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May 24, 2012 / caitlynzim

All A’Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach – Chapter 3

Most of this is already available elsewhere on my blog, but now it’s all in one place. Enjoy!

Chapter 3: Proposing Social Media to the MMC

When I first started working with the MMC team, they focused on spreading the word about their product through rack cards (half a page in size and loaded with facts) or info pages (full page of photos and facts). Members of the team passed out the pages at conferences and used them at info sessions. It seemed to be working; a decent number of people visited the website each month – around 12,000 webhits each month – and user feedback stated that there were people and organizations relying on the product for site suitability and other purposes. But that process of disseminating information just did not seem as efficient as I felt it could be; so I suggested social media.

I investigated the four primary social media sites I introduced in Chapter 1: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. I then wrote up proposals and presented them to the MMC team, which comprised a group of about ten NOAA employees. We made the decision to go forward or wait for each social media site, notifying the BOEM representative to gather her input before actually moving forward. This chapter includes each of the four proposals. Out of these four, only two forms of social media were given the go ahead. Flickr and YouTube were denied based on manpower and the fact that Facebook encompasses many of the same tools.

Proposals have been edited to remove names of employees.

Twitter Proposal For the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre

I would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining a Twitter account for the MMC Viewer. It would be separate from the Center’s Twitter account due to the fact that it is a group effort involving other agencies. After speaking with CSC employees involved in social media or general outreach I have come up with potential pros and cons to pursuing this idea as well as why we should consider this.

Potential Benefits of Twitter:

  • –  The content is already there. According to NOS and NOAA guidelines tweets must link back to content already posted to a website. Therefore, this account would be tweeting updates to the Viewer, posts on the RSS feed, additions to the Support tab, etc.
  • –  Our users and partners are already on Twitter.
  • –  There is high potential for user engagement. Can reply to users and have conversations without having to maintain a special internal webpage for discussions.
  • –  Easy to maintain with minimal effort.
  • –  Great form of outreach.
  • –  Other forms of social media (FriendFeed, etc) are not as effective.

    Potential Drawbacks of Twitter:

  • –  Lots of red tape to go through with NOS and NOAA. Another employee already familiar with the process is getting back to me with specifics.
  • –  Current expectations are that each Tweet needs approval by the Head of the Communications Department (might be able to get around this because it is not just a NOAA project).

Twitter is rapidly growing in popularity. The general rule is that if a business or agency has stakeholders on Twitter, that agency should be on it as well. Twitter allows for a discussion without creating an internal site specific to that discussion; it can serve to monitor our users and their needs to better serve our users.

Since the MMC site has begun an RSS feed with updates coming at least every two weeks there is added reason to consider a Twitter account. Many users that might subscribe to the RSS feed will not check the feed (or forget it in their email/Google Reader) as often as they check Twitter. A Twitter account will allow for increased outreach and publicity of what is being updated and added to the MMC website while allowing for direct feedback from our users.

Facebook Proposal for the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre

“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, NOS 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 are not 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 and 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. Moreover, 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, Director of Communications for the National Ocean Services, 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 by 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.

Flickr Proposal for the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre

Flickr is primarily a photo posting website which, for Marine Cadastre, could be useful to share screen grabs, product pages, rack cards and conference photos. But it also is becoming a video sharing website. This means that Marine Cadastre could create one account to serve both purposes.

Potential Benefits to Flickr:

Flickr at the basic level is a photo sharing site that allows unlimited uploads of photos and limited uploads of videos (Pro allows unlimited video uploads). Users of Flickr can seek out “friends” and share specifically with these users or share publicly and even control the copyright. A Flickr account would allow storing photos for use on Twitter; Twitter stores photos that have been tweeted but you cannot add extra photos. This way, Marine Cadastre could link to screen grabs that could aid in user support.

A Flickr account would be very easy to manage and require little manpower. Photos and videos would be uploaded and then comments would be moderated on a semi-­‐ regular basis to check for inappropriate comments, questions or other comments that require response. Out of a short list of stakeholders, NOAA, NOAA Research, NOAA NSSL, NOAA Ocean Explorer, NOAA NOS, American Wind Energy (AWE), EPA (US and regional), EcoTrust, TNC (US and regional), and the Ocean Conservancy all have Flickr accounts.

Potential Drawbacks to Flickr:

One shortcoming of Flickr is that the video sharing is limited to 2 video uploads per month. In order to get unlimited uploads the account must be upgraded to Pro which is $24.95 per year or $47.99 for two years. It seems that 2 uploads per month might be realistic apart from the initial set-­‐up of getting existing videos on to the account, and the price is not outrageous, we would just need to allot for it in the budget.

As with all government NOS accounts, content (including photos) posted on this site needs to be posted to a government site first and linked back to it. Screen grabs are allowed as long as the link leads back to the original source of the screen grab (website or map), and Twitter or Facebook can be used to broadcast these photos and other photos/videos on Flickr as long as the photo/video includes a link back to the MMC website. Overall, Flickr could have benefits of easy storage of photos and potentially videos with little manpower. It will also increase the power of the MMC Twitter and Facebook accounts and allow it to link to photos and videos.

YouTube Proposal for the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre

The use of YouTube to broadcast support videos and past webinars, in the case of Marine Cadastre, will allow a wider audience to easily search for MMC videos.

Potential Benefits of YouTube:

YouTube is a potentially powerful site allowing your content to “go viral.” Users do not need to be registered to YouTube in order to view its’ contents, and content can be found using a simple Google search. YouTube is low maintenance and takes little manpower to keep up; videos previously created for the Marine Cadastre website, webinars that were recorded, or even other conference presentations that were recorded can be uploaded to YouTube and comments can be monitored once a week or more (depending on time available) to check for unruly comments or comments needing response. YouTube also does a decent job of monitoring comments in this way. These videos are then available for all users and future users to access.

Tags can be added that will allow this content to result in a Google search of terms such as ocean data, GIS, wind energy or any other tags deemed appropriate. Within the description section, a link to the original source of the video (within the Marine Cadastre page) can be included to direct users back for more information, which is required within NOAA guidelines.

Potential Drawbacks of YouTube:

A seemingly difficult aspect required by NOAA/NOS is that all videos with sound need to have captions. YouTube is experimenting with its own captioning software, and it works well but still has the occasional error. NOS lists captioning software available for use such as QuickTime Pro, Caption Reporters, Closed Caption Maker, Automatic Sync Technologies and others listed here: https://webstats.nos.noaa.gov/socialmedia/youtube_process.html.

The biggest issue with a YouTube account is that NOS requests that all line offices use the main NOS account to submit videos. This is due to the fact that YouTube wants to limit government use of its services. BOEM would have to be consulted in order to determine if using the NOS account is a viable option. The other potential solution would be to use Flickr’s video posting capabilities (see Why Flickr?) or to post videos through Facebook.

Overall, it seems that NOS is willing to support and post Marine Cadastre videos if BOEM is comfortable with this option. However, it seems more beneficial to investigate Flickr or utilize Facebook’s abilities to upload video so the videos are not directly associated with NOAA/NOS.

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