This is a quick post in response to a conversation on Twitter this morning.
I’m responding to some criticism of the Social Media Surgeries we’ve been running in Yorkshire & the Humber, inspired by the Birmingham Social Media Surgeries.
I know the criticism is mild, but there is a couple of points I want to take up. These are:
that the Surgeries are not inclusive; and
that we are seeking to prescribe solutions.
On the first point, I would say that the Surgeries we are doing at the moment don’t set out to be all inclusive. They are about a small group of volunteers, who know things about social media, giving up their time to pass on their skills to people who work with communities. This is all still very small scale, they cannot be wholly inclusive, resources don’t allow. But, we won’t turn anyone away, and we will make every effort to ensure that those who want to attend are able to do so.
The aim is that Surgeries will have a cascade effect, that those who come and gain some new skills will pass those on to the people they work with. At the moment, we are running Surgeries in central locations, and they are necessarily targeted at people who work in voluntary and community organisations, not to the general public. I would argue that it would be counter-productive to attempt to target the public, because people would not get the support they needed to maintain their use of social media. Birmingham started with centrally-located Surgeries along the model we are following, and have now, gradually, started to move out into neighbourhood surgeries which are much better placed to reach into grassroots communities. I very much hope that the surgeries we are stimulating in Yorkshire & the Humber will follow this model.
Secondly to the accusation that we are prescribing solutions. I think we have to own up to being guilty on this score to a certain extent, because Social Media Surgeries are about exploring the potential of Web 2.0. But, if you don’t think Web 2.0 has anything to offer you, then don’t come to an event which is focussed on it!
I have a particular approach to being a “surgeon” at a Social Media Surgery, which I would hope is shared by most other “surgeons”. I will not talk to you about particular social media tools until I fully understand what it is you are trying to say, and who it is you are trying to reach. Then we can start to explore what tools might achieve your objectives. Social Media Surgeries must not be about “surgeons” showing off their technical knowledge, that is a sure route to putting people off and prescriptive solutions which might not fit the message.