The Social Networks modules are aimed at getting participants familiar with and effectively using a variety of social networks. Although we regard the blog as the fulcrum of a civic leader’s online presence, social networks can help increase their visibility and availability as well as being a place to contribute to existing community conversations.
The term Social Networks include a wide variety of services and we have modules about the following:
- Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are websites that allow people who are linked through interest, geography or acquaintance to share information and contacts. They are simple to use, but to get the most out of them civic leaders should be aware of groups, pages, applications and etiquette.
- Twitter is a micro-blogging service with a rapidly growing and influential user base. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry, business leaders such as Richard Branson and politicians such as Tom Watson and a range of MPs all use the service for networking and communicating with their “constituency”. Technically speaking, Twitter is very simple and with some simple guidance civic leaders can create a presence and start networking. Yammer is similar but based around an organisation.
- Flickr and YouTube are well-known as sites where you can host pictures and videos. They are very useful for civic leaders wanting to share visual material on blogs or with friends and colleagues. Less well publicised are the network natures of these sites. Influential expert users are using contacts to spread word of the content they place and to initiate discussion on a range of topics.
- Online community forums come in a multitude of forms. Some like the Issues Forums, from eDemocracy.org, are technically simple but work via email and web, others have complex technical features. Civic leaders who ignore these online fora are neglecting an influential portion of their community. This module gives a basic introduction to engaging with people on forums.
All four of these modules show participants how to set up social network accounts, build contacts and promote constructive discussion.