Tips for running a successful social media surgery

On Tuesday afternoon, Tim (@timolloyd on Twitter) and I delivered some social media training for staff at the Office of Rail and Road (@railandroad on Twitter) in London.

The training was made of up two parts: a lunchtime presentation by Tim on the characteristics of effective digital engagement followed by an informal ‘social media surgery’, which I delivered.

In case you’ve not come across the term social media surgery before, it’s the name given to informal get-togethers where people with digital skills (referred to as surgeons) provide practical, one-to-one help to people wanting to get more from the web and social media, typically by helping them using Facebook, Twitter, and blogging to achieve specific goals.

I’m pleased to say our training at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) went well and I was able to help four members of staff in just over an hour. We’ll be providing further support to staff over the coming weeks and months as part of our Digital Action Plan learning programme but I think holding the social media surgery really helped break the ice.

Interested in holding your own social surgery? Here are some tips

If you’re looking to develop your organisation’s digital skills and confidence, holding a social media surgery could be a great first step. Here are some tips to make sure your social media surgery is a success.

1. Make sure you have enough helpers

Surgeries work best when helpers can provide one-to-one practical support. Having a handful of helpers on hand will avoid people having to wait around for help and allow people to provide in-depth support.

2. Choose a suitable venue

Social media surgeries are designed to be friendly and relaxed and your choice of venue should reflect this.

I held the surgery in ORR’s open plan reception/breakout space rather than a conference room. This allowed people to drop in on their way to and from meetings and grab a drink from the kitchen if they wanted one.

3. Make sure your WiFi is up to the job

Where possible, stress test your WiFi beforehand by enlisting some friends or colleagues and getting them to work off the WiFi all at once. If you think your WiFi will struggle, consider investing in a MiFi dongle, which will allow people to share a 3G or 4G mobile connection.

4. Keep your surgery voluntary and opt-in

Running your work social media surgery on a voluntary, opt-in basis creates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Everyone who attends is there either because they want to help other or they are keen to get help. Furthermore, by keeping surgeries separate from work performance, you find people are willing to be more honest about the areas in which they need help.

5. Remember to seek feedback and look for ways to improve

Social media surgeries are about practical help and giving people the skills and confidence to use digital tools in their everyday tools. To make sure your surgery is working as it should, it’s important to honestly assess how thing went.

While I’m pleased with the help I was able to give ORR staff yesterday, particularly helping Andy send his first Tweet, if I were to run the sessions again I’d make some improvements:

  • Remind staff to bring along their own devices and email login details, so that they can spend more time trying out digital tools and less time watching me demo them.
  • More strongly encourage staff to sign up for services whilst at the surgery. Next time, where someone does not have their own device, I would ask them to sign up for a service using Chrome’s Guest Browsing mode.
  • Record feedback more formally. Yesterday, I simply asked people if they were happy with the help they received. Next time, I would ask them to complete a short Survey Monkey survey so that I could get a more honest assessment of how they found the surgery and, crucially, what they accomplished.

Support your local Social Media Surgery!

If you’ve got digital skills social media surgeries are a great way to give back to your local community. I’ve been volunteering with social media surgeries in my home city of Birmingham for years now and still get a buzz from helping others. Alternatively, if you’re interested in learning some new skills and would like to get some friendly help, why not think about coming along to a social media surgery near you.