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Have you checked Facebook today? Twitter? For hundreds of Easterners, that answer is yes. SCA Corporate has started to pursue Social Media as a way to keep in touch with current SCAdians, recruit new members, and elicit information from the population it serves. At the upcoming January 26 meeting of the BoD, the new social media policy for the SCA will be presented and voted upon by the directors.

Baroness Leonete discussed the new policy and the role of social media in the SCA with Lord Tobias Morgan, Deputy Society Seneschal for Social Media using Google Chat, which seemed appropriate given the subject matter. It is important to note that until the new Social Media policy is approved by the BoD, all information given by Lord Tobias on it is subject to change.

Lord Tobias is the first Deputy Society Seneschal for Social Media, a position created in August. Tobias resides in the Shire of Vulpine Reach, Meridies, and has been in the SCA for a little over six years. He was the Shire Webminister for most of that time. In modern life, Tobias works for a company that recruits blood donors. He compared his modern work to what he is trying to do in the SCA, saying, “…the challenge of my department is figuring out the best way to communicate with [blood] donors, to meet them on their terms. We have to figure out what speaks to them and build those relationships. That’s really the core of social media too, building a relationship with your audience and figuring out how to speak their language on their terms.”

What does the position of Deputy Society Seneschal for Social Media entail?
Modernly, the office is also called Social Media Director. I’ve described the role of the job as follows: first, to maintain and enforce policies related to social media use in the Society; second, to lead the administration [in] the public social media presences of the corporate level of the SCA; and third, to be a guide and resource for Corporate, Society, and branch officers, particularly those involved in social media, for related matters.

In your opinion, what benefits does instant social media (Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc) have over more traditional means of societal communication(newsletters, static web pages, message boards, email groups)?
Social media has the advantage (and sometimes, disadvantage) of being a living, breathing method of communication. I can post something to the Society’s Facebook page and get a dozen comments in just a few minutes. Someone can tweet to our Twitter handle because they’ve got a question like “Where’s my local group?” and I get a little popup on my iPad that I can click on and instantly respond. So while a newsletter or web page is a fantastic resource to send out large bits of information (articles, event advertisements, officer listings), they don’t necessarily open a dialogue, which is entirely what social media is there to do.

We know that there will be an official Social Media Policy soon. Could you tell us a little about the process that has gone into that?
The Social Media Policy (SMP) has been a labor of love for me and at least a dozen other writers, commentators, and editors. The policy began forming in the early part of 2012 with a working group including a number of Society and Corporate officers. In the summer I came on board and was given the task of basically going line through line [of the previous draft] with feedback from the BoD, Corporate, and Society officers (as well as several Kingdom and local webministers who were asked for comments) and figuring out exactly what needed to get tweaked, added, deleted, and so forth. Luckily, those writers who had crafted the policy to that point had built a fantastic document. My job was mostly to take it, compare it to and make it compatible with other policies, and address some of the more technical stuff that hadn’t quite come to fruition. At this point, we’ve submitted what I believe is a comprehensive, readable, and most important, encouraging policy, and I’m hoping for a thumbs-up following this month’s Board meeting. Of course, if it comes back to me, it just means I’ve got another opportunity to make the policy that much better for the Society.

Any sneak peaks about the Social Media Policy you can give us?
I can tell you this: there is a little current of trepidation running throughout the Society that somehow social media is a live electric wire and touching it could be very dangerous. I say, the power of social media is very strong both for the positive and the negative, and I am confident that we’ve given you tools in the SMP to both use social media effectively, use it safely, and use it to grow the Society. Above all if nothing else is understood about the SMP, I want people to know this: the Society likes social media. No, really! We want our branches using it! We just want it to be done responsibly.

What is the Society’s long-term strategy for social media? What will this medium be used for?
There are three primary objectives for the Society’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. First, we are using them as a method of communication from the Society to its members and participants. As they come along, we will share updates from the board, changes to policy, results of Crown and Coronet Lists, and so forth. A lot of that will be released through existing, official channels (such as the board announcements list or relevant officer’s lists) but we will provide a channel for wide-distribution of that information.

Second, we are using them as a method of promoting communication both bi-directionally between the Society and populace and between populace members as well. Things like the Questions of the Day provide us with great feedback in a casual setting to learn more about trends in Society activities, preferences for events, interests of our members, etc. We also see communication between members as they share their experiences with one another and connect to other people with mutual interests.

Third, we are using them as a method of building brand recognition and engagement to encourage and spread awareness of who we are and what we do to those people who don’t currently participate or may only be peripherally involved. While we appreciate that not everyone likes the more lighthearted posts such as the Questions of the Day and such, every time someone likes, comments, or shares one of those posts, it generates a story on their personal news feed. That means that one of the 545,000+ friends of the 3000+ fans may see that post and may discover us and come participate.

And what will it specifically not be used for?
At this time, it will not be used as the initial distribution tool for official communications that come from the Board, Corporate, and Society officers and the branches and their officers. The Governing Documents and assorted other policies provide guidelines that dictate how things like kingdom law changes, event publication, changes to Corpora, etc. have to be handled, and generally speaking, the key is physical publication. Of course, as we all know, we’ve moved to a digital format for our newsletters, so the Society is beginning to embrace technology in new and exciting ways.

How do you see social media strategy making the SCA a better place to play?
Walk down the street. Look around. Every other person you see is on Facebook. Think about that for a minute. Every other person you see uses Facebook. That means the prospective audience for our message expands from the dozen people that look at the poster on the bulletin board at the used bookstore to hundreds of millions of people. Even more importantly, at your local high school, nine out of every ten students walking down those halls uses Facebook regularly. 89.5% of teenagers use Facebook. If we’re not using Facebook as a way to get the word out that we have this really awesome, fun, educational community organization that everybody should know about, we’re missing what could be the greatest tool in the Society’s toolbox for growth.These are tools we absolutely must use if we want the Society to grow.

Twitter sends millions of tweets out a day. Google Plus is growing month over month. YouTube serves up billions of hours of content. Pinterest sees millions of users a day. We’ve got to be looking at these websites as tools to build awareness of who we are. There’s no reason anyone should think “medieval history group” and not have a general idea that we’re out there.

What are the other platforms do you have in mind? How would use of them be different than the use of Facebook?
We’re keeping our eyes open for future possibilities, but we’re mostly trying to make sure we’ve got a solid, confident presence on Facebook and Twitter. I personally could see a curated Pinterest feed of great photos from across the Known World, a YouTube channel for the Society with event videos and recorded classes, and we’ve got a growing contingent of people using Google+. [There are] lots of options out there for us to explore down the road

There has been a push recently to reach out to younger SCAdians. Are there plans in place on how social media can be used in this recruitment effort?
If anything, just being on those platforms gives us important reach into that demographic. If 9 of 10 teenagers are on Facebook, we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to reach them on the platform they’re using daily. Where we go with it is still very new, but I believe we’ll see these resources expand into a way those younger participants can really shine.

For the newer SCAdians, we’re tossing out great links to resources on all manner of subjects from garb to SCA history to fighting. It’s one of my goals to make sure the page is newcomer-friendly and newcomer-ready so they can find resources they can use.For the younger SCAdians, social media is where they’re doing a lot of their communication. They might not sit around a business meeting and have hours long conversations, but they’ll maintain fifteen Facebook message conversations at once without blinking. If we can give them a place to communicate with the Society and hear from us on their terms, we have a much better chance of encouraging them to take that step of getting more involved (and finding ways they can get involved).

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readership?

  • Common sense is your best and most valuable ally when dealing with social media for Society purposes. Whether you’re an officer posting in your local group, a seated Crown posting on your personal wall, or the guy who’s running the big Page up top, we’ve all got to use common sense.
  • Keep your posts relevant.
  • Keep your content positive and constructive.
  • Even when you’re dealing with tough subjects, be constructive. Don’t look at things as mistakes, look at them as areas of opportunity.
  • And most importantly: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, your grandparents, your children, your grandchildren, your significant other, your doctor, your lawyer, or your employer to read. There is absolutely no such thing as Internet privacy, no matter what little checkboxes you check.
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    The Gazette would like to thank Lord Tobias for his time, and Master Liam and Mistress Caitrin for their editing help.

    The official presence of the SCA on social media exists as a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/currentmiddleages, and a twitter page that repeats the facebook posts: http://www.twitter.com/scasocial.

    Image by Lady Anneke, used with permission of Tobias