Case 1: Keep it simple

When you begin a social media project you should always keep it simple! You can still have big dreams, but the experience of pilot projects is that simple is best to start off with. In the first two pilots run by SHMU in Aberdeen, Scotland, we used the Ning platform, a free social network which has similar functionality to Bebo, Facebook and MySpace.

The INCLUSO coordinator enabled most of the functions, but found that many of them weren’t being used (like chat functions, video uploading, third party applications, forums). Many of these features made the site confusing for young people, and also many of the younger members didn’t have the skills to use them.

So, start your project off with limited functionality and give clear instructions on what members should do. Once they have learned these initial tasks they are then more able to learn new ones. The tasks you set members must also be achievable – in other words, simple.

In SHMU’s pilot projects we found young people were reluctant to write at length, ignored grammar and favoured text/SMS speak. So don’t ask them to perform lengthy or complex tasks (without supporting them, of course). And even the URLs of the social networks we created must be short and simple. Some members remarked that the URL www.middlefieldyouthflat.ning.com was too long. So, the lesson here is: Keep it simple, focused and brief.