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Social Media Strategies and Online Engagements: An Interview with Author Paul Signorelli

By Dan Bostrom posted 09-16-2020 10:46

Social Media Strategies and Online Engagements: An Interview with Author Paul Signorelli
By Raymond Pun

Today, social media plays an important role in disseminating information and communicating with various stakeholders around the world at lightning speed. We also know that there are some challenges with social media related to spreading disinformation and misinformation, trolling, etc. How do sort this out as information seekers, creators and professionals? What are the latest thoughts on social media for our work? In this interview piece, I speak with author Paul Signorelli about his upcoming new book called Change the World Using Social Media to get his insights on trends and issues with social media and online learning.

Ray: Thanks for speaking with me! Can you please tell us about yourself and how did you get into this book project?

Paul: I’m a San Francisco-based writer-trainer-presenter-consultant focused on lifelong learning, educational technology, community/collaboration, and, increasingly, activism centered around small-, medium-, and large-scale positive change face to face and online.

Change the World Using Social Media is the result of an unexpected contact on a Friday morning in September 2017 from Marta Deyrup, who contacted me via email to ask whether I would be interested in transforming a “Rethinking Social Media for Librarians” course I had been doing for the American Library Association into a book. Once I realized it wasn’t a joke from one of my colleagues, I quickly responded, and Marta set up a three-way videoconference call for the following Monday that included Charles Harmon, from Rowman & Littlefield. Charles, who is a wonderfully supportive editor and a great listener, responded to my descriptions of what I had been doing since originally designing that course, and, during that initial 30-minute conversation, he pivoted the project from one specifically for librarians to one that would center on the much broader—and much more appealing—topic of how activists (including trainers, teachers, learners, librarians, and others involved in lifelong learning) are effectively incorporating social media tools into their overall activism tool kits—a topic I obviously adored.

Change the World Using Social Media

Ray: What are some highlights from your upcoming book?

Paul: It’s a narrative-driven book, so the highlights are the stories told by people I interviewed and by others whose work I have been following through news reports, blogs, magazine articles, books, and any other resources I could identify and devour. Another point worth highlighting here since it’s a theme woven throughout the entire book is that some of those most worth following don’t normally think of themselves as activists but, because of the impact their day-to-day work has on members of the communities they serve, are spectacularly inspirational examples of how we can nurture our own inner activists in ways that produced positive changes within our onsite and online communities.

I look at people like the Canadian librarian who used social media platforms to bring diverse people within her community together for a neighborhood walk that strengthened the community; the people who support community development through their YouTube posts; and the educators who foster positive global change in lifelong learning through online interactions, and I remain guardedly optimistic that we can effectively incorporate social media tools into our efforts to shape the future rather than waste time doing nothing more than predicting it.

Ray: What's a social media strategy that you can share with us that most people often do not know or think about?

Paul: One strategy I’m suggesting is to keep your eyes focused on the goals you and members of your communities share—and what it takes to reach those goals. There’s a subtle difference between simply using social media platforms to post observations and posting observations with calls to positive action; I pretty consistently try to not simply toss ephemeral thoughts out there via social media posts, preferring to highlight something I think is inspirational and including a simple call to action that I, myself, am willing to take before encouraging others to instigate. The flip side of the coin is that walking away—very quickly—from those who want to troll or in other ways harass people online—deliberately “not feeding the troll”--leaves us more energized and well positioned to pursue those actions we believe can produce positive results. At the heart of that strategy is an important question: do you want to spend time arguing with people whose goal seems to be negative/destructive, or do you want to spend time fostering the sort of transformation that constructively addresses problems and challenges in the most positive way possible?

Ray: Now that everything has shifted online, what are we going to see when we come out of COVID-19?

Paul: Going back to a theme I mentioned earlier: I’m much more interested in helping shape the future I want to see than spending time making predictions that probably are going to be wrong anyway, so I’m hesitant to offer thoughts of what we are “going to see.” What I would love to see is the commitment the best of my colleagues are making: a commitment to working to create a new and better normal rather than wanting to return to the less-than-perfect normal that existed before the pandemic changed so much of how we work together and interact with each other. In terms of training-teaching-learning—which is what I believe is at the heart of so much of what we do in libraries—I would love to see us carry the best of the lessons we’re learning in terms of how to effectively engage in online settings and incorporate them into a blended (onsite-online) set of interactions where the technology remains secondary to the interactions we have and the results we produce. I’d love to see us promoting greater levels of civility, using our ears as much as we use our mouths, to hear what others are saying, reflect upon what we’re hearing, find whatever common ground we can identify, and working with those shared beliefs and goals to leave the world a little better than we found it. If Change the World Using Social Media contributes in any way to encouraging collaboration, I’ll be one very happy writer.


Paul Signorelli

Paul Signorelli is a San Francisco-based writer, trainer/facilitator, presenter, social media strategist, and consultant. He works to foster positive change through innovations in lifelong learning, nurturing face-to-face and online communities, and more effectively incorporating technology into work and play—with a strong emphasis on people at the center of endeavors and technology as a tool. He is actively involved in ATD (the Association for Talent Development), ALA (the American Library Association), ShapingEDU, and a variety of other organizations, learning communities, communities of practice, and initiatives. Signorelli continues to design and facilitate face-to-face and online courses; onsite workshops; and webinars. He wrote Change the World Using Social Media (Rowman & Littlefield, December 2020) and co-wrote Workplace Learning and Leadership (ALA, 2011); writes for a variety of publications and blogs, including his Building Creative Bridges blog and the ShapingEDU Shaping Learning blog; and can be reached at paul@paulsignorelli.com.

Ray Pun

Raymond Pun (he/him/his) is the co-chair of SLA’s Leadership and Management Division’s (LMD) Professional Development Committee with Rebecca Jones. He is a solo academic/school librarian supporting all library services and resources to his community of educators.