Persuading the MMC Team: Why Facebook?
Even if you create a wonderfully designed website, you still need to direct traffic to that site. If you build it, they might not come.
– Emily Crum, Director of Communications, Facebook 101 Seminar
Facebook is a highly interactive social media site with over 750 million users, 52% of which log on every day. The Multipurpose Marine Cadastre (MMC) is currently gaining users and gaining potential uses with the inclusion of new datasets and the integration of site services such as ArcGIS Explorer Online. But is Facebook right for our needs?
Facebook has the power to bring more traffic and a wider, more diverse array of users to the MarineCadastre.gov site by reaching out to those 750 million users and spiking their interest in the MMC. The MMC site succeeds at meeting the needs of users and partners, thus far. However, Facebook can expand that success by allowing for two way communication not limited by 140 characters, by communicating with our partners and stakeholders already on Facebook in a comfortable setting and by growing our audience more effectively than with hardcopy material.
Potential Benefits of Facebook
Many of the MMC’s users and partners are already using Facebook. BOEMRE and DOI have Facebook pages as well as the EPA (full organization and all regions), DOE, Geo-Marine, Woods Hole Group and others. And as I’ve said before, a general rule of thumb with social media and businesses is that if your users are on these sites, you should be, too. Even when the direct agencies the MMC is targeting aren’t on Facebook, their employees most likely are using this site and can therefore translate posts to coworkers and bosses.
Facebook allows for easier facilitation of discussion by posting comments and replies directly below the original post. Notes and messages allow for more ways to communicate – one can post a note describing a specific topic meant to directly encourage a conversation (such as FAQs) while messages are between two people and private. Facebook is an easy, personable way to communicate with our stakeholders and receive direct feedback on datasets, updates and support. Unlike Twitter, Facebook is not as limited by character length (420 character limit) thereby allowing these conversations to last longer and become more in depth than would naturally happen on Twitter. Links, pictures and other media forms can be included directly into posts and comments to direct viewers back to the MarineCadastre.gov website (or to other .gov websites of focus) and the same URL shortener used for Twitter can be used in Facebook to track analytics.
One of the largest benefits Facebook holds is to reach new audiences. Of the over 750 million users on Facebook, over 50% of them are between the ages of 23-49 and, as stated above, 52% of all users log in every day. The National Ocean Service (NOS) estimates that their posts are seen between 3,000 and 5,000 times. With the addition of new datasets such as marine mammals and the AIS viewer as well as the integration of ArcGIS services such as ArcGIS Explorer Online, the MMC has the potential to serve a much larger group of users. Facebook recently released new updates that are likely to bring in more users and increase daily activity of users; therefore increasing the MMC’s potential to reach new stakeholders.
Potential drawbacks of Facebook
Managing comments is the major issue with Facebook. Facebook users are not 9-5 users; they are online 24 hours a day, posting comments and feedback. This might lead one to believe that those of us with control over the site need to be monitoring the account 24 hours a day. This is not true nor is it possible. According to Emily Crum, as long as the site is checked regularly and some form of comment moderation is put in place there should be no major issues. It is also good to note that the majority of people who would have issues with negative comments are within the “9-5” crowd; during this time, comments can be easily monitored members of the Marine Cadastre team.
Overall, Facebook holds a great deal of potential to open new doors for the MMC. It will broadcast the MarineCadastre.gov site to a much larger audience and help to increase the use of cadastral data in new and innovative ways.
How does this apply to you?
Facebook is widely popular; we have all figured that much out whether we directly use it or not (and as the survey results are coming in, it seems that we use it). Back in the day, Facebook was a place of social networking, purely superficial with relationship status one of the most important factors. Today, Facebook is a place of information. Yes, much of that is still who is doing what or dating whom, but more and more is valid, scientific, newsworthy information.
So, benefit from it. Embrace it. Put your science out there on Facebook for people to interact with you in a free flowing, less constricted environment. Post your latest research and add a longer description to really entice people.
Facebook is also a great place to show that you are, in fact, human. You can post pictures, people can see your friends, can see what you have been up to besides making exciting new scientific developments and show that you are just as normal as all those non-science people out there.
Oh, and for good measure, check out Bora Z’s Facebook if you need to visualize what I am describing.