A New Look for SMUG

The SMUG campus has recently gotten a facelift, going from the dark, reversed-out-of-black look in the header:

…to the lighter, cleaner look you see today.

That all started when I upgraded to WordPress 3.0 and saw this message (click to enlarge):

But since I didn’t use the Child Themes option for the new version of Thematic, at first I had a really clean look:

…Like no sidebar widgets at all.

I thought for a while that they were gone, and that I was going to need to painstakingly recreate my sidebar. But it didn’t cause much pain at all, because all of my widgets had been moved to the “Inactive Widgets” section:

…and I was able to just add some of them back. So in a sense it was good, because it’s causing me to clear out some of the sidebar underbrush.

I also like how the new menu bar in this theme allows drop-down navigation, such as on the Curriculum pages:

I’m going to be refining some more elements of the SMUG navigation to clean up the look of the site further. All of this is coming (indirectly) due to a malware incident I had a couple of months ago, and that I think is now safely behind us.

More on that later…

Facebook 125: Creating Community in Your Facebook Group

A Facebook group is like a garden, to borrow an analogy from Chance, the Peter Sellers character in Being There. It will not grow properly without cultivation.

Because a group is so easy to create, billions have been formed. Facebook currently has 400 million active users, and the average user is a member of 13 groups. Do the math.

The vast majority of Facebook groups have precious little activity.

As a group administrator, you have tools at your disposal that the other members don’t have, and which are crucial to keeping the group vital and active.

First, you can Message All Members by picking this in the left navigation:

This enables you to send a message to the Facebook Inbox of all group members. A good time to do this is when there is a Discussion Board topic or Wall post for which you would like their feedback…or a new video that has been uploaded, or a new event created.

So when I created the Facebook Group Users Group, I used Message All Members to send this message (click to enlarge):

Which looked like this in my Inbox when I received it:

This is a way to keep your group top of mind among members. Don’t abuse it by sending too many messages; otherwise your group members will leave. But if what you are sending is meaningful and worthwhile to them, they will welcome it.

Your goal should be for the group to be useful to its members. If you are sending a message just to keep the group going, and not to help your members, that’s a sign you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And your members will sense it.

Remember, the group doesn’t exist for itself; it exists for its members.

You also may want to Edit Members of your group to designate some of them as Officers or Admins.

Be careful with your designation of an Admin; these individuals will have the same rights with the group as you, the creator, do. But you may wish to have at least one additional trustworthy person as an Admin.

Officers, on the other hand, can be multiplied. By designating officers with any range of titles you can enable group members to find the person who may best be able to answer questions. In an academic program interest group, for instance, you may have someone other than the group creator designated as Program Director or Admissions Counselor. Or if you were to use Facebook as an online newsroom, you could indicate what specialty beats a particular staffer covers. In this way, a member can send a private inbox message in Facebook to a designated officer, such as a journalist identifying the staffer who covers the cardiology beat.

Then when you look on the front page of the group, your officers will be listed, so interested members or visitors can know which person they should contact.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I did this originally; I can’t believe I chose “Czar” as my office instead of “Chancellor.” I’ve since fixed that.

In my opinion, having an active group in Facebook requires an Admin who is committed to regularly adding content that is useful to members, and who takes time to reach out and remind members of the new content (without overdoing it and causing people to leave the group.)

What’s your experience? How else do you create community in a Facebook group?

SMUG Changing Lives…

…or at least one life. After the presentation I did Thursday in Minneapolis for Aging Services of Minnesota, Kris Glaros Hanson came up to me and said that my presentation to the group last September had significantly changed her career plans. I asked if she’d be willing to tell about it on camera, so here is her story:

I look forward to seeing how Kris puts her SMUG training to work on the site she will be launching, theseniorconnections.com.

If you’d like to share your SMUG experience, either your thoughts about one of my presentations or the online curriculum, please do so in the comments below. If you’d like to write a recommendation for my on LinkedIn instead, that would be great too. Here is my public profile.

And of course I welcome your constructive suggestions for improvement, too.

A SMUGgle Meetup

More of the power of social media: I’m in San Francisco today, and found out earlier this week that a SMUGgle from Norway was also going to be in town for a conference. Sturle Monstad (@SturleMo), who asked this good question in January. He came to meet me at the Ritz, and we had a nice talk. He even schooled me on the right way to say my last name in Norwegian, which helps me understand why my grandpa changed it to make it easier for the English-speakers.

I’m at the airport now, on the way back home, but it was nice to get another validation of the power of social media to make connection – even across oceans.