Implementing Social Media: A Tale of Two Case Studies

A couple of interesting posts from Nathan Wallace on his organization's experiences in implementing a wiki and then a year later, a customized microblogging platform called Jitter. You need to read both, but here are some key points:

The organizational wiki seems to have been adopted more quickly and used more extensively than the Jitter solution. This is in part, Nathan says, because the wiki was responding to a need, while Jitter was trying to create demand:

Open collaboration and idea sharing are common organisational goals, but that doesn’t mean there is latent demand among the people of the business for the tools that enable it. With any new organisational capability, always stay focused on end users and helping them to solve a problem.

While Jitter is a highly flexible tool that people are already using for a wide range of purposes, we didn’t do enough to position this new communication medium or to demonstrate the business value. People didn’t know how to use this new tool. Some feedback was negative, but overwhelmingly people asked “What do I post to it?”, “What’s the business value?”. Without clear answers, people just waited to see what others would do.


Related to the idea of launching a social media solution in response to a particular need, the organization's wiki was piloted as an information source related to the moving of the company's head office. As Nathan points out, "Nothing drives traffic like a seating plan for a new office."

He also has some great advice on dealing with people's concerns about people making "improper" changes to a wiki:

Predictably, the main argument against this system was fear of improper changes to content, particularly for information subject to regulatory control. I would counter this argument in two ways:
  1. There are two ways to control people's behaviour: social forces and technical forces. Currently, we successfully rely on social forces to control a wide range of things like who calls or emails the CEO with their latest crazy idea. Technical forces are powerful, but with each technical feature we increase training and raise the bar against collaboration. Surely, we can see if social forces will be enough for all but the most critical of content?
  2. Anyone can choose to monitor any content that they are concerned about (e.g. automatic email alert with changes). So, they can quickly jump in and correct any mistakes.
  3. For exceptional cases, we may choose to lock down critical content and define clear ownership and responsibility for its maintenance.

It also seems that there are real challenges to implementing microblogging in the enterprise:

Microblogging is particularly difficult to position as a business tool since it’s so hard to say anything worthwhile in so few characters. For an organisation starting the journey of sharing ideas and thoughts, blogging may be an easier starting point. Posts can be more serious and business like. Blogs are better known, and at worst look more like normal web pages. Authors can craft and position their entries to meet the political challenges and communication realities of the enterprise. Even if your organisation is ready for fast thoughts and short posts, authors can evolve towards really short blog entries.

Note that this doesn't say that microblogging shouldn't be used in the enterprise. Nathan suggests that it might not be a great starting point though.

Finally, check out this excellent article on implementing Web 2.0 in a 1.0 Culture. In it Nathan discusses the two cultural barriers to collaborative tools in the organization--sharing knowledge adds more work and sharing knowledge increases personal risk. Then he outlines some strategies for minimizing these barriers. He also proposes four values for building Enterprise 2.0:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Ease of use over comprehensive training.
  3. Flexible tools over completeness.
  4. Responding to needs over creating demand.

Really great stuff, well worth your time. 


If You Don't Believe That Wikis Can Work as an Organization-wide Solution to Knowledge Sharing, Read this Article

Nathan reports on the success of a wiki as a company-wide intranet. Don't be scared away their price tag --a wiki solution can be had for much less money. Wetpaint has many of the features most nonprofits would need to use a wiki as an intranet and these are available for free. Wikispaces is another option, although it's $50/year to keep your space private.

Aside from the obvious success of the initiative, I'm struck by their focus on usability:

Our customisation focused almost completely on usability. People shouldn't know or care that they are using a Wiki. All that matters is that they can easily browse, search and contribute content. (In fact, after 16 months, only a small set of Janssen-Cilag staff would think of our Intranet as a Wiki. To them, it just seems natural that Intranet software would have evolved to something this simple to use.)

The goal of technology is for it to be invisible, just the way that things are done, not some cumbersome monster. In my experience, many nonprofit and government organizations forget about this part. Wikis by their very nature are a great solution because they discourage feature creep and protect us from the excesses of an over-zealous solution to a problem. Sometimes simple is best. Actually, it's almost ALWAYS the best solution.

Thanks to Brent Schlenker for the link.

Related Posts


Build Your Free Nonprofit Website with Wetpaint Part Five: Administrative Settings

Build_with_wetpaint_3Today is the last day in our series on how to build a nonprofit website using Wetpaint. In this screencast I give a brief overview of the administrative settings, including adding Google Analytics and setting up a domain name.

As with the past screencasts, you may want to visit the version I have at Screencastomatic, where I've added notes to mark the different segments of the screencast.

I hope that this series was helpful and answered at least some basic questions about using a wiki to set up a nonprofit website. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.


Build Your Free Nonprofit Website with Wetpaint Part Four: Adding Basic Content to Your Site

Build_with_wetpaint_8We're back this week with the final two posts on how to build a nonprofit website using Wetpaint. Last week, I showed you how to get started with your site. Today we're going to actually start adding content.

A Few Key Points
Before you take a look at today's screencast, (expect some jumpy audio like in the first screencast) a couple of points I wanted to make:

  • In the screencast, I suggest that you can use one of the pre-done Wetpaint site templates that will automatically set up some key pages for you. After I did the screencast, though, I realized that you can't remove the site header when you choose a site template, so instead, you should start with a blank site--don't use the template option!  (This is what happens when I have about 6 different projects going on at once!)
  • This screencast gives a really quick overview of some of the basic tools in Wetpaint. I highly encourage you to go through Wetpaint's excellent Orientation that is available through the site you build in the right toolbar once you get it set up. It will show you how to go through most of the features and activities.

Adding Content To Your Wetpaint Site Screencast


Action Items

  • Start editing your site to include your own content. Try to at least finish your home page and one or two additional pages.
  • Let me know what questions you have and also if the screencast was helpful in getting things started.

Tomorrow is going to be the last day and we'll cover some of the more "advanced" features of using Wetpaint, like using your own domain name and adding Google Analytics to your site.


Build Your Free Nonprofit Website with Wetpaint Part Three: Getting Started with Wetpaint

Build_with_wetpaint_7 This week I'm showing you how you can use Wetpaint to set up a free nonprofit website. Monday we looked at why it makes sense to use a Wetpaint wiki to set up a site.

Tuesday we looked at a couple of examples of organizations that are using Wetpaint as a website.

Now I'm going to start showing you how to set up your own Wetpaint site.

In today's 6 minute screencast, I'll walk you through how to:

  • Get your site set up
  • Select your design style
  • Decide on editing permissions
  • Set up your Wetpaint account

One note about the screencast--I created it using Screencast-o-matic, which I like for "down-and-dirty" work where I'm trying to get something up and shared quickly. The audio is a little jumpy in places, but still fine for getting through the basics.  I know the audiophiles will cringe, but sometimes you have to go with the "good enough" solution, rather than the perfect one. In this case, if I'd pushed for perfect, we wouldn't have a post for today!

Also--you may want to visit the screencast on the Screencast-o-matic site. There you can jump to specific parts of the screencast and add notes and comments.

Getting Started with Wetpaint Screencast

Action Items

  • Go to Wetpaint and set up a basic site for yourself.
  • If you want, you can go ahead and start playing around with it. Or you can wait until tomorrow when I go over some of the basics of how to add content. You really don't have to wait, though, as it really is pretty easy to figure out.
  • Come back here and leave a comment or drop me an email to let me know how it went. I'd also like to hear if the screencast was helpful or not and any questions you may have.

In tomorrow's post, we'll start to actually build your content, so be sure you have a few pages of stuff you'd like to put into your site to get started.


Building Your Free Nonprofit Site with Wetpaint Two: What Other Organizations Are Doing

Build_with_wetpaint Continuing this week's series on how you can build a free website for your nonprofit using Wetpaint, today's post is going to give you a guided tour of some sites that other organizations have created. I'm hoping that by showing you how it's already being done, you'll start to see the possibilities for your own site.

Before we get started, though, in case you need convincing that your website is important, take a look at this post from The Agitator. Note, too, that using your site to create an interactive community is a key take-away and one that a few of the organizations in the examples below are addressing. Remember this info as you go through the examples.

Nonprofit Rules
The first stop on our tour is Nonprofit Rules, a website example that's probably the closest to our traditional view of an organizational website. As you can see from the graphic, it includes:

  • A customized banner at the top.
  • Basic site navigation on the left
  • Use of tables to set up columns on the site. This is a feature that is available through the edit menu in Wetpaint.

Nonprofit_rules_1_3  

 

If you scroll to the bottom of the home page, you'll see a few other features:

  • Visitors can leave comments on any page in the site, so Nonprofit Rules can use a page to also ask questions or for feedback.
  • Nonprofit Rules can reply to visitor comments to engage in a two-way conversation with visitors.
  • They can also include attachments to any page in the site. So for your organization, for example, this can mean uploading a brochure that is available for visitors to download.

Nonprofit_rules_2

The Nonprofit Rules site is a good example of a site that is primarily controlled by the organization. Visitors can comment and ask questions, but they aren't actually contributing to the creation of the site. For many nonprofits, this will be the preferred mode of operation, although there are some other options, as you'll see in the next two examples.

WikiFido
The next site on our tour is WikiFido. This site is more of a community-operated website and is closer to the collaborative vision of using a wiki to develop site content with other people.  You'll see that they include:

  • A banner that is a combination of a Wetpaint design template (the bubble motif) and their own WikiFido logo. Not super fancy, but it still looks decent.
  • The ability for members to "join" the site. This means they can get automatic RSS updates when the site is updated. (Learn more about RSS here.) They can also contribute to those pages that the site organizers have set up for that.
  • A "locked" front page--With Wetpaint, you can decide which pages can be added to by visitors and which can't. This gives you some flexibility and the opportunity to be creative in setting up pages that invite reader participation. So the Home page is locked and can only be edited by the site administrators. But members can also create pages to feature their own doggy friends.

Wikifido1

Further down on the home page, you can see how the WikiFido creators invite visitor participation with polls, invitations for reader comments and opportunities for activism on behalf of their cause. You can also see how there is a focus on creating a community of dog-lovers who support dog rescue, not on raising money or reporting on specific events. Wikifido2

Like Nonprofit Rules, WikiFido also allows for comments on each page and attachments can be included as well. They also use the table layout, like Nonprofit Rules, to segment parts of their home page and make extensive use of photos to further attract readers to the cause. Who wouldn't love these cute little dogs and want to do something to help?

WikiCancer
The last site on our tour is WikiCancer, a cancer support site. It's set-up is very similar to the WikiFido site, but has a couple of additional features I want to highlight. The graphic also shows you one of the downsides of Wetpaint--advertisements.

As you can see from the graphic below, WikiCancer uses another interactive feature--a page where visitors are invited to respond to a "Featured Question." They also have RSS feeds set up on their site. The "feeds" are automatically pulling updated news stories from another cancer-related site so that as that news is updated, it is also updating on the WikiCancer site.

The one downside to Wetpaint that you can see in this graphic is that advertisements will appear on each page of your site. This is what keeps Wetpaint free for your use though, so it's something you'll have to live with.

Wikicancer2

One other thing that you can't see in these graphics is that both WikiFido and WikiCancer are using their own domain names, rather than a Wetpaint domain name. I'll show you on Friday how you can set up this option for your own site.

Action Items

Now that you've seen a snapshot of three nonprofit sites created through Wetpaint, here's your homework for today:

  • Visit each of the sites and go through several pages.
  • Make a list of the features that you like and that you'd like to include in your own site.
  • Make a list of the features that you don't like and that you want to make sure you don't include.
  • Come up with a list of questions you may have about the different features, including any features that you'd like to have but aren't sure you can add with Wetpaint. Then email me or leave me a note in comments so that I can address any questions you may have as we finish out the week.
  • Keep working on the content you want to include in your own site. You'll need it for Thursday.

Up tomorrow, I'll have a screencast that will show you how to get started with Wetpaint.


Building Your Free Nonprofit Site with Wetpaint Part One: Why a Wiki Makes Sense

Build_with_wetpaint_4 This week I'm helping Sallie Owen and her intrepid group of small nonprofits look at how to use Wetpaint to build a free website.

Today I'm going to start by exploring why I think a wiki can work as an organizational website and why I think Wetpaint is a good option for nonprofits that want to go this route.

Let me first say, though, that there are other options that can work, too, including using a blogging platform like Wordpress or other site-building resources like Weebly. My goal with this series is really to show just one of the ways that nonprofits can build a site for free. So let's get started.

What is a "Wiki"?
Basically a wiki is a piece of software, either online or stored on your organization's server, that allows anyone to easily create and edit web pages. If you know how to create and edit a word processing document, then you're more than halfway toward having the skills to create a wiki.

Why Use a Wiki to Build Your Website?
The vast majority of nonprofit organizations are tiny outfits, run by people who believe in a cause, but who don't necessarily have a lot of technological savvy. They also don't have a ton of resources so for many of them, getting online may just be a dream. It's a dream they need to make reality though because in a web-enabled world, you need to have a website.

Using a wiki to put together your website is what I'd call a "good enough" solution. Unlike a site you build with the "professionals" you'll have less control over the look of your site and will have less ability to optimize it for search engines. But for most nonprofits, especially really small ones, "good enough" is great, especially if it means the difference between having a website and not having one. There's no question that you need to be online, so if a wiki is what gets you there, then I say "go for it."

A couple of other reasons why I think a wiki can be a good choice for building your site:

  • Easy to set up and update--Wikis are really easy to use and require minimal technological expertise. Because of their ease of use, this also makes them easy to update because you don't have to rely on your "web guy" to do the updates for you.
  • Built-in Two-Way Communication--As you'll see, wikis have built-in comment features, which means that you can get immediate and ongoing feedback from site visitors, something that many web citizens are increasingly expecting from any site they visit.

Why Wetpaint?
So you've decided on a wiki. Why use Wetpaint?

I've played around with a lot of wikis and ultimately I've come to believe that Wetpaint offers the best bang for your buck. More accurately, it gives you the right set of features for free.

  • Design Done for You--One of the major costs of a website lies in the design of its look. Of course, you could design it yourself, but then we could be talking one ugly site. A Wetpaint wiki does the design work for you, with a number of nice templates from which you can choose. You can still "personalize" them for your organization with your own banner and graphics, but a lot of the basic design is already done for you with the templates.
  • Use Your Own Domain Name--A nice free option offered by Wetpaint is the use of your own domain. So instead of "www.mynonprofit.wetpaint.com" you can have "www.mynonprofit.org." I haven't seen this option with any other wiki packages and the fact that it's free is even better.
  • Easy Integration with Google Analytics-- You'll want to use Analytics to track trends, monitor traffic, etc., but you won't want the hassle of trying to figure out how to put it on your site. Wetpaint not only gives you the option (unlike other wikis), it also makes it pretty simple to set up.
  • Good Privacy Controls--For a public website, privacy controls are not as big a deal. But one benefit of a Wetpaint wiki is that it lets you keep your wiki completely private if you'd like and doesn't charge for the privilege. This can be a nice option if you want to use a wiki for your board minutes and materials or for staff information, for example.

What About Downsides?
Like any free solution to a technology problem, there are some downsides to using Wetpaint. I've already mentioned a few--less design control and less ability to optimize your site so that search engines can find it easily. Another downside is ads.

Wetpaint is a money-making proposition, so they have to get their bucks from someplace. To keep it free for your use, they sell advertisements, which means that when visitors come to your site, they'll find Google AdSense ads related to keywords in your site. For most organizations, I think this is probably more of a nuisance than anything. A lot of people just filter out the ads and don't even really notice them. But you may want to put some kind of disclaimer on your site indicating that the ads are not put there by your organization if you're worried that people might associate them with your nonprofit. 

The Bottom Line
I think that a Wetpaint wiki is a more than viable option for building a nonprofit site. It won't have all the bells and whistles of a "professional" site, and it will have those pesky ads, but it's a "good enough" solution that I think offers a lot of benefits for organizations, particularly smaller nonprofits.

Action Items
Today's action item is simple--start thinking about what you want to include in your Wetpaint website. If you have some materials already written up, begin to gather them together. If you don't, start thinking about what you want to include.  Later in the week you'll want these materials handy so you can start filling in the content for your own site.

Coming up tomorrow--I'll give you a tour of a few Wetpaint sites so you can get an idea of how other organizations are using Wetpaint to build an online presence for themselves.


Getting Your Nonprofit Online for Free With Wetpaint

  Build_with_wetpaint_3 A few weeks ago, Sallie Owen, Communications Director for the A+ Education Foundation, e-mailed me:

Saturday I was a presenter for the Alabama Organizing Project, a year-long leadership training program for grassroots organizers. I mentioned wikis as a sidenote about Web 2.0 and the idea of free or very cheap websites that were easy to update, which turned out to spark a lot of questions.

Sallie went on to tell me that the group has a wide range of technological savvy and that most were from very small organizations with minimal resources. She asked if I had anything to share on how a nonprofit could put up a website using wiki software. I didn't have anything specific, but it's an idea I'd been toying with ever since I'd seen the site put together by Nonprofit Rules on Wetpaint. So I told her I'd pull something together.

Over the next few days then, I'm going to take a look at how to use Wetpaint to create a nonprofit site. Here's what's coming:

  • Wednesday I'll show you how to get signed up with Wetpaint and how to set up your account and site, including selecting your design and privacy options.
  • On Thursday we'll cover some basics on how to build a site.
  • And on Friday, we'll get a little more advanced, looking at how Wetpaint gives you the option of using your own domain name (i.e., www.mynonprofit.org) and setting up Google Analytics to track traffic on your site. I'll also answer any lingering questions that people may have.

A few of the posts will include screencasts to walk you through the steps. Each day I'm also going to give you some "Action Items" so that you can follow along at home.  If all goes well, by the end of the week you'll have set up your own site with Wetpaint. So get out your website content and start thinking about what you want on your site. It's going to be a busy week. 


Three More Reasons to Wiki

Pbwiki I've been using Wikispaces for a lot of my work, but I'm thinking I may need to switch over to PBWiki, especially after looking at some of these new features:

  • Now you can add a YackPack "walkie-talkie" module to any wiki page. This means you can talk to up to 20 people through your wiki, making collaboration much easier. Installation is simple--just insert a plug-in through the page. And there's no need to download or install any software on your computer. I could see a lot of applications for this in training, project management, etc. More information and an introductory video available here.
  • PBWiki has also partnered with Eventbrite to allow you to easily add an event planning module to your wiki. This is most appropriate for organizations that are selling tickets to an event, such as a fundraiser, etc. After your first event, Eventbrite comes at a price, but the maximum is $9.95 per event, so that's a pretty cheap way to be able to promote and sell your event through your wiki. More information on the PBWiki/Eventbrite partnership here. A tour of Eventbrite's services is here and pricing information is here.
  • I'm currently working with several high schools to implement eportfolios with their students and had been exploring different wiki services to use. Now that I see PBWiki has a portfolio feature, I think my decision has been made. We can have the kids use the wiki to maintain their working portfolios, which will include all of their information. When it's time to do a presentation portfolio, they'll be able to use the Portfolio feature to select the pages they want to include and PBWiki will create PDFs, slideshows, etc. for them to share their wikis. I definitely need to give that a spin, as I think it has a lot of possibilities.

Wikis as Personal Space

Thinking more about wikis . . . After my post yesterday and in light of my recent meanderings about personal learning environments, I've been thinking a little differently about wikis than most people.

We tend to see wikis as social spaces, because they allow multiple people to work on a single document and because they can be great tools for a cumulative gathering of knowledge. But getting to large-scale adoption can be difficult--management resistance, fears about using new technologies, changing old habits. All challenges to the social use of wikis.

Personally, I've been facing my own difficulties in getting people to adopt a wiki as a social space. They love having one place to go on the web to access information on a particular project, but they don't necessarily want to add to what's there. I've also found that people have to feel that they're personally getting something out of the process of contributing to a wiki. Benefiting "the team" isn't always enough of an incentive.

I think that part of helping people develop the skills to participate in a "social" version of a wiki might lie in encouraging people to use them (where it makes sense) for their own personal productivity and learning.

Increasingly in my practice, a wiki has become a tool for me to use for non-social gathering and sharing of knowledge (if we define social gathering as more than one person adding to the wiki).  My wiki has become a personal space that I share with others when it makes sense. So here are some personal ways I've been using wikis:

  • As a personal brainstorming tool--as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have a "Michele's Ideas" wiki where I gather links, notes, etc. on various personal and professional ideas One section of the wiki has become something of an online journal for exploring my personal mission in life. I'm collecting videos, quotes, articles, etc. that feed my thinking about my purpose and where I want to be going in the next few years. I've also explored larger blogging topics by first outlining some of what I'm thinking in a wiki page and then using that as a place to gather links, videos, etc. In this capacity, a wiki is part of my PLE.
  • As a personal project management tool--As an independent consultant, I manage a number of different projects that I have to coordinate with both clients and staff people from contractors with which I'm working. I've been using wikis to help keep both myself and other people involved in the project updated and on-track with what's been happening with each of my projects. This has saved me a lot of communication headaches, as well as keeping me more organized.
  • As an eportfolio--Taking a page from Beth Kanter's book, I've been working on developing my eportfolio using a wiki. Right now it's something of an all-purpose portfolio but at some point I can see creating more focused portfolios with examples of the different kinds of work that I do.
  • As follow-up to training sessions--In many of my training sessions I have staff work in teams to develop handouts and group notes based on what they're learning in the training. I create a wiki for these sessions where I can later upload what the teams produce, as well as provide staff with follow-up materials for further study.

While I agree that there are incredible social benefits to using wikis and I continue to encourage people to use them in that way, I also think that a strategy for getting people comfortable with the technology is to show them how they can use wikis to improve their own personal productivity and learning. At least that's what I'm attempting to do here.