What skills do I need to become a social media surgeon?

two people ata a social media surgrey laughing
A Social Media Surgery in Dudley – image from Gavin Wray

This was the question Beatrice asked me. She wasn’t sure if she could help as a surgeon at one of these events designed to support local community and voluntary organisations in a relaxed one to one format:

I would like to make myself useful helping other people and I would like to know what skills I would need to be a good social media surgeon.

I am not a technical person by background. I have, however, spent a fair amount of time on the internet and it would be good to know what skills would be in demand at such an event.

It seems I have a bit of time to mug up on skills before the event but I’d be grateful for any advice on where to focus. Twitter is my platform of choice. I have just splashed out on a camcorder and digital recorder but I doubt I will feel confident with these tools before the event. Can I still be a useful person if I stick to Twitter/Facebook/general internet skills?

Oh yes – very. The fact that Beatrice wants to help is really the most important skill/thing she needs – but I also replied with:

  1. Ability to ask simple questions like “what are you trying to achieve” or perhaps  “how do you use the web at the moment”
  2. Willingness to listen to the answers
  3. Enough knowledge/experience of say twitter or blogging or facebook to be a couple of steps ahead of the person you’re helping.
  4. Patience, willingness to ask for help from another surgeon if they ask you something you can’t answer (including ability to google to answer questions you can’t answer)
  5. Ideally a laptop or similar so you can show people how the social web works in your experience.

That’s about it really! A sense of fun helps too (see the pic above of “surgeon” and “patient” in Dudley).

For other thoughts on keeping it simple at surgeries please see our recipe and later clarification.


  1. I can remember turning up to my first social media surgery fully expecting to get some advice. Somebody, I think it was Jon Bounds, pointed me at some poor unsuspecting soul and suggested to them that I might help them out.

    I was a bit flummoxed by that.

    But, it turned out that I was able to help them. Most of what I did was sit back and listen, ask them to explain a bit more about what they did and then see if we could find a thing or two that might help their organisation. When I got stuck I was graciously dug out of a hole by another surgeon, Nicky Getgood.

    My advice to anybody thinking about volunteering at a social media surgery is to just do it. You’ll probably be surprised by what you actually do know and you’ll meet some interesting and often quite wonderful people in the process.

  2. Yes, Beatrice should go for it! No social media surgeon turns up knowing all the answers – social media is ever-changing so it would be impossible! But go, help out with what you do know and you’ll undoubtedly learn some things you didn’t know from others there! Social media surgeries are knowledge sharing events for everyone rather than distinct givers and takers.

    Ooohhh…. here’s a blog post I wrote about being both a surgeon and a patient at a social media surgery long ago: http://getgoodguide.com/?p=219

    Cheers, Nicky.

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