Social Media Game: How We Ran It for EDF

I posted the materials we used in the EDF version of the Social Media Game over on the project wiki. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how we adapted the materials, plus my recommendations for others.

Overall Modifications to the Game

Running the game for 30-plus groups in the context of a 2-day contest meant we needed to simplify as much as possible.

The biggest change was ditching the “Life Happens” cards. In the original game, a random card changes the parameters for the groups partway through. We decided that given our tight time limits and the novelty of social media for our staff, plenty of “life” would be “happening” without those cards. (If you have more time, you might choose differently.)

EDF is fortunate to have the resources to provide lots of communications support to our staff. We had to reflect how we support EDF staff in the game materials, so people didn’t, say, run out and buy six different subscriptions to Radian 6.

And finally, we had to accommodate the contest format. That meant two big changes: adding time for the teams to choose their entry into the staff-wide voting, and making the playing field as level as possible. We knew we’d get lots of game-time questions about what was allowed and what wasn’t. Since we’d be distributed into 6 rooms and real-time communication would be hard, the game materials had to answer as much as possible.

What I’d Do Differently Next Time

Not that there will be a next time for me…

  • Find more time, somehow. Most groups ended up staying late and feeling rushed. This was a LOT to cram into a small amount of time, and the sense of being behind added to the stress.
  • Explain the game better before starting. People didn’t have a good enough overview of all the steps of the game, which made it harder for them to use their time wisely, and led to a lot of mid-session clarifications that distracted from the substance.
  • Write scenarios with fewer choices. Groups got stuck choosing objectives and audiences, taking away from the time they spent on social media strategy. Even when the scenario said something specific like, “Choose a geographic area,” or “Choose a company or companies to target,” people ended up swirling around for too long. Our thinking was to help people feel ownership over the goals and audiences they chose. But given how engaged everyone was, I think we had more room to dictate the scenarios.
  • Design the cards for standard print sizes. The non-standard sizes made for unnecessary cutting and very frustrating conversations with FedEx Office (Kinko’s) staff.

Faciliatator’s Guide (see the PDF)

We had 12 sort-of-volunteer team captains leading the game, with one or two assistants in each room. We were asking them to manage a lot of chaos, and wanted to provide as much structure and reassurance as we could. We started with a streamlined guide and timeline from Teresa Crawford, and then simplified it even more:

  • We abandoned the timeline, which originally accompanied the guide. The poor team captains had way too much going on to shuffle two packets.
  • We edited ruthlessly to get the guide down to two sides of a page. We cut redundant columns, trimmed words everywhere, and hacked off anything that wasn’t essential.
  • We put everything in the second person and used formatting to highlight the most important actions for the team captains.

The guide seemed to work well — I got a really nice compliment from our HR training specialist that it was easy to follow.

Participant’s Agenda (see the PDF)

A couple copies of this went on every table. People didn’t seem to use them very much — they got caught up in the conversation, and the team leads did a great job of coaching people through. That said, I do think it was important to have them and I wouldn’t skip them.

The changes we made were very similar to the changes to the facilitator’s guide: ruthless trimming to make it fit on just one page.

People Cards (see the PDF)

We made some big changes here. In the dry run that Teresa moderated, we found that:

  • Our audience of scientists, economists and support staff had no idea what to make of communications lingo like “creators” and “joiners”
  • The demographic info on those cards was not helpful in thinking about their very specific audiences, such as recreational fishermen.

We replaced the research info with questions they could use to help them think about different ways to understand and narrow their audience.

I don’t have a strong sense of how much these helped people…they were definitely passed around and looked at, but since groups got so stuck on the audience part of the conversation, I would want to consider improvements.

Strategy Building Blocks One-Pager (see the PDF)

This was a new addition. We found during our dry run that people didn’t get how the strategy cards tied in to the tool cards, or to each other. They were particularly confused by the graphic on the cards — it took them a while to realize that the graphic was the same on each one.

We thought this one-pager made the connection more clear. My sense was that there was indeed less confusion than during the test run.

Tool Cards (see the PDF)

The modifications were extensive, but are hard to see unless you compare the cards side-by-side. This is the main place where we made the materials match EDF’s online communications support. So for example:

  • We ditched cards for tools that we don’t use (Bloglines, Social Mention)?  in favor of tools that we offer extensive support and training for (Google Reader).
  • We recast things in terms of how EDF staff will experience them. For one, rather than sending people to, we told them to come to the Web team and we’d set up an EDF-branded blog for them. (We do use WordPress, but our chief economist doesn’t need to know that.)

These seemed to work well — many of the questions that came up during the exercise were answered right on the cards. (People remained a little confused by Facebook fan pages vs. groups, but who isn’t?) More importantly, we don’t seem to have people charging off to set up services that we already offer.

And at least one VP confessed to “stealing” a pack of the cards to use as a reference later.


What this all adds up to is that the structure of the game is very flexible, and if you have the time, you can really tailor it to meet your specific needs.

But be sure you have the time! Making all these adjustments took many many hours, and it’s not something I would recommend if you only have a couple days to get ready.

If you have any questions about what we did, I’m happy to answer?  — post a comment or drop me an email!