside, but more of a bumpy ride in the city. When I first signed up a few years ago I just couldn’t get it at all. All I could hear was noise, lots of [useless] information travelling at a super speed and without any control. However, I wasn’t oblivious of Twitter’s huge potential as marketing tool, the power it had to provide instant communication, and the possibility of reaching masses of people with one single tweet.

Has my opinion changed? Yes, it has! Why? First of all, both Twitter and I have changed. I believe that Twitter’s population has matured, there’s a lot less people tweeting about their lunch and more twitterers sharing valuable information. From my side, I decided to give Twitter another try a few months ago, this time without the pressure of having to use it in order to complete a social media course (the same course I mentioned on my previous post), and also when I had to start tweeting as @CJBSInfolib, our library account. I started this new Twitter experience with a thorough cleaning of the list of people I was following, mainly  librarians and random people I had felt obliged to follow in the past.  I found new people and organizations to follow that could make my Twitter experience more enjoyable and fun. My new list covers all kinds of topics, from breaking news, to business and economical issues, comedians, sports, parenting tips, cooking and even fashion. And of course, a good selection of librarians and leading people on my professional field.

And secondly, I learned to enjoy Twitter by using it on my own terms, a mixture of professional and personal interests. On Twitter I can choose who to follow, and they don’t need to follow me back. There are no awkward friend requests and I don’t have to follow my friends, unless they have something interesting to tweet about.  And finally,  that I’m lucky enough to work alongside Twitter experts who finally converted me.  Having said this, I’m not a Twitter addict – I can perfeclty live without it – and I’m not a ‘resident’ yet, but I’m in the process of moving away from the ‘visitor’ side.

This ride is not over yet, there are still a few more paths to explore such as learning how to filter all the noise and useless information on there, how to compose engaging tweets and join in conversations. All of these mean that somehow I’ll need to pluck up the courage to stop being an observer and more of a participant.

Image credit: dullhunk via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s all about blogging…

We’re on week 2 of the SMDL, our main objective for now is getting the grips of blogging. And our task for this week is to blog about our blogging experience and how we feel about it.

I wish I could say that I’m a blogging novice so that I can justify my lack of writing talent and expertise on the subject. True is, I’ve blogged before. I was introduced to blogging a few years ago when I took part of a social media course for librarians in Cambridge, Cam23. Setting up a blog and posting once or twice a week were the main tasks for the course. We covered 23 tools in total, and by far blogging was the most difficult one for me. By the time I finished the course I had written about 20 posts in less than 3 months.  Yes, blogging became easier with time and it also helped when I liked the tool I was reviewing, it was like I became more fluent. But I never felt 100% confident.

You see, writing is not something that comes naturally to me, not to mention the anxiety I have for trying to produce something that I think should be relevant, funny and/or interesting so that it’s worth to make it public. I never blogged again on a personal level, until now.

On the professional (or institutional) side, I’ve written on several occasions on the Library’s blog (by the way, I’m the author of the latest post). The blog is regularly updated and all members of the team contribute to it. Doing this hasn’t been in any way easier than on the personal side. When blogging on behalf of my team I have a double challenge, not only I need to write a good piece – one that “the boss” would approve – but it has to be done using a different tone and voice, not necessarily my own.  However, once my post has been approved and published,  it’s a very rewarding experience and I immediately feel ready to take on the next challenge… that is, until I have to sit on front of the computer and battle with myself to find the words for the next post.

How do I feel about blogging right now? I’m terrified, just like Danbo is scared of Domo on the image above. I believe that some people are naturally talented to write and create amazing blog posts — I’m not one of them. But, I’ve joined the SMDL with the intention of leaving worries and fears behind, I want to share with my colleagues and learn the tips and tricks to write a blog, that maybe one day someone will read and like.

Image credit: GViciano via Flickr Creative Commons

My first rambling…

This is my first blog post for the Social Media Driving Licence, week 2.  The above image represents my current views on social media: a bright and intricate collection of channels.

Part of this week’s tasks was to list my personal pros and cons of social media, so here they are:

Pros:

  • Re-connect with lost friends
  • Communicate and share with family
  • Share stories and achievements
  • Narrow the physical gap with family – feel closer
  • Instant communication – faster than email
  • Find product/place reviews
  • Discover new content, tools
  • Get advice
  • Entertaining
  • Awareness of what’s happening in the world
  • Support social campaigns
  • Professional development and networking
  • Educational

Cons:

  • Overwhelming – huge amounts of information
  • Time consuming – managing different tools, testing new tools and finding the right one to use
  • New tools all the time!
  • Addictive
  • Reliance on social media
  • Parental controls
  • Exposure – can’t delete or undo
Image credit:  Mwezibou via Flickr Creative Commons
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