Do You Know What You’re Doing Online?

Back when I was in college I was fairly active with a few groups that dealt with issues related to science education. I ran the psychology club at my school for a number of years, bringing in three or four speakers per semester that would speak on such topics as getting into grad school, autism, the social psychology of mind control and love, the psychology of religion, the evolution of behavior, and an endless number of other subjects. I was (and technically still am) a member of Psi Chi and had the opportunity to represent my school’s chapter at the American Psychological Association’s conference in Boston in 2008. And after I graduated I met a number of people affiliated with non-profit science education groups that operate at the national level.

Since I began my career working with social media, I have been asked to and have offered to help some of these groups, usually pro bono since I know they don’t have a lot of money and I agree with their goals. In doing so I have noticed them making a number of mistakes that are all too common.

For example, I have noticed that some, or at least their affiliates, use poorly designed websites they seldom update as their primary means of reaching out to people through the internet, and sit around wondering why they are not making more connections. I have also noticed a fair amount of reluctance on the part of some of these groups to get involved in the social medial, often hearing that the social media is “still new” and that they would rather wait and see where it goes before they act. When they do get involved in the social media, I’ve noticed that many have done so half-heartedly, using it as a one way means of communication, assuming that if they make one post a month and put up a couple of links people will just flock to them. And when they seek or receive advice, I’ve noticed they are slow to implement it, and don’t even always do so completely.

Now, this is not an indictment of any of these groups, but examples of unfortunate social media practices that turn people off to it or convince them that it’s a passing fad that will soon fade, or something more than a fad that has no real value. And this kind of poor implementation of the social media is not unique to a handful science education non-profits I happen to know people at, but across practically every industry you can think of.

Some things to remember are that the social media is not new, an inactive website or social media account is as good as no website or account at all, and that these mediums are not one way, but are intended to encourage and foster conversation.

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