Social Management for Newbies

Ron Burgundy

I’ve just completed another beginner’s social media management session with local authority colleagues. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done but in the past five years, the questions and concerns don’t seem to have changed much. So, if it’s any help to anyone, I thought I’d run through some of the common ones.

1 Responsibility

We’re very busy people who have little time to dedicate to social media

Delegate. Draw up a rota and take a day each. You won’t be on it all day anyway but at least everyone knows who’s keeping an eye on things. And when you have time, train up more colleagues to spread the load.

2 Strategy

Forget channels for a moment. Having a Twitter account isn’t of itself, an outcome; what do you want to achieve? Web traffic? sales? bums on seats? That’s how you can start to measure your success.

3 Planning

Sit down for half an hour and talk about the kind of things you could talk about. Why not create a spreadsheet for the month or year, populated with all the key events and diary dates relating to your service? Add national holidays and even major sporting events. There are lots of opportunities to piggy-back on big stories but as Ron Burgundy says, stay classy; there are some really clunky examples out there. Now you’ve got a basic framework where you’ll never be lost for words. This gives you space to get creative and be topical the rest of  the time.

4 Content Marketing

Be an authority. Make your account the go-to place for people interested in Planning, Health & Safety or whatever your department covers. Use trusted, credited content from other sources, videos, blogs, media stories. If you provide a wide range of content, why would followers need to go anywhere else?

5 Stand out from the crowd

Facebook posts or Tweets without images will be lost in the noise. Explore making micro videos; short 30 or 40 second clips on specific topics “How to submit a planning application online”. Facebook lets you load video files directly so that they play as soon as your customer scrolls over the post on their timeline. Twitter takes short video clips too. But always post on YouTube as well. It’s one of the biggest search engines, so tag your films with the topics you’re covering.

6 Find Your Voice

Authoritative but not shouty would be my best advice. Be friendly but not too chummy. If you’re not funny, don’t try and be funny. If posting on social media fills you with dread, go on Twitter and Facebook and lurk. Watch how other organisations do it and you’ll soon pick it up.

7 Listen and Respond

Pay attention. It’s called social media for good reason. Don’t bellow down your megaphone, you can have exchanges on social media, and being attentive and responding in good time builds trust in your audience. It also builds advocacy and that’s the best kind of marketing.

8 Measure, measure, measure

Facebook and Twitter analytics are free, use them. Try A/B testing messages; one with a picture, one without, different times of day. Learn what works but stay alert, things are changing all the time.

9 Be selfish

For your personal, professional development, get your own Twitter account. Follow people and organisations who do a similar job to you, find the innovators and the sharers and learn from them; I did. How else do you think I got started?

10 Pay It Forward

When you learn stuff, be generous and pass it on.

Finally, as a wise person once said “We’re all born stupid but it takes a certain kind of dedication to remain that way”. Everything you need to know is online if you care to search for it. The social media landscape is fluid; stay inquisitive, stay alert.

Fondly dedicated to all the sharers out there. You know who you are.

 

If you build it, will they come?

building blocks

Back in the sixties, when I was a kid, I loved to play with a well known building block toy (you’ll know the one).Essentially it was a collection of plastic blocks in a range of sizes. Some were grey and some were red and at some point in my childhood, they introduced clear plastic ones. With these basic blocks I built castles and forts, aircraft carriers and rocket ships. They were clunky and angular but my imagination filled in the curves. The point is, from those basic building blocks, I made whatever I wanted. There seemed no limit to the things I could construct.

Some years later, the parts became more sophisticated and were clearly intended to build a replica of whatever was illustrated on the box.

Now, this post isn’t about corporate greed dulling the creative capacity of our children. I’m using this as an analogy for public consultation. Local Authorities deliver stuff. It may be the management of refuse, a working road network, libraries (for now) and leisure centres. But in future, what will it be?

Perhaps if we began with basic blocks and not proscriptive solutions and had a dialogue with residents around that, we could identify what people need, rather than want. We could start with a snap shot based on known data sets and local intelligence at the hyperlocal level. We’d need to manage expectations and establish some ground rules. For instance, asking for a positive, can-do attitude. That isn’t about air brushing out failures. When we get it wrong we should fess up but airing old grievances wastes time and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Most importantly, the blocks don’t have to be three-dimensional because people are infrastructure too; they have interests, passions and transferable skills. If we harness those, that’s a lot of energy. And if you add those into the mix, you’re on your way to creating sustainable solutions. So, when it comes to public consultation and building communities, let’s see what happens when we don’t put a picture on the box.

This post was inspired by a recent conversation with Rob Francis @ThinkingRob on Twitter. Check him out, he does this kind of stuff for a living.

In Moderation

Consultation was always a hit and miss affair. We tried to run it by appointment but more often than not, the community centre would be empty apart from the local government officers and the tumble weed. Social media has changed all that. We need to pay attention now, because the comments and feedback come when our residents feel inspired. It’s useful stuff and it helps us design the way we deliver our services. Mind you, there is that other stuff too. And if you want to retain your sanity, it helps to recognise it for what it is.

Recently, I was listening to a radio interview with a moderator for a successful community swap & sell Facebook page. Like many such sites, it’s run by volunteers. Asked what takes up the most time, he cited the amount of energy used to respond to what he called the ‘me too’ brigade; people who see a comment and can’t help but add their h’apenny worth. We all know the scenario and we may even have done it ourselves in our private lives. But not all comments are prejudiced or misinformed Sometimes, a voice of reason speaks out as if to reset the balance. It put me in mind of when I first moved to rural Shropshire. A local farmer used to graze his sheep in the adjoining field to our property. After a few days, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The sheep would graze silently for long stretches of time but as soon as one broke the silence with a bleat, one-by-one, the rest would join in. After a short time they would fall silent again before repeating the process a little later. If sheep do communicate, I wonder if the last bleat has some significance and if social media moderators can learn anything from it? Hope you enjoy the following strip by way of illustration…

Sheep

Sheep

Sheep

Sheep

 

 

Evening All

Dixon of Dock Green

Dixon of Dock Green

Back in the sixties, the police were viewed very differently from the way we view them today.

There was something called ‘due deference’. It was a thing, you may need to look it up.

On our black & white TVs, Dixon of Dock Green epitomised the public perception of the police. Played by Jack Warner, Dixon was a mature, steady hand at the helm of public order. Each episode was prefaced by Sergeant Dixon addressing the camera, beginning with the immortal words “Evening all.” He would then set up the story for that week. And after the drama had played out, he would return to address the camera once again with words of reassurance to help us sleep easy in our beds.

In the intervening years, a number of real life episodes have dinted the reputation of the police for some. In the 1970’s, accusations of corruption and malpractice were met with closed ranks and secrecy which did little to restore public trust.

In the 21st century, it could be argued that the police are more accountable than they’ve ever been. Statutory bodies, PCC’s and formal public liaison aside, there’s been another development. For a number of years, the police have slowly but steadily been using social media to reach across the thin blue line and connect directly with the public.

I applaud the police for taking the risk because their lead has been followed by other public organisations…”if the police can do it”

So the news that, since 2009, a number of officers have contravened police social media guidelines is regrettable but hardly surprising given the scale of the operation. And if it serves to spark a conversation about the right way and the wrong way for public organisations to use social media, that’s fine. But, please let’s not start talking about restricting the deployment of social media by the police.

Bobbies on the beat, dog handlers and even helicopter crews are using social media. They’re sharing their day-to-day work and providing the reassurance that Sergeant Dixon did on a Saturday night. And that’s a good thing.

If Sergeant Dixon had been able to use twitter, I’m pretty sure he would have done #eveningall

Gone Fishing

gone fishing

The last time I went fishing, if you don’t count crabbing off Aberdovey jetty, was 1972 in Dartmouth Park Pool, West Bromwich. After at least ten minutes in a rowing boat, I became so frustrated at my lack of success that I ended up throwing my meat pie at the water. This tells you at least two things about me. One, I’m no angler and two, I demand instant gratification.

I mention this only as a precursor to an analogy that neatly encapsulates everything I learned at Commscamp14. As comms officers, we are essentially in the business of marketing. It could be encouraging people to recycle more or pay online instead of coming to the Town Hall but either way we want people to buy-in to something.

And whatever the proposition is, the principles remain the same, regardless of the channel; so. Let’s go fishing…..

1 The Stream

Choose your spot. Don’t market to everyone; it’s a waste of time and effort. Go where you have the best chance of success. It could be appealing to an interest group on social media using an existing chat room, community or hashtag. It could be editorial in an old school, printed community newsletter.

2 The Bait

This needs to be appealing to your target audience. Something glittering and attractive that looks very much like the kind of thing your target audience is regularly attracted to. For instance, people like sharing images of cute animals on social media. One council gets a huge response on Facebook when they post pictures of lost dogs – no accident. Plus they re-unite said pooch with owner on a regular basis. Result.

3 The Hook

The bait will be consumed greedily but on its own, it’s wasted effort. Tie it to something; a proposition, a call to action.

4 The Line

Tie the hook to a friendly URL that isn’t searchable. A tracking device is the term often used in the marketing world. In the case of Facebook, this moves your fish away from 3rd party metrics to stuff you can measure for yourself.

5 The Reel

So the fish is on the hook, time to reel them in. They’ve taken the bait and they’re on the line, the web content they’ve come to needs to be compelling or at least fit-for-purpose. Don’t generalise. The bait promised something, it’s time to deliver.

6 The Keep Net

Okay, I admit, the fishing analogy is wearing a bit thin at this stage but essentially, this is where you land your fish. If the proposition was to sign up to something or get into the habit of self-serving, this is where it happens; because, if you hadn’t already guessed, this whole exercise is about behavioural change.

Of course, our customers aren’t fish and, as you already know, I’m no angler but I hope you’ve found this useful. Tight lines

LINKS: Local Government social media marketing survey by Deeson Creative

Martin Belam, Editor New Formats, Trinity Mirror on creative content

Telford Brewcamp

Last night I attended the second Telford Brewcamp. The venue was HOME: Bistro and Coffee House, Lightmoor Village. It was a fitting location for a gathering that featured a lot of community action and social enterprise. Their business model is one founded on sourcing local produce whenever possible and using profits for charitable action…and the carrot cake was gorgeous!

The evening was ably facilitated by Peter Jackson (@pete62jackson).We were honoured to have Brewcamp veterans Dan Slee (@danslee) and Simon Whitehouse (@siwhitehouse) with us to add an air of authority to the proceedings and it was good to catch up.

But on to the business of the night – A few years back there were a lot of articles and papers written on the subject of social capital; the notion that within every community there is latent talent just waiting to be tapped. It’s true that there is passion and pride and often in unexpected places. What last night proved was that Telford has it in spades. Example: Telford Memories. Marcus Keane   created a Facebook group back in November to help people share memories and photos. It’s three months on and a staggering 8,000 plus people regularly follow or contribute on a regular basis. We heard from @dawleysue that her partner complained so bitterly about the amount of time she spent reading posts and viewing old photos on that site that she introduced him to Candy Crush so at least now he understands the nature of online addiction! But it’s not all about nostalgia. Telford Memories has spawned a number of community action groups. There’s a group wanting to save The Anstice, a much loved social venue in Madeley. There’s another group aiming to restage All Hands Round the Wrekin – a dramatic illustration from the early 80’s of people coming together on a grand scale.

Another example – the live streaming of council meetings by community volunteers. If your local authority is still naval gazing about the ins and outs of citizens tweeting from council meetings, this story may either depress you or give you hope. Jon Farmer (@viperdudeUK) told us about his small band of tech-savvy residents who approached Telford & Wrekin council with the idea of live-streaming council meetings and the council said yes. It seems they were pushing at an open door. A few tech iterations and they’ve settled on Google Hangouts as the medium of choice. The videos are archived on YouTube and key issues flagged with timings for easy reference. That’s accountability. As an aside, the team were a little disappointed when the viewing figures were only in three figures. But ask yourself, when was the last time over 100 people attended a council meeting? There’s a whole other discussion to be had around engagement in the democratic process but surely this demonstrates that there is another way; one that engages with citizens via the media they choose. A public meeting is an appointment to attend but if I can’t be there, I don’t have to be excluded if web technology is harnessed. Telford Memories didn’t get 8,000 followers by calling a public meeting; the meeting is on Facebook, whenever it’s convenient for you.

We heard from Jake Bennett (@JakeSnr) that Telford Crisis Network (formerly Telford Food Bank) organises support almost exclusively through Twitter. It led to one resident taking it upon herself to organise a fundraising charity ball and raffle. And they in turn have been promoted through another grass roots, social media driven idea, #telfordtogether. This micro-volunteering group was created by @telfordlive; a Twitter newsfeed trusted by 6,285 followers. The news is provided and shared in seconds by the TelfordLive community and is a good deal more agile than established news outlets.

I was there in my capacity as a trustee of the newly formed Clifton Community Arts Centre Ltd. We’re a group formed as a direct result of an Ideas Farm organised by Rob Francis (@ThinkingRob). The trick was to get the right group of motivated people in the same room and set the agenda early on. That’s to say, no negativity, no problems, only ideas and solutions and a will to step up to the plate. We wouldn’t have started The Clifton Group without it. We’ve launched a Community Share Issue and we’re building up a head of steam, so watch this space.

And whilst reflecting on all these ideas, it occurred to me that it may be the fact that social capital exists in communities but it takes a particular type of trigger to set it in motion. It may be local history, a sense of identity or shared experiences and values. But they are powerful things. So, if authorities wonder why there’s so much apparent apathy for engagement, perhaps you’re asking the wrong question. Rather than ‘do you agree that XYZ is an important priority to this locality’ try ‘what do you think is an important priority to this locality’

Perhaps the real work and energy isn’t in planning for delivery but helping people share their stories. If Telford Brewcamp demonstrates anything, it’s that a common sense of place can unlock social capital and set exciting things in motion. That’s the kind of place-making that’s sustainable.

Relevant articles:

Dan Slee on Brewcamps

Rob Francis on Ideas Farms