Social by Social Game

Social by Social Game

I’ve had a few people asking about the Social Media Game that is mentioned in the “Web 2.0 Tools for Facilitating Knowledge Management” training event that I ran earlier this week. The game was originally developed by Beth Kanter, David Wilcox and Drew Mackie, and has undergone a number of iterations and refinements, resulting in the “Social by Social Game“, which is the version I use for these training events.

The Facilitator’s notes for running the game can be found on the Social by Social website, reproduced below with a few modifications for the way that I run it.

You can play the Social by Social game in two ways – as a simulation around a situation that you invent, or “for real” in relation to a place or an organisation

In each case the sequence is much the same:

Delegates are asked to describe or invent a situation (a problem, or project)  that they are facing. I try to encourage delegates to think about a real work-related situation as opposed to inventing something, otherwise later stages of the game can become a little abstract if there isn’t a real-world context. This then is the scenario.

Delegates are split into groups of not more than eight people, around a theme or set of issues. Then each group:-

  1. Defines what they are trying to achieve:  the goals.
  2. Identifies the people they wish to engage, choosing methods from a set of cards. Cards have budget points as costs – so you have to prioritise.
  3. Think about the communication and engagement methods that are needed to achieve the goals, and choose the social media tools or other activities from another set of cards.
  4. Review the plan that is being developed and think about the resources that will be needed, and the roles to carry it out.
  5. Choose a number of the characters who figure in the scenario, and tell the stories of what happens to them over some months, or longer.
  6. If there is time, the Facilitator can throw in crises and opportunities for the groups to consider – e.g. key resources being pulled from the project, or funding being reduced.


You can play with any number from a few people upwards. Ideally you need two groups, so six is a realistic minimum to get useful discussion. If you have large numbers you just split into lots of groups. The effective limit is set by the time it takes for groups to report back – but there are ways around that: see below.


One or two people, respected by participants, should act as facilator(s). They should ensure that participants are briefed; organise the room; manage the flow of the game without being directive; and make sure that any report back and final discussion relates to the purpose of the exercise. They should check that people are clear about the purpose of the workshop, and help them reach useful conclusions.


You will need flip chart paper, preferably on easels, marker pens, one set of cards (engagement, tools, resources, roles), blu-tack, post-it notes. If you want a record, you’ll need a camera for photos and maybe video.

Establishing goals

Give groups a planning sheet, and ask each group to write into the top left quadrant their goals – what they are trying to achieve in the situation they are addressing.

  • Identify who you wish to engage
  • Ask groups to think about the different interests they need to engage with, and make a note of those in the top right quadrant.

Using the cards

Offer the groups the cards that they will use to plan their engagement, and then to develop their plan using the different tools and activities. I split the cards into the various categories and issue them in the following order as the group’s plans develop:

  • tools and methods (yellow marking)
  • engagement  activities (green marking)
  • roles and resources

Each card has a “budget” of effort/cost – 1, 2 or 3. Set budgets so groups can’t choose all the cards: say, 10 for engagement, 15 for tools. Ask groups to stick engagement cards top right, tools bottom right … adding their own ideas on blank cards or post-its, and amending cards if necessary. They are really just aids to conversation … so encourage as much discussion as possible, not just a mechanical exercise of playing the numbers.

After groups have chosen engagement and tools cards, ask them to consider what resources they will need, and what roles.

Reporting back

At this point, invite groups to report back. That could be to the room as a whole or just to the group that provided the challenge, if that’s the way things were set up.

By posting the flip chart sheet to a wall, then inviting people to wander round and review. That’s a good way of doing things if you have a lot groups, and limited time.

Variations of the game

  1. A slight variation of the game is that after the scenario and goals have been defined, the “challenge” is swapped with another group, i.e. the other group are now acting as consultants to the first group in delivering a solution that meets their goals, and vice versa. This can lead to some interesting dynamics and forces each group to think about how they present their recommendations to their “customer’ group.
  2. The Facilitator can introduce Resource cards where delegates need to consider how the project will be funded and maintained.

I’ve attached  copies of PDF’s containing all the material for running this game, that is:

I’d be interested in getting feedback from anyone who has facilitated or took part in this game and whether it achieved the objective of thinking first about the problem and then what tools are required, and not (as so often happens) to implement the tools before really understanding what problem they are meant to fix. I’d also be interested to hear about any other variations of the game that people have developed.

Below is a photo I took of the output from the game from the “Web 2.0 Tools for Facilitating Knowledge Management” training event.

SxS game

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