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The Good News About Social Media

A fortnight ago – Wow! Has it been that long already? – I wrote a blog post about whether or not the Human Services Sector is resistant to innovation. This week I am going to try and sell social media. Ready for my spiel?

Ten Ways Social media could help the Human Services Sector to improve how we do our work

# 1 – Advocacy: Social media has recently been used in Egypt and Northern Africa to create movements. It is a great way of sharing information with a range of people about social issues. Social media is not confined to the same limitations as traditional media. Anyone can create information and anyone can comment on that information. The sharing of information can present issues of importance to a vast population of people. This can create discourse about an issue and help social change.  Check out the possibilities here.

#2 – Professional Development: Professional Development can now occur online. There are some tremendous organisations using social media in a really innovative way to support the Human Services Sector in Scotland and the UK. Check out the online library these guys at IRISS came up with. Resources can be posted online. Resources can be a variety of media such as videos, podcasts, powerpoint presentations, blog posts, links to websites and journal articles. Another great function of social media is it allows people to share ideas across various areas of human services. This can help delivery better services for clients.

#3 – Community Building: Online communities are being built using social media. Twitter, blogs and social networking allow people to build and maintain relationships with other people around interests they share in common.

# 4 – Connection: Connection sounds like a simple motivating factor to be engaged in social media but perhaps it is one of the most important? When I feel connected with another person I feel energised. Can you think about a time when you have met someone and felt a connection? I’d imagine it felt really good. Social media can allow us to connect with other people who share similar thoughts, values and beliefs. In our work we can feel isolated. At times we can feel like we are the only person who is doing anything to support marginalised people. Social media can help us to feel connected to the community. That is a powerful feeling. Check out some cool articles examples here and here.

#5 – Instant: Social media is instant. You don’t have to wait. Momentum can be built quickly and instantly. You don’t have to wait until the next meeting to talk about an issue again; rather, you can jump online and chat about it later that night or throughout the week. This instant ability can create momentum.

#6 – Transparent: If an organisation is using social media well, social media will make the organisation look good. An organisation may keep their facebook page, a blog and a twitter account well updated with relevant information that is helpful for their clients or other organisations. This will look good from the outside looking in.

#7 – Accountability: Another spin off from transparency is accountability. Social media shows people what we are doing. If we react to a situation without thinking it through this will show. To maintain reputation, organisations need to respond demonstrating best practice. The benefit here is for our clients and the sector. We all like to say we use best practice in many ways however there are times when we may not practice in the best way. If this happens through social media someone else will see and it won’t look good. Social media encourages people to use best practice.

#8 – Keeping up with the Joneses: It is important to keep up to remain relevant within the industry and to our clients. A lot of people use social media in some form or another. Using social media will allow organisations to stay cutting edge for funding and to engagement with our clients.

#9 – Free: Got the internet? You’ve got social media. Some social media sites will ask you to subscribe. That’s about it though. No fees.

# 10 – Accessible: At times we may have to attend meetings interstate or overseas. These meetings can be exciting and energising and they can also be tiring and busy. Social media allows for people to connect over large distances.

And a bonus thought!

# 11 – Timely: This is a bit different to being instant. Timely means that you can use social media at your own pace in an environment you are comfortable with. Want to talk to colleagues whilst in your pyjamas at home? If you’re me, probably not  J, but you can do this if you like. The beauty of social media is that it allows you to converse in an environment and at a time you feel comfortable.

Have I missed anything? Let me know!

I am currently working on some resources to help people understand and use social media. If there is anything you would like to know about social media leave a comment about it and I will try to include it in the resources.

Coming soon… the challenges of   social media.

Matthew Ross – Social Work Student, on placement with PeakCare

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kate Hannan #

    Thanks Matt. You raise a lot of interesting ideas, and I am getting a broader appreciation of the use of social media in the human services sector. I think if social media is incorporated with care and awareness, it can only add to and enhance the work we do.

    April 1, 2011
  2. Oh I can think of a few other fantastic reasons to use social media if you are an organization in the child and family welfare/child protection sectors. Social media allows for an entirely different way of communication, a more informal, potentially equalized conversation. Social media can allow for anonymity, for people who would otherwise fear raising their voice – to share. Social media is a way of mobilizing community networks, engaging in social activism, and generating momentum to create social change! Social media can be a powerful way of doing outreach work, maintaining relationships and connections across distance and time zones … that otherwise may never happen. Social media brings enormous potential for professional development – and hey! We’re doing a little of that right now!

    Great information to stimulate discussion and thinking. Well done!


    April 1, 2011
  3. Matt – I admire your style. It is great to think that graduates in our sector and practitioners and policy makers can continuously discuss the important issues and access resources as they need them. And you and Fiona show it can all be done. I hope that all this infromation can “virally” reach its audience as it deserves to do. I think it is so funny when liberal-minded professionals of my baby boomer generation say ….. oh I would never BLOG…. I have no time to read the hundreds of emails I get! How do we teach priority setting to those who need to scan for the gems?

    April 4, 2011
  4. Lauren #

    Hey Matt, thanks for your insighful post. I agree that social media has opened multiple doors to new experiences deemed impossible ten years ago. It has opened a new way of connecting, sharing and advocating. Indeed there are many positives about social media, but these positives of course assume that users are doing the right thing with it.
    I worry about the impacts of social media on the young and vulnerable. These days kids can stay connected to each other for 24 hours a day. Gone are the days when kids leave school of an afternoon not to see or hear from their friends until the following day. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, it may impact on precious family time which, due to the constraints of modern living, is already squeezed to the barest minimum. Additionally, there are many times where staying connected to ones peers 24/7 is not necessarily a good or healthy thing. Take bullying for example. Traditionally, bullying victims could leave the school grounds for respite at the end of the school day, but now bullying can continue within the home and experience of the tragedy of youth suicide over cyber bullying is a stark reminder of the potentials dangers of modern living on our children.
    I am not advocating against social media. For every bad that has come of it there are probably multiple goods, but I think once in a while the human race has to question itself and question the impact of its technological advancements. My mother used to always say to me that ‘bigger is not necessarily better’ so I wonder if just because we can, is that grounds that we should.
    Children are so vulnerable and the tool of social media can cause serious and irrepairable damage. Take Kim Duthie, the young girl at the centre of the St. Kilda football scandal. Kim used social media to make allegations against players and posted a number of clips on youtube. While I advocate for women to report misconduct, I worry about the impact of the experience for Kim both now and in the future because she has used social media to make these allegations and her role in the scandal so public. I wonder at the extent young adults possess the reasoning skills, forethought and decision making skills to make such life changing decisions. Those clips are now part of cyber space for ever and given the vulnerabilities of her age it is concerning that young people can put themselves out there so easily without necessarily conidering the impacts of their actions down the track. I know I sound old and stuffy and maybe I should get with the times, but as the mother of a young child I worry about these things. Children these days have so many things to contend with and try to understand, and social media and what comes with it presents an extra layer of complexity that children have to learn to navigate which has the potential to change lives and cause damage.

    April 11, 2011

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