NASA is building a social network for Goddard Space Flight Center, codenamed “Spacebook”.
Spacebook is an enhanced Intranet designed around user profiles, forums, groups, and social tagging. The goal of the project is to use social media to help NASA be more competitive and innovative, encourage collaboration and information sharing, and take better advantage of the information & resources they already have. Emma Antunes (@eantunes), Project Manager for Spacebook, recently gave a great webinar to share how she approached this project, got the buy-in from users, contractors, and management, and other invaluable lessons she learned in getting this implemented.
I’ve capture my takeaways from her presentation on implementing an internal social network and listed them below.
- Get buy-in from the suits. You need a champion in a senior management office to sponsor the project. Get them excited about what you’re doing. This allows you to engage them to remove any roadblocks and they can give the bossy stink eye when needed.
- Approach it like any other technical project; Design first, technology second. Focus on solving a business problem. Don’t just jump into new media because it’s what the cool kids are doing.
- Be proactive. Get your legal support, privacy office, security group, and accessibility team involved at the jump off. Miss the boat on one of these areas and your project could get shut down faster than the revised Facebook Terms of Service.
- Use exisiting resources where you can. This increases management buy-in because you’re not asking for additional funding right of the bat. Try to re-prioritize existing developer staff and take advantage of internal hosting, existing contracts, and open-source software.
- Take the perspective of the employee to really understand what user needs are. What’s going on? What’s in it for me? How can I participate? How do I get answers to my questions?
- Don’t expect people to change their processes unless you give them a big incentive. If you build it they won’t come, if you make their job easier, they will. The new process must be easier than the old one.
- Get web developers out of the content game. They don’t want to do it and you don’t want to have to ask them for updates. And honestly, they cost too much money anyway. Let the people in charge of the material manage it.
- No content should exist without an owner. Integrate and complement content that you already have. Don’t just replicate it in a new forum that requires additional maintenance.
- Don’t give someone another inbox they won’t check, a new username and password to enter, make them request a new account, or fill-in information that you already know.
- Engage early adopters and group owners and get commitment from them to post content regularly.
- Even if your audience is a bunch of twenty-somethings, you still need to train them. We may like technology but, we hate extra work. Show me how I can use your product to make my job easier.
The Facebook Phenomenon – How Government is Getting Into The Act, on Socialfeds.
Up, Up, and Away! Five Tips for Launching an Internal Network, by Zack Miller (@zgovernment) on Govloop.
Kiss of Death for Social Networking Projects: “What is your Business Case?”, by Brock Webb on Govloop.
The Elements of Social Architecture, by Christina Wodtke on A List Apart.