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When my boss told me that I needed to raise my profile on social media, I was somewhat lost. After all, life as a part of the Fellowship Services team rarely seems to throw up the need to use Facebook, Twitter or what have you. We’re the stagehands of the RSA Fellowship; we keep the production going, pulling ropes, adjusting lights, making sure the scene is as it should be. And who, I thought, wants to hear about how the mise en scène is arranged?

But last week, I embraced Facebook. Five years after joining the site and four years and 362 days since I last looked at it, last week I finally had reason to sign in again. I’d only signed up in the first place to see my friends’ photos of my engagement party, and quickly became tired of the in-depth intellectual discussions that seemed to me to be the core of the Facebook experience – “I can’t decide whether to have a Rich Tea or a Hobnob!”, one friend would declare in frustration. “Have you considered the Bourbon?”, someone would reply. I couldn’t understand how anyone has the time or the patience to read all of this, let alone what the point of writing it in the first place was. Just pick a biscuit! Have one of each! Don’t tell the world!

I embraced Facebook, for I was imbued with purpose. I’m off to the Singapore Grand Prix this month, the trip of a lifetime, and there was a competition where I could win upgrades on my tickets and enjoy the “Ultimate Fan Experience”. All I had to do was dress up as the ‘Ultimate F1 Fan’ and submit the picture to the Singapore GP website. If I’d read the terms and conditions, I’d have realised that my picture would then be put on Facebook, where other F1 fans could vote on it. I didn’t read the terms and conditions. 

Quickly acclimatising myself with Facebook after so long away – it’s amazing how much you can learn quickly when there’s a need and you have fire in your belly...

I’m not sure my boss had this Ferrari nightmare in mind!

I then discovered that the more ‘Likes’ my photo had, the greater the chances of my winning the upgrade. I had two choices – ignore the whole thing and forget all about it, or embrace the challenge. Being a competitive sort, I obviously chose the latter.

A plan was formed. Quickly acclimatising myself with Facebook after so long away – it’s amazing how much you can learn quickly when there’s a need and you have fire in your belly – I posted the picture on my profile, and enlisted the help of some social media-savvy friends. My friends shared the picture with their friends. Within minutes I’d gone from three ‘Likes’ to ten. Then thirty. Fifty. A hundred and more.

I won the tickets!

This whole experience, and the reason I’m writing about it now, is that it’s really opened my eyes up to the possibilities and the sheer networking power of Facebook, and other social media sites like Twitter and Tumblr. It’s clear that Facebook is a fantastic free marketing and promotional tool.

From a colleague's Facebook wall

However, having been sucked into Facebook again – when I gave up smoking, it seems that Facebook replaced it as an addiction – I decided to explore this alien new land, and to my pleasant surprise I found that it’s used by hundreds and thousands of interesting, intelligent and inspiring people to share information, connect with one another and discuss new ways to solve old problems. The same thing that we do here at the RSA.

My starting point was the RSA’s own Facebook page – a fantastic source of everything we’re up to, and also a brilliant way for us to engage with non-Fellows (at the time of writing, 34,930 people ‘Like’ the RSA Facebook page). There you’ll find links to our latest blogs, reports, projects, animates and lectures and much more – if you’re already on Facebook, it’s a great way to keep up to date with the RSA.

Intrigued, I began to explore, and was directed by our Online Community Manager Matthew Mezey (@MatthewMezey) to Twitter, which is a wonderful way to keep not just up to date, but up to the minute with all things RSA. For example, we live-Tweet (I now know what ‘Tweeting’ is) from our events and lectures (@RSAEvents). You can keep up with the RSA Student Design Awards (@RSADesignAwards), or with any number of my colleagues (for example @RSAMatthew, @JamieACooke, @michaelambjorn, @Jo_Painter and @GurmeetSingh758). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re a Fellow, you can also sign up for the RSA’s own social networking site – an opportunity to meet other Fellows for discussion, debate or just to say hello! There are a wide variety of groups on the site, for example for regional, national and international networks, thematic networks, Education and Social Entrepreneurs. Fellows are all able to start discussions and post their own blogs.

So, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, learning all about the opportunities that digital engagement and social media sites can bring – it’s not just for big business and celebrities, it’s for people with passion and enthusiasm to share their fire with the world, and a wonderful way for the RSA to spread 21st Century Enlightenment around the globe.

I’ll check in on Facebook from Singapore.

Samantha Fletcher is RSA Deputy Head of Fellowship Services. Be the first to follow her new Twitter account here: @samfletch1979

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