Part 5: Getting started

Young people outsideThis step is all about implementation. Team selection, staff training, technical and infrastructural preparation, selection of the social media tool(s) will all take place concurrently. From the organisation select a group of individuals who are supportive of the aims of the social media project. Hopefully they will have a reasonable level of ICT skill. The individual who conducted research at the start of the project should be a member. The remaining staff who do not joing the team can be the focus of motivational work some months down the line.

We should also point out that if the organiation is small, say five people, then it may be that ALL staff are part of the social media team. Each organisation will have to work out what is suitable for its circumstances. As a rule of thumb, however, a social media team would ideally have at least three people in it, including someone representing management and one representing the youth workers.

The training for this social media team should consist of motivation and preparation sessions in which they learn how the socila media project will work, the benefits to young people, the impacts on their workflow, changes in the organisation and so on. The team should be making decisions about its activities, structure and function - try to avoid handing this kind of information down to them. Remember, promote ownership of the project among team members (as well as the young people, management, other staff and stakeholders).

DO NOT try to make the final selection on a tool without discussing it within the social media team. This misses a key opportunity to develop project ownership. (This is the reason why we advise against making that selection in the previous stage - Part 4). The final decision will be made about the tool(s) to use here from a short list compiled in the previous phase. Your reasons as to why the tool was chosen should be crystal clear, so should the objectives and outcomes which are to be the focus of the social media project. Now, decisions will be made by the social media team on how to use the functionality of the chosen tool to engage with young people. In other words: how will you use the tool you have chosen?

Read Chapter 3: Examples of what you can do, from the INCLUSO manual. The activities listed there were tried by INCLUSO pilot teams. Some worked and others did not, but it is all highly relevant information for an organisation considering engaging with social media. Also, read through the various Cases which accompany each section of Chapter 2: Set up and run a project, in the INCLUSO manual.

A full technical audit should be carried out at the same time. This adds to the audit carried out in Part 1: Is it right for you, in which a general readiness was established. This audit will look deeper into what's there, how it meets the requirements of the project, how it can be changed, costs associated with that, and options and alternatives for these issues. Someone will have to lead this audit.

Determine whether computers to be used by social media team, staff and young people are in good order and adequate for the social media work. It should already have been established whether they need to be upgraded and how much that will cost. The internet access should be reasonable quality and have appropriate access to social media sites. Be aware that lots of local authorities and organisations prevent staff and young people accessing social media sites by using a filter.

Meetings will need to be held to communicate the progress the social media team is making in moving towards a launch date. This status should be fed back to the whole organisation. Don't be afraid of feedback. Address any negative comments, see them as opportunities to spread the word and to persuade people of the potential in social media.

Training in the use of the selected tool(s) begins in this stage, too. The social media team must become skilled in using the tool, how it works, how it can be adapted and customised. They will train the young people and so must be able to answer all their (reasonable) questions, but do not worry too much since within days the young people will discover more about the tool than staff know.

This is the point, when the social media team develops a good understanding of the potential of the selected tool, that ideas for how to use it should be discussed and an action plan developed. The action plan is the timetable for the remaining stages of development in the social media project, as well as new issues such as monitoring, feedback and evaluation (these will be explored here in subsequent sections). 

What activities will be done, why and how they should be discussed is determined here. This is all about engagement. Explore the principles of how to reach out to young people, learn editorial skills and decision-making regarding young people’s online activities and behaviour. Focus on your activities, how they will be carried out, and try to predict the reactions of the young people. And of course, focus on your outcomes, and the young people who will use the site.

The action plan should be open for all to see and contribute to. It will clearly show who is involved and their specific tasks. It will show how and when evaluation and monitoring will be done. It will also show milestones to guide people on progress. Don’t forget to show a launch date so your organisation knows when all this engagement work will begin.

You should address issues such as 1) Safety, 2) Privacy, 3) Security and 4) Ethics in this plan. Management will definitely be keen to see that risks and dangers are being addressed, but also that data protection guidelines are observed and people’s privacy is respected, too. It is recommended that a code of conduct be developed to address the behaviour of young people online before they sign up as members to any site you may create. See the Appendix: Downloads in the INCLUSO manual for a sample code of conduct.

Finally, you will launch the site. This can be done as a soft launch (signing young people up and training them to use the site as you have set out) or going for a big fanfare and building interest  and momentum among the young people. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Undertake a skills audit of your team and develop and implement a training plan to meet their needs
    • Expand with much more detail on the initial audit you carried out in Part 1: Is it right for you?
    • Estimate how much training will be required and if some staff have skills to share with others
    • Set-up training facilities for staff members
    • Re-train as and when required
    • Follow-up on problems and offer solutions as and when requested
    • Organise offline opportunities for staff to exchange experiences about online activities
    • Expect 'attitude' to be more important than 'skills' in adopting new tools
    • Youth workers should know how and when to report concern's about young people's safety, to line managers or relevant authority
  • Get networked
    • Seek out other social media practitioners for sharing advice and experience
    • Surf the web for forums in which people discuss their activities
  • Technical set-up
    • Make sure all users (staff, young people, external partners) have enough time available at the computer
    • Computers will need maintenance: organise technical support, set up or replace obsolete computers
    • Check internet access quality is adequate
  • Create an action plan
    • Determine whether it will be an on-going or fixed term project
    • Define roles and responsibilities within participating groups
      • Staff
      • Managament
      • Youngsters
    • Define how you will evaluate and monitor the project
      • List which data you will be gathering throughout the project and how you will do it
    • Define project milestones and timing in your action plan
    • Define the role of the chosen tools within each of these phases
    • Start your project
    • Be clear when and how you will evaluate the project
    • Don’t hesitate to change your workplan along the way
  • Get your stakeholders motivated and build a momentum towards launch
    • Consider a kick-off event
    • Have your target group of young people help out organising this (creating a sense of ownership)
    • Define how you wil trigger your target group’s participation
    • Consider making membership (not participation) of a site compulsory in order to get people to sign up
    • Find the group that is most likely to participate and focus on them, BUT you must make the application available to all
    • Focus on the ‘necessary’ activities – ones which young people need to do in order to complete a goal (timetables, photos of events etc), yet keep that in balance with the ‘fun’ aspect of the experience, which might keep your target group involved
    • Make sure it’s the organisation staff and not external coaches or experts who conduct the online work since they have the established relationships
    • Support and encourage young people to use social media for their own benefit - young people may need a little push
  • Go for it and have a lot of fun!