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Opportunity Costs and Social Media

This week I was fortunate to attend a half-day workshop at the University of Missouri-Columbia "Social Media Summit 09." This was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the marketing aspect of social media, as well as the management of tools that I already use, such as this blog, Twitter and Facebook. I don't have a background in marketing or communications, so this was a chance to expand beyond my self-taught knowledge. As educators, we know we're supposed to "market" our programs and FCCLA chapters, but not many of us really know what that means beyond a press release, nor do we know concepts such as ROI (return on investment) or strategies to reach targeted markets.

In this session, Brad Ward from Blue Fuego (Chief Explosion Officer!) used Prezi to share his expertise on social media (you can view his presentation material here) and I learned some good tips about managing the Missouri FCCLA Facebook page. With nearly 14,000 members each year in Missouri FCCLA, we need to better utilize this tool to build a stronger community within our organization. There is even more potential when we begin linking together other social networks such as MySpace and Twitter to build this larger community. It's very exciting to think about these possibilities and what it can mean to current members, advisor, alumni, and supporters.

Also presenting that day was Liz Allen from Caltech Alumni Association. Her presentation was one of reality - how do we manage all of this? For my FCCLA colleagues, classroom teachers, and others who are "it" when it comes to the marketing management of their program, this is a huge issue. Time - and the lack of it. I liked how Ms. Allen tackled the myths of social media: 1) you can control the conversation; 2) it's inexpensive; 3) it's fast; 4) it's hard; 5) you don't need a website if you're using social media; and 6) it's difficult to measure. You can access the PDF of her presentation here.

During Ms. Allen's presentation, I had an "aha" light-bulb kind of moment. The term "opportunity cost" came on the screen and I was immediately taken back to resource management discussions about choices and decisions. If I choose to participate in social media (and all that it means if I'm doing a decent job with it) then I have chosen to not participate in something else. The time it takes for me to write this blog post means that I am missing the opportunity to do another task. I have to determine if that missed opportunity outweighs, or doesn't, the professional and personal potential of this post.

Over the past 18 months or so, I've immersed myself in social media through participation in Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and blogging. The time I've spent doing these things has taken away from other parts of my day - and night. For me, has this opportunity cost been worth it? Without a doubt, the answer is YES. I may have missed watching some television, and perhaps I have developed the habit of reviewing my Twitter feed on my iPhone before I fall asleep, but I have learned more about myself and the world in which I live. I believe my participation in social media - and what I've learned, especially through my Twitter PLN - has energized me as a professional. I think about things differently than I did before. I value even more the relationships and time I have with my family. I am humbled by the enormity of what I don't know - but that I have a network of professionals that are willing to teach me. I continue to learn, to think so hard it sometimes hurts, and to grow.

What about the opportunity cost of not participating in social media and networking? That means turning my back on the possibilities of educating others about some remarkable teachers and teenagers, the value of the only in-school student organization that focuses on the family, and the importance of family and consumer sciences education. That would truly be a missed opportunity. It's not really a choice, is it? This is a responsibility.

The duties of "social media community manager" may not be in my current job description, but they are surely a part of what I do. And it's up to me to figure out the best way to handle this in my professional and personal life. I'm still working on it.

1 comment:

  1. You make a great point about the opportunity costs of any decision--sometimes we forget about that concept.
    I also have become a tweeter. At first, I didn't really understand the concept, but it has really become an informal sort of professional development for me. I've been fortunate enough to find some people to follow who are leaders in their field--whether its technology or education--and when they recommend a website or comment on a trend or issue, it gives me an opportunity to learn something new that helps me become more effective in my classroom.
    Not many teachers at my school are tweeting, so when I find a great resource that is useful to many of us, I'll pass it along to the others. Learning new things doesn't really make a huge impact unless we are willing to share it, right? Great post.