When it comes to social media, one of the best features and opportunities we can do is build a community where fellow colleagues come together and bounce around ideas. This is one of the best things about social media is to come together and share ideas, perspectives and help others out in their journey.

This is one of the things I did in October 2016. I was working on a research project on social media professors and I was interviewing a great professor named Chris Wilson (teaches at BYU in PR and social media). I remember him saying – I wish there was a designated place where professors come together, bounce around ideas, and share assignments and tips with everyone.

I remember the light bulb going off and thinking: Why ISN’T there a place where we can do this? That’s why I created the Social Media Professor’s Community Group on Facebook. I thought FB would be a great place to host the community for a variety of reasons. First, you can set the settings in which allows you do have it as an open, closed, or even secret group. Personally, I didn’t want to close it off completely so no one could find it, but I also wanted to make sure we had professors there who were teaching social media in the group.

Why is it important to create a community? Here are a few reasons:

  • It allows you to create a space to pay it forward. Everyone is in the same boat and may be asking the same questions, but they may not have a place to do this. This has been true with the #SMprofs group – many professors have come into place saying – wow! I have gotten so much from this experience and community, which has been rewarding to see. Ultimately, I wanted to create a place I would have liked to have had when I was starting off as a social media professor.
  • Bringing people together. Communities allow you to do this in a way that brings people together. Plus, you get a chance to meet new people and others you never thought you would from being part of a community. For example, we have not just professors who are part of the community, but others who work in the education sector and want to connect with professors in our community. This really has created a nice bridge between practice and education, which has been exciting to see.
  • Share and create new ideas. This for me has been truly rewarding for me personally, and I know this has been shared by other professors. Everyone has been able to share assignments, trending topics, asking questions and sharing ideas, and even inviting others to be part of the group.
  • Experience, along with knowledge, is the currency for effective groups. Knowledge of course is the ultimate driver for being part of the community, but you also have to think about the experience of the individual within the group as well. What are they looking for? What is motivating them to be part of this community?

However, with any group setting, there has to be some considerations that need to be made. You have to keep this in mind when you are approaching new groups and even creating your own:

  • Rules, community guidelines, and expectations need to be communicated and set. Those that do not follow the rules are no longer part of the group. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens where you have to ask the person to leave the community. If you clearly articulate the community rules (many FB groups do this) or set expectations on what is appropriate and what is not, then you will be fine. This doesn’t happen a lot. I have only seen one case where a person who was part of the group I manage is no longer there because of this.
  • Building and sustaining a community is a lot of work. A community is not vibrant if there is no engagement or interactions happening. Once you create a community, you have to be a part of it on a regular basis and lead by example. Yes, it is a lot of work, but the rewards are worth everything.
  • Keep in mind, there will always be future groups that will cover the same topics. That’s the beauty of social media – there is always going to be other groups that will cover the same topic in the space. I believe it is good to get everyone on board and the more the merrier. We can all learn and grow in our understanding together. Plus, with similar groups with the same idea, I do feel that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Remember, some of your own ideas can come and go by others, but no one can steal your brain.

In summary, when you are able to create a vibrant community that truly makes a difference for others, that’s what it is all about. I have been really pleased to see how everyone has approached and welcomed #SMprofs with open arms, like Elaine shared on Twitter the other day show the impact this group has had amongst professors and those in the social media pedagogy arena. Thank you so much, Elaine!

With that being said, if you are: 1) interested in connecting with professors who teach social media; 2) work in social media education and want to learn from others, 3) be able to share ideas and resources to connect education and practice strategically and effectively, you are more than welcome to join our FB group. We would love to have you be part of our community! We are also on Twitter at @SMprofessors as well if you want also connect with us there.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,