Every week, I co-host a Google Hangout with Brian Vickery called #HecklersHangout. Last Thursday our special guest was Geoff Livingston, and one of the things we talked about was the huge potential social media has as an educational tool. This is different from the concept of an awareness campaign, which is simply meant to get your cause in front of people who might not otherwise have your mission on their radar.
When we talk about social media as an educational tool, we’re talking about is using the technology to bring new information and new perspectives to people. For NPOs this can be a great way to reach out to the community, whether in “real life” as a result of online promotion, or via different online tactics.
Here are 5 ideas on how can you use social media to create opportunities to educate rather than simply promote your cause.
1. Promote a Workshop or Conference Via Social Media
In-person events are still, in my opinion, the best mechanisms for educating others. You can see facial expressions that tell you whether your point is getting across or not, people can engage with you without having to type, and your “students” can feel like they are truly connecting with you, too. However, social media can play a huge part in driving people to your classes or workshops. As an example, check out what Sean McGinnis is doing to promote his classes over at 312Digital.com.
There are a few points you want to be cautious about if you choose this kind of methodology. First, if you are using Facebook, do not invite all of your friends to your event. Sure, it might get more of a response, but the response might be along the lines of, “Why are you inviting me to something when I live on the other side of the country?” That’s not a great way to try to build your audience.
Even though it takes a little work on the front end, you want to promote your workshop or event to people who are ideally suited to your topic, both in terms of interest and geography. Twitter searches can also help you pinpoint people who might be interested in attending.
2. Google Plus Hangouts
What if you don’t have the time, money, or resources to host an in-person event? Fear not. One option is to host workshop-style “hangouts” on Google Plus. You can have ten people on your hangout, and the presenter can share slides, alternating between that and simple video-chatting. A series of small hangouts like this could easily emulate a series of workshops or classes, and perhaps multiple people with your cause could host the hangouts at different times so that people could attend when it works best for their schedule.
3. Blog Posts
While you miss the facial expressions and intonations that you get in person or via video chatting, blog posts still can be great educational tools. Think about incorporating some video into your posts to make them more interactive. When you do a blog series, it helps if you preview the whole series on the front end so that people can see if the series as a whole will be of interest to them. If it does interest them, they may subscribe right at the start so they don’t miss any of your content. Think outside the box!
E-newsletters are perhaps one step below blogs when it comes to the potential for interaction and engagement, but you can create an e-newsletter series just as easily as you can create a blog series. You will depend on people to check their emails, which can be risky, but if your content is compelling enough, people will look for it. Make sure you include links for more information and openly invite people to ask questions and offer feedback.
5. Facebook Pages
Facebook Pages are the least personal way to educate others about your cause online, but if you want to try to reach the masses, a it can offer some flexibility in terms of the kinds of posts you can use. Alternating between images, web links, and videos can keep people’s interest, and you can still engage with them through comments and questions.
When people think of “education” they often think about sitting at a desk with a #2 pencil. (Or, well, with an iPad these days.) However, education no longer needs to be as tightly controlled or regimented as it was in the past. Social media allows you to reach people in entirely new ways. Why not use that potential to teach others about new ideas and new perspectives?
Have you seen examples of people using social media as an educational tool? We’d love to hear about it!