Friday, April 10, 2009

CIRM Facebook Likely a Pioneer Effort Among State Agencies

The California stem cell agency's use of Facebook, YouTube and Flickr seems to be relatively novel among state departments.

Our web searches did not turn up any other California state agencies with Facebook pages, but given the nature of Internet searches some may, in fact, actually exist. Some state college campuses (Stanislaus, Chico and others) have Facebook pages as does UC Berkeley. Most of the ones we looked at show light activity.

CIRM's effort is not the only Facebook page called the "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine." Another, created by Judy Roberson, can be found here, but it appears largely moribund. Another CIRM-related site was started by attendees at a CIRM meeting in 2008 in San Francisco.

The CIRM Facebook page does not yet appear to have generated major traffic. Only 55 "fans" are registered, as of this writing. It has been up since at least late February although it was just announced this week. CIRM's YouTube site reports 23 subscribers with 1,705 "channel views" since its inception Jan. 15. (The state has a number of YouTube pages including a state YouTube Channel, which has had only 33,848 channel views since March of 2008.) We could not find viewing numbers on Flickr site.

Low usage is normal for early-stage web sites. Driving traffic to a web site is a continuing challenge unless you have a brand name such as the New York Times or President Obama.

CIRM's Facebook page compares favorably in terms of usage to the U.S. government's Facebook page, which has only 489 fans but obviously a much larger user base.

The content on CIRM's Facebook and the other pages consists primarily of material that can found already on the main CIRM web site. Some links are provided to news stories about CIRM, although none of the stories contained significant critical remarks. The Facebook page does promise both blogs from CIRM staffers and interactivity, with CIRM personnel responding to questions.

CIRM's cyberspace efforts seem relatively low cost. But, web pages must be freshened regularly with new content and nurtured with marketing drives to push traffic. Otherwise they whither. In a year or so, CIRM should examine the reader numbers from the sites to determine whether its tiny staff can justify continuing these fledgling endeavors.

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