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Stewart Lee on Social Networking for Evaluators

My name is Stewart Lee and I am a graduate student at Mississippi State University, as well as an independent evaluation consultant. Lately, I’ve been working with other independent consultants as well as small business owners who feel the need for web sites/blogs/and social networking sites associated with their business.

The advent of FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and the like have generated a divide in public opinion and it’s not always age related. I know many AARP members who are on Facebook daily and several 20 somethings who have never been on Facebook. Why would evaluators use social networking sites regardless of age or desire for virtual social interaction? There are several reasons I can come up with off the top of my head.

  1. Hot Tip: Social networking has some of the best FREE advertising and marketing. I had the privilege to attend Dr. Gail Barrington‘s course on independent consulting at AEA 2009, where word of mouth marketing was hailed. Social networking is almost pure word of mouth.
  2. Hot Tip: While it’s easy to see how social networking helps those with evaluation businesses, academia benefits are there too. Social network sites can provide opportunities from encouraging participation in or a form of reminders for a survey, to collaboration with geographically distant colleagues or even to gather opinions or to conduct a field trial.
  3. Hot Tip: Education is (or at least should be) an important part of our duties as evaluators. The better informed and educated about the evaluation process stakeholders are, the easier our jobs are. Social networking sites offer an easy, free, and often fun way to disseminate knowledge about evaluation and the evaluation process. In addition, the setting gives the perception of peers teaching peers which literature shows is an extremely effective method of teaching.

On one of my blogs, I often post about evaluation or statistics and present ideas in a thought-provoking or educative manner. These blog posts then get fed to several social networking sites where many people see the information and respond in an inquisitive manner.

Rad Resource: Finally, perhaps the coolest reason evaluators should get at least marginally involved in social networks is that there is a wealth of data to be had within them. Earlier this month, Sitaram Asur and Bernardo Huberman released Predicting the Future With Social Media on Kevin Kelly‘s web site. This is just one of the latest examples of how researchers are using social networking sites as a pipeline to 100’s, 1000’s, or even millions of opinions. This study highlights, as one commenter noted, the idea of Surowiecki’s rules of a wise crowd. Tapping into this kind of resource could greatly enhance an evaluation if not be a primary source of data for it.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

2 thoughts on “Stewart Lee on Social Networking for Evaluators”

  1. Stewart, great post. I too evaluate academic programs as a means of developing new courses for my own training company and universities I teach for. I have found that social networking sites offer a great resource for information about what people are looking for in academic and personal development programs.

    Keep the good information coming.

    Dave Hale

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