8 Tips to Using Social Media in Collaborative Work Events

A short while ago I ran my first 3 day ASE event with twitter embedded as a crucial component to the design. Given that the topic affected a much larger number of people than the participants who were able to physically participate in the event we decided to incorporate a twitter element to the session itself. At the start of the session we were looking for twitter to provide us a platform to…

  1. Spread the work and messages of the event
  2. Enable insight to be generated from outside the participant group

Once we realised that twitter would form an integral part of the event we created a plan to use it which was broadly split into three parts…

  1. Before the event – we would run a campaign to generate interest and start to encourage people to follow the work that was happening in the event.
  2. During the event – we would assign one of our team the responsibility of posing questions that were being discussed by the participant group and of bringing any key questions or input raised on twitter into the physical space.
  3. After the event – we would pull all of the twitter conversations and messages into a consolidated story that would be shared.


Before the event

The most obvious thing for us was to determine a hash tag that would be easily recognisable and simple to follow (We used #GoodCareersGuide for this particular session) . With this created we needed to start spreading the word, we needed to start the event trending. To encourage interest in the event we decided that there were two important stakeholders to engage, each of which would need a slightly different approach.

Subject Matter Experts

During the design for the event a number of topics were identified as being crucial to the success of the work such as gamification and design thinking. Given the range of topics it was not practical to have all subject matter experts physically present for the whole event so it made sense to engage them in the work through the use of twitter. We identified those subject matter experts who we had personal connections with on twitter and invited them to contribute to the event. We shared the hash tag and informed them of when the event would be running. We followed this up by sharing the link to a website explaining what our client did and what they were looking to achieve.

Interested Parties

The second group of stakeholders we wanted to engage in the event were interested parties. This group included those individuals and organisational bodies who might end up using or being impacted by the solution. If you take a systems thinking approach to this group it is hard to identify specific individuals so we took a more open approach by asking prompting questions that would provoke people to think about the topic area and engage if they thought it made sense. Whilst doing this we actively asked people to retweet to their followers to widen the potential group. Lastly we looked to tweet behind the scenes photos and messages that would provide an insight for participants into the preparation going into the event and start to build excitement.

During the Event

During the event it is important to remember that there are a range of physical participants from the “I refuse to use twitter or any form of social media” to “I love social media and will use it at all times of the day”. Whilst extremes are not likely it is important to cater to the whole range and in doing so get as much insight and engagement as possible. For those who didnt want to or weren’t able to use social media we posted questions being raised in the event on our timeline, at the same time we took the most insightful comments and brought them into the physical space by scribing them up on a wall dedicated to thoughts and comments. To ensure that participants were able to see everything tweeted we had a number of LCD screens in the space with a twitter feed linked to the pre determined hashtag. Where appropriate we also looked to feed in comments to conversations that might benefit from the insight. For all participants we started the day by making it clear that we were using social media and informing people how we would be supporting it throughout the session itself. We used signs and graphics around the space to provide participants with twitter details and how they could get connected to our internet. There are well known difficulties of using something like social media in collaborative events as it can be a distraction to those who are engaged and an annoyance to those who are not. We tried to balance this by doing two things:

  1. Engage the unengaged using gamficiations and the subtle introduction of a twitter leaderboard. This was our first attempt at using leaderboards for such an endeavour and whilst we have definitely learned from the experience it it also increased engagement for the competitive participants.
  2. Highlight the distraction of social media. We looked to provide guidance to the participants as to when it was appropriate to use social media and when it was not. This is a difficult topic as it you first have to decide when it is and is not appropriate which isnt easy in itself. Do you allow it in small conversations where the work is less formal but as a smaller group the distraction is felt more greatly or do you allow it in plenary conversations with everyone present where the larger group can accommodate the distraction but it is more obvious to the whole group.


After the event

After the event, we wanted to share the whole event with both the physical and the virtual participants who were following our progress to provide one single point of view. To achieve this we created a story of the event that included the tweets from the participants, we did this using a tool called Storify which enabled us to embed tweets into a written story. In addition to this we have pulled together a marketting video that summarises the event. If you would like to see the Storify we created you can find it here.

8 Tips To Summarise

  1. Think about what you are trying to achieve with social media (spread the word, gain insight or both?)
  2. Plan your social media campaign in 3 parts (before, during and after)
  3. Identify a hash tag for the event and start using it as soon as possible
  4. Identify your audience and engage them on the media you want to use as early as possible
  5. Engage those unengaged in social media during the session (consider gamification tools such as leaderboarded)
  6. Determine when it is and is not appropriate to use social media during the event and tell participants
  7. Use multiple approaches to bring tweets into the event – LCD, ipad, hand written
  8. Summarise the event with a story to bring it to life for those not physically present

A meeting designed with Flow


According to  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi the Flow model maps a persons mental state whilst involved in a task dependent on capability and complexity. The ideal state to be in is that of ‘flow’ where flow is the complete immersion into a task or activity, this implies complete motivation to ensure that the job is done. According to Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi flow can be defined by following 6 factors:

  1. intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. merging of action and awareness
  3. a loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. a distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  6. experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Unfortunately ‘flow’ is not the only state an individual can find themselves in, where a challenge is perceived to be too complex they could find themselves getting anxious or worried and where a challenge is perceived to be too simple they could get bored and apathetic.

For any short collaborative intervention flow is the epitemy of mental states for participants to achieve during the session for three major reasons:

  1. More willing to share all ideas, even the perceived ‘bad’ one
  2. Accelerated delivery of work given the short timescales involved
  3. The flow state will create a desire to continue the work following the intervention

The question that remains is a simple one the the answer is somewhat more complicated. How do you enable participants to achieve this mental state?

To answer this question, let us first look at the criteria for achieving a flow state:

  1. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. This for me is the most critical, the challenge must not be too easy or it will be boring and at the same time it must not be too hard or it will be frustrating. The important thing to remember here is that it is the perception of the challenge not just the challenge itself. What might appear a simple challenge to one person is not always seen the same by another. A person’s perception is the real world distorted through a number of filters that have developed over time and as such is hard to measure and understand. To create a ‘flow’ challenge you must match task difficulty to individual capability.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. It is one thing to match a task difficulty to soumeone with the right capability at any given moment in time but how do you determine when the challenge is no longer ideal? Clear and immediate feedback allows the system to self correct and adjust the challenge to align with the capability or to reallocate resources to shift the capability to make the challenge seem more achievable.
  3. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This provides structure to a session and enables the participants to understand what they need to achieve in order to achieve it. For me, this helps to contain the perceived challenge, ensure that it is attainable and make certain that the individuals involved know how they are progressing against it.

Having understood this we can follow some simple guide lines that will enable participants to achieve flow in collaborative interventions:

  1. Ensure you understand as much as you can about participants capability – knowledge, skills, training, experience etc.
  2. Ensure you identify an achievable yet stretching set of goals or objectives for the session, consider a number of stretch goals to increase the challenge if required
  3. Avoid complicating the process where possible to ensure that the participants dont perceive the challenge to be harder than it really is
  4. Once the session has begun ensure you monitor the participants mental state, keep watch for behaviour that might suggest boredom or frustration.
  5. Where you see boredom in a group of participants it is important to increase the complexity to stretch the participants as far as possible
  6. Where you see frustration and anxiety you need to understand what is making the challenge seem too dificult. Is it the complexity of the challenge or is it the lack of capability in the group? The work might need explaining again or the group might need a specific bit of information or skillset added to it

If you want to know more about flow see this TED talk video by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

A gamified meeting

Over the last year I have been engaging more and more with gamification principles and concepts. A while ago I was introduced to the Gamification User Types, there are 6 user types that I am interested in:

  • Socialisers 
  • Free Spirits
  • Achievers 
  • Philanthropists 
  • Players 
  • Disruptors 

For more information on these user types from a gamification perspective please see Andrzej Marczewski’s blog on these user types here.

A collaborative session (be it a meeting, conference, workshop or something more), like any IT system requires an understanding of the users (participants or attendees), putting these user types into the context of this you have some interesting characteristics. Understanding the motivation and behaviours of each of your participants will give you incite into how you run the session and how you get the participation you require. This knowledge could even be used in the middle of the meeting to redirect inappropriate behaviour.

  • Socialisers participate to engage with friends and colleagues, they want to network and talk about common interests, these individuals are less likely to be interested in the business challenge at hand. They are also the individuals who are most likely to forward invites on to other socialisers and people of interest as this will make the session most interesting for them. They are most likely to attend a meeting if there are others of interest also attending.
  • Free Spirits  want to create, explore and discover newness, they want to get down to the new not discuss what they already know. They are most interested in talking about innovative or new concepts that push the limits of what is currently possible, asking the ‘what if?’ questions. These individuals want to explore, as such they want to be doing rather than being told, they are most likely to test concepts and ideas in detail.
  • Achievers want challenges to overcome, they want to learn and develop themselves. These individuals are more prone to boredom and will need challenging to ensure they remain engaged with the meeting. If a task is perceived to be too easy achievers will not want to perform the task, in some cases it is possible for achievers to create their own challenge and take the meeting off in a new, potentially beneficial direction.
  • Philanthropists are altruistic, they want to improve the system and help others achieve. These people are great to have at any meeting or collaborative session as they are always looking to achieve the common good. They are often the voice of reason when others are looking to help themselves.
  • Players Whilst philanthropists want the best outcome for everyone, players want the most reward for themselves. When it comes to the real world and physical meetings or workshops I personally believe that everyone has an element of player in their personality. Everyone asks the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ at some point in every conversation, they might not even be aware that they asked or even answered it.
  • Disruptors will push for change, these are your early adopters, your trend setters. These individuals can help make change happen but they will not always care whether the change is for better or worse. Disruptors are great individuals to have on board when you are looking to make any change stick within an organisation as these individuals will push for the change without being asked to.

In general people are not one or another type of user, they will be a mix of a number of different types that will change over time and dependent on the situation they find themselves in. If you consider all the user types you can ensure your session achieves the outcomes you have identified.

When you apply this understanding of the user types to this you begin to realise that you can get more from a participant group. The session needs to be designed in such a way that all user types are appropriately motivated at all times. This creates a set of questions that you can ask yourself when running through how any session will work from a participant point of view:

  • Socialisers – who will I work with? who don’t I know? who have I worked with already?
  • Free Spirits – what space do I have to explore the topic? what am I creating?
  • Achievers – how is this challenging for me? what makes this difficult?
  • Philanthropists – how will this help others? what is the collective benefit?
  • Players – what is in it for me? what rewards can i receive for this?
  • Disruptors – how will this be different? how does this change my work?

These user types have helped me think differently about my meetings and events, I hope they will help you too.

A spoonful of sugar…

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

Just a Spoonful of Sugar…

…helps gamify the work.

The famous “spoonful of sugar” song is from the 1964 Disney movie adaptation of Mary Poppins and is a great example of everyday gamification of mundane and monotonous tasks. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to watch the movie, Mary Poppins is a rather special nanny for a pair of children. When the time comes to tidy the childrens’ play room Mary Poppins turns the chore into a game and starts to sing…

In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

Having watched the movie again over this Christmas break I realised that for decades we have encouraged children to turn work into game, to find fun in the boring and to find interest in the repetative and yet it is only recently that we have started to explore how games can be used to improve our productivity.

So how do you make work fun and still productive? I believe the key to answering this question is in the title of this song and the opening 4 lines, in short the key is to find the sugar that helps to make the medicine more pleasant. Find the element of fun that already exists then exploit it rather than forcing something else into the equation and never forget that too much of a good thing becomes a curse.