17 Jun 2008

Social media. Facebook. MySpace. Twitter. Wikis. YouTube. Flickr. Digg. Blogs. SecondLife. Good grief – where do you start? Like it or not social media is here to stay.

Last month, I spent a day at a workshop on social media presented by Jim Tobin of Ignite Social Media. I’ll have to admit that it left my head spinning a bit. At the time, I think I had only experimented with two of the 11 types of social media that Jim discussed.  But I’m determined to figure it all out and to figure out how it applies to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

If you’re like me, you grew up in an era when television and newspapers reigned supreme. That era wasn’t that long ago, but everything started to change in the mid 1990s with the rise of the internet. Then, things started to get really interesting with the advent of social media this decade. Now, you don’t have to have a license from the FCC or a multi-million dollar printing press to reach the masses. Anybody with a computer, internet access and something interesting to say can reach a lot of people. The flip side of that is also interesting: “old” media isn’t reaching the same numbers of people that it once did.

And there is both the problem and opportunity for organizations like Morehead. When I started here five years ago, we could place an ad in The News & Observer and count on a lot of people seeing it and responding. However, newspaper ads don’t get the response they did back then. Newspapers are falling on tough times. Just yesterday, The N&O announced that it’s laying off another 70 employees. So where are all of the readers? They’re here reading blogs. They’re on Facebook. They’re getting their news from Web sites that didn’t exist five years. And they’re probably in places that I don’t even know about yet.

All of that makes it harder for Morehead to gets its message to a mass audience. On the other hand, all of these innovations make it a lot easier for Morehead to deliver content. We have a very robust Web site. We’ve started sharing Science 360 videos online. You can hear the signature “Sol & Company” song on your computer. You can find our Current Science Forums on iTunes. We have groups on Facebook. And in the future, I think we’ll probably be making posts to YouTube.

All of this leads to, well, this … Morehead’s blog. We hope this will give us a different way of communicating with our audiences. For the most part, our Web site is a one-way communication vehicle and fairly formal. We follow AP-style guidelines and fret over the way everything looks and sounds. We want this blog to be different. We want this blog to be an ongoing conversation among friends who love Morehead and science. If you follow this blog, you may get the occasional scoop, find out some good tips about Morehead programs and hear the occasional bit of gossip.

I love learning, so I’m looking forward to to delving into social media and blogging. In future posts, I’ll be telling you more about me and what I do. You’ll also get a chance to hear from other Morehead bloggers. Until then, keep reaching for the stars. (I know that’s a little cheesy, but keep in mind, we are known for astronomy.)

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

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