Understanding Social Media 101

This blog series highlights some of the top Social Media Beat posts from the last couple years. For more information about IACP’s Center for Social Media visit the project webpage. This post was originally published on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

Guest Blogger: Dionne Waugh, Digital Communications Manager for the Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office

Many of the blogs you read on here go into great detail about social media strategy, how a new platform works, and tips for how you can be the most successful at using different platforms.

But something critical that’s often overlooked is a basic understanding of how and why social media even matters to many employees.

For those that don’t work in Public Affairs, Investigations, or aren’t under say 30 years of age, social media is not something that’s native to their daily lives. And yet they know it’s important to their agency, their kids, and the world as a whole today and they WANT to understand it. They just don’t know how to go about doing that.

That’s what inspired me to start holding monthly classes at the sheriff’s office where any employee could come and ask any question they had about social media. Want to know what Twitter is and how it works? How about how to make sure your Facebook settings are set appropriately? In this class, you could ask any question you want.

I wanted everyone to know that this was their time to ask any question they had and that there was no such thing as a stupid question. The response has been incredible! Even though I manage social media every day and often explain how different aspects work, I had no idea folks had so many questions about it, especially just the basics.

Since we have a variety of employees, sworn and civilian, who work on different shifts, our office crafted this email sent out to everyone in the sheriff’s office:

Understanding Social Media 1

Understanding Social Media 2

In the sessions we’ve had in the past two months, I’ve had employees from nearly every single division attend as well as received emails from others who plan to attend in the future. I’ve also received emails from employees requesting different dates so that they could attend on days off or other times that better suited their schedule.

I have held the meetings in a conference room with a big screen so we could easily bring up all the platforms on the computer. Most of them just wanted to understand how different social media platforms worked, why people used them, and how they could use them—or not use them—in their own lives. We talked about everything from Facebook and Twitter, to Nextdoor, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. We also set up a Twitter account for one employee and helped another follow the sheriff’s office on Twitter. One employee even brought his spouse so that they could both learn, which I thought was truly great.

Another employee emailed me “I do want you to know that I am glad that you are offering this class.  There are times that my husband and son talk about all the different apps and programs available and I am completely lost.”

A lot of us who use social media every day often forget that there are just as many people out there who DON’T use it and therefore don’t get it. By helping others understand it on their level, you improve their skills, gain their buy-in and just get an overall warm and fuzzy feeling of helping someone. That’s a win for everyone.

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