I really enjoyed Shel Holtz’s video/slide presentation on social media in organizations; I plan to assign it to my students in a few weeks. I think he does a good job of explaining the potential benefits of knowledge sharing and relationship formation that can come from active use of social media.
The first time I taught a college class, I was surprised to learn that many students in the so-called Digital Generation had relatively little awareness or understanding of social media tools and their power. I found myself having to radically revise my assumptions about how much time most students spent online, and what they were doing. This was a few years ago, when the number of tools was limited, but I continue to find similar reactions even now, and even though I’m working with a somewhat different student population.
These days I’m working on a project on Twitter, which I’ll be discussing at NCA in San Diego as part of a roundtable jointly hosted by the PR and Organizational Communication divisions of NCA. When I mentioned Twitter the other day in class, I discovered that none of my students had heard of it. I certainly don’t expect anyone to know of every social media platform that exists–I showed them the Conversation Prism developed by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas, while admitting that there were plenty of services shown that I’d never heard of–but I think of Twitter as pretty high-profile. Once again, my assumptions needed revising.
I’ve been active in social media for many years, since well before the term “blog” was first uttered, and have always found there to be a divide between those who “get it” and those who don’t. For me, with a background and interest in organizational knowledge sharing and internal communication, the benefits seemed immediately obvious from the start. But it’s been an uphill battle: back when my online practices were limited to personal interaction, I would frequently encounter the “What’s the point?” question from less technology-minded friends. Then with clients, who were sometimes enthusiastic about the technology but not about the regular writing and communicating part, and sometimes vice versa. And now with students, who may or may not be active users of Facebook or MySpace, but who struggle with the idea that they need to know how to use social media effectively as part of their toolkit as professional communicators.
So I continue to be surprised by what students know about social media and what they don’t, and to be challenged by figuring out ways to illustrate the professional usefulness of these services. Shel’s video is a good start.