Social Media and Evaluation
I must admit I’m excited about today’s post. Not because it gives us an excuse to indulge ourselves in a lot of unfocused social media (e.g. facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter) fun, but because of the opportunities and uses these tools can provide program evaluators. Not only have these platforms have provided us, as evaluators, with greater ease in gleaning resources (such as through the American Evaluation Association’s facebook page) and communicating with clients and colleagues (via Twitter and our local evaluators’ LinkedIn group), but we’ve begun to see programs’ use of these platforms as an important piece of their evaluation “stories”.
Social media allows for connections that are rapid and have the potential for wide dissemination. It isn’t easy to envision programs advertising their services through social media, but it is a new option that should be considered. Programs could offer additional support to their clients through social media, and the use of social media by clients and other stakeholders could even serve as a marker of program success (or failure).
The evaluation of social media as a possible tool is becoming much more widespread in the private sector, as companies realize that it allows them to interact efficiently with their customers and with wide impact. For example, if a company sees a negative post on Twitter related to them or to their product, they can address it quickly and with the added benefit of all who follow them, and the person who posted the original comment, see it. Some companies use facebook to connect with their customers and offer them the chance to engage intimately and regularly with the company on all sorts of topics. Did you know that even Marshmallow Peeps have their own facebook page?
We’re seeing these days that it is possible for social media to be used effectively in the public sector, addressing issues ranging from public health to transportation. Case-in-point are the multiple Twitter streams maintained and frequently updated by the Centers for Disease Control. But, for widespread, effective use to occur at the program level, we must take into consideration realities such as confidentiality, program clients’ ability to access social media, and program staff’s potential lack of time to keep up with the sometimes fast-paced management of social media.
Our aim is not to have you hop blindly on the social media “bandwagon,” but rather to get you thinking creatively about the possibilities of using social media in your organization, as it fast becomes the new approach to marketing. How can you implement some social media into your organization?