You may have heard about Web 2.0, social sites, services and applications such as Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Basecamp, Twitter, Delicious, Google maps, Google Earth, LinkedIn, TumbleLog, Viddler, Wikipedia, Skype, AdSense, blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds and so on. I write about many of them here and in the Groupings blog.
After reading that list you’re probably exhausted, and may be panicked about how an already stretched community organisation can possibly keep up and do all those things. The good news is that you don’t have to do all those things at all — you simply have to be willing to know a little bit about them, and to consider using them in your work.
Salt to taste
It’s like salt and pepper — you’d never empty the whole shaker on to a meal; rather you’d sprinkle a little of each, or either, or neither, according to taste.
It all depends on your audience. If you’re trying to communicate to or engage with a particular group of people then it’s crucial to figure out who they are, what they do, where they can be found, and how they can find you. Then you can decide on the appropriate channels for interacting with them — be they blogs, Facebook, podcasts, phone calls, printed leaflets, TV ads or some other means.
The number of tools and opportunities at your disposal is increasing almost exponentially. Even those of us who are fascinated by new technologies and new ways of doing things can’t keep up. But instead of flinging up your hands in defeat, just try a 30 day trial.
The 30 day trial
In his personal development blog Steve Pavlina explains his concept of the 30 day trial as a way to experiment with new things.
Just pick one thing you’ve heard of and have an interest in — perhaps Twitter. Get one or more friends or colleagues to try it out with you and commit to working with it for at least a few minutes 5 days a week for 30 days. Be dedicated. Take it seriously. Play with it. Have some fun. Give it a workout.
When the 30 days is up make some notes and decide what to do. Maybe even report back to your committee or board on how that tool might or might not fit with your organisation.
You may be hooked, in which case you’ll probably continue to use it.
Or you may decide it could have its uses, but not right now. Note that down in your journal with a few comments to help you know in 6 months time what was good and bad or useful and not useful.
Or you may decide it’s a tool you could never use, and you’re unlikely to bother with it in the future. Again, make some notes about why you reached that conclusion.
There is no failure
There’s a horrible tendency in our society to see choices and decisions as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘failures’. The 30-day trial isn’t committing your organisation to a lifelong direction. You won’t be ‘failing’ if you try something out for 30 days and decide it’s not appropriate for you. Instead you’ll be learning a bit more about your web environment, and adding a bit of spice to your day.
Don’t know where to start, what to do first? Mike Riversdale has written on his blog about the workshop he presented at the Engage your Community conference held in Hamilton in April 2008. More details from the other workshops are also online at the Webguide wiki. Look in those two spots for some inspiration.
We’d love to hear your comments about your 30-day trial and have set up a post on the Groupings blog to collect them. Please visit and add your thoughts.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, May 2008. This article may have been modified from the original.