— Dan Slee (@danslee) November 25, 2013
So, what’s to share from a trip to the Russian Ambassador’s residence in London for a discussion on how the internet shapes political decision?
Actually, quite a lot and not just that it’s a very large house in Westminster. And no, there was no Ferrero Roche. It was hosted by Jimmy Leach the former head of digital at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and had Tom Whitwell the head of digital operations at The Times and Sunday Times and Guido Fawkes blogger Paul Staines. Conservative MP Douglas Carwell began with a discussion on the birth of what he calls ‘i-democracy’.
Maybe it was because we are British but the alleged treatment of dissidents was not raised until almost the end of the session and it was Guido Fawkes who mentioned it in passing.
For all that it was a discussion about democracy and what it looks like and is shaped by the web in 2013 there were some useful take-homes for someone interested in digital communications.
Here are 18 things I learned from the event
- The Russian Ambassador’s residence is a mighty grand place.
- At Westminster, there are backbench MPs who have a greater profile than ministers in government.
- We are not yet at a stage where elections are decided by social media.
- E-mail played a major and unheralded part in the election victory of Barack Obama but it’s never had the attention that social media had.
- People really, really hate spammy or insincere emails.
- Digital democracy can also include unsubscribing from spammy and insincere emails.
- At the next election, the difference between the two largest parties is that the Conservatives are favouring Facebook and Labour are focussing more on Twitter.
- At the last UK general election, social media gave a skewed view of what would happen at the polls with more traffic for Labour not equating to votes.
- In Telford, the election of the police commissioner was won by a candidate who tweeted once and the one with the biggest online profile finished third.
- There is a feeling that it is only a matter of time before the UK government more closely regulate social media.
- Under current defamation laws, a 15-year-old tweeter is treated just the same as a newspaper editor.
- Twitter has democratised comment and there are political commentators who have been rendered obsolete by it.
- Until 1918, an MP seeking to join the government by being appointed a minster in a re-shuffle had to resign and stand again in a by-election before taking office.
- The smoked salmon at the Russian Ambassador’s residence is very good.
- The e-petition asking for Jeremy Clarkson to be PM wasn’t deleted when it was first posted because Jimmy Leach was ‘too tired.’
- The screening mechanism for angry letters is well developed in government. Less so for social media. Twenty people write on a topic and little happens. Twenty tweet and it gets seen as a movement and consultants get called in.
- A good blog is simply good stories well told, say The Times.
- Twitter may not be a force for democratic good. It’s owned by one company in America. The jury of history is still out.
That’s why with the Walsall Town Stories event we will try and use it to give an idea of the people who work in the town centre.
Twenty people whose jobs are often celebrated will be featured as part of the initiative on Friday October 25.
Starting at 6am, for an hour each they will be shadowed and their story relayed via @walsallcouncil before they pass on to someone else.
There will be a range of people from Walsall Council staff who do an uncelebrated job like the street cleaner and the trading standards officer to the market trader and the curry house worker.
Two things have helped shape it. The @sweden account which is passed to a new Swede every week and also the wonderful Kabul: A City At Work series which uses film and a blog post to ask who the people are who do day-to-day jobs.
Why those two? Because they allow a human face to develop.
When we did #Walsall24 a few years back we wanted to develop the idea to see where it would take us. It’s a simple model that can work in all sorts of organisations and the LGA have done some great things with it in pushing it out as a national initiative called #ourday. But it will be interesting to see how an hour of time can tell a human story.
You can follow the event by following @walsallcouncil.
I’ll whack up a storify after the event here too.
800? Really? Absolutely.
Chances are if you leave your house you’ll have come across something that the sector has done or helped with.
Trouble with such a vast thing that most people struggle to name more than half a dozen things that local government does.
“The council? They empty my bin and gave my next door neighbour planning permission for their horrible extension,” may be a common answer.
The struggle of how to tell people what local government what they get for their council tax is a timeless one and never been more important.
One way to tackle it is the Local Government Association’s Our Day which aims to put Twitter in the hands of some of the unsung heroes who do some of the unseen jobs.
Back in 2011 at Walsall Council I was part of a team which was the first in the country to use Twitter in real time to tell people what a council did across 24-hours. It won the inaugural LGComms social media gold award. It’s a model of communicating with people that quiet fascinates me. It breaks down barriers. It shines a light. It informs and educates.
Some tips on live tweeting a Twitter event
There’s lots of different ways but here’s some things to bear in mind.
Everyone thinks their day job is boring. But everyone else finds it interesting. That may be your 12th pothole of the day. But you use what to fill it? And it’s outside the school my children go to, you say? And the council has done 4,000 so far this year?
Routine tasks build a broader picture. You’ve got a team that cuts overgrown hedges. They do it every day. I didn’t know that. They’ve done 11 streets today. That’s important to the people who live in that street that is now safer to walk in at night. Tell them where and when.
Pictures work better than text. People are four times more likely to open a link to a pic than a link to text.
Yes, you can talk about programmed work. If you are collecting bins in those three estates then tell people. (See: routime tasks build a broader picture.)
Sharing the sweets is a good idea. Get the librarian to talk about her day on a library account. Get the museum to do something on theirs. All of a sudden it makes sense to have different voices.
Use the main account for sharing the other accounts. You won’t want to run everything through one account. Use several. Create some if you have to.
Get people to channel shift. If you’ve got a web form to report potholes promote it.
News is people. My old editor’s maxim rings true. Talk about the people who do the service. Bob the lifeguard or Keith the caretaker who has been doing this job for 12-years.
Capture it and share. Create a storify to allow you to capture what was said at 2.37pm that Monday afternoon. Tell people and embed the library’s story on the library pages. It’s more interesting.
Schedule some content. If you are sure it’s going to happen and to save you some time you can schedule content via something like hootsuite.com. It’ll lay down some background noise for you.
Avoid Twitter gaol. This is where Twitter doesn’t like you posting more than a certain threshold and thinks you are a spammer. Avoid going over 20 tweets an hour from one account and you should be okay.
Capture it and share it internally. More than anything an event on Twitter will be an internal comms thing. You’ll be telling staff about the organisation they work in. You’ll also be telling people about social media who just think it’s Stephen Fry eating breakfast.
Have fun. Be creative. Tell your story.
Creative commons credits
Hello Reader… I’d like you do me a quick favour.
Normally, I try and post some ideas, case studies or things that have impressed me about digital communications. If you’ve got something out of them then great. If that’s the case they I’ve a favour to ask.
I’d like you in the words of Deelite to vote, baby, vote. For a local government digital comms manager Carl Haggerty. Would you do that for me? And spread the word with your friends and colleagues?
Who is Carl Haggerty? He’s been nominated for the Guardian Public Services Awards and the Leadership Excellence shortlist. You can see the shortlist here – and vote Carl while you are at it.
Sure, there’s some great people that shortlist. There’s a local authority chief executive, a chief constable, a chief prosecutor and a bloke who is doing great things at the heart of government with digital. Each of these no doubt deserves the accolade of being shortlisted. There should be more good people in the public services.
But I’d still really like you to Vote Carl.
But I’d also like to tell you some reasons why I’d like you to do me that great favour.
Because he’s at the sharp end. Carl is digital communications manager at Devon County Council. It’s probably an unfashionable place to some. But it’s got a great recond in the field. They were the first council in the country to use Twitter. They have a good grasp about what digital skills are and people who are involved with digital are encouraged to blog as part of their learning.
Because they’ve encouraged innovation and learning. They encourage people to learn and share skills through innovative ways. They stage internal events that take a different slant at what they are learning about. Like this event that encouraged people to learn through playing a board game.
Because Carl likes dogs. Look at this picture. What a lovely dog. Another reason to Vote Carl.
— Carl Haggerty (@carlhaggerty) September 28, 2013
Because of localgovdigital. A peer led group set-up with the help of the LGA this is bringing together and sharing good work from across the country. Carl is chair. He’s really good at it and has got a good sense of direction about what needs doing. It’s starting to get stuck into some good work. Our blog is here. (Disclaimer: I’m also a member.)
Because like me Carl has been shaped by the unconference movement. In local government training budgets are largely a thing of the past. As the challenge of digital looms we’ve never been in a worse state financially as we are now. People like Carl are staging events to encourage learning for free. Because they want to. And because in an era of no experts we’re all learning and all contributing.
Because this will make a difference to all the above. It will. Honest. It will bring recognition and allow Carl and people like him to do more of the things that local government needs to do.
Because just imagine what kind of statement we can make. A bloke in Devon who is a leading light in making digital work better in local government who connects people using social media and who builds on them and gives back a heap of things can take down a load of very respected people to win an award.
How cool would that be?
Please do your bit and Vote Carl.
When I played for a 4th team in the North Staffs League it was also vicious grudge matches, a batsman who could only score fours and sixes and cows at cow corner.
My greatest contribution? Probably to persuade the club to be one of the first in their league to adopt Twitter.
Mostly, this blog is about digital communications in local government. Now my son has started to play for a team himself I’m more thinking about how a team can best use the 140-character platform. There’ll be lessons for all organisations, of course. Stick with me if cricket isn’t your bag. It’ll be back to Facebook and PR next week.
So, isn’t Twitter just people talking about their dinner?
If you want it to. You can just use it for people talking about bacon sandwiches. But you don’t have to. When you buy the Sunday papers you end up throwing most of it away. You may be interested in five or six subjects. Twitter allows you to search on those subjects to find other people interested in them. As well as experts, bloggers and magazines that talk about them. Social media is a conversation and Twitter is one way of chipping into that conversation.
Three things to think about:
Be social. Talk. Contribute. Listen. Check your replies and replay back. It’s far more social.
Be timely. Things work best in realtime. As they happen. Not six hours after they have.
Be a champion. For any cricket club to make it work you don’t need a digital native. You need someone who loves the club, loves cricket and has a mobile phone.
21 ways you can use Twitter as a cricket club
1. You can use the #cricketfamily hashtag to connect with other cricket people
A hashtag is quite simply a word with the # symbol added to it. On Twitter you can create one on any subject that you like. But you’ll find a whole bunch of people talking about the subject. During the Ashes, you didn’t need to listen to Test Match Special if you were away from a telly. You could check the #ashes hashtag to get an instant idea on what was going on.
A year or two second XI skipper Marcus Charman saw the plight of Langwith CC who were down on their luck and the #cricketfamily hashtag was born. It’s a hashtag where the good and positive side of cricket could connect with each other.
Marcus and Langwith CC’s tweets about club cricket flew back and forth, earmarked through #cricketfamily and other clubs began to use the hashtag to ask questions and swap ideas.
As is the way with the astonishing speed of social media, the growth of cricket clubs on Twitter (which has mushroomed in 2011/12), led to hundreds interacting and helping, from fundraising to friendlies.
You can read the full story here.
2. You can tell people when the teams are picked
— TABS Cricket Club (@tabscricket) August 28, 2013
3. You can tell people where the fixtures are
— Knowle & Dorridge CC (@The_Shire_) August 30, 2013
4. You can arrange fixtures through the @sundaycricketer Twitter stream
Back in the day if you wanted to arrange a friendly you had to rely on your brother-in-law’s mate who played for a cricket club. You’d send a text. You may get a reply. There was also an 84-year-old in Old Hill who used to act as an unpaid fixture arranger. But tweet the @sundaycricketer Twitter and you can arrange a last minute friendly or a tour game.
— Stowmarket CC (@stowmarketcc) August 27, 2013
5. You can tell people score flashes on matchday
You’re sat at Endon playing for the 4ths and you need to know what the 1st XI are doing in a must-win match. There used to be text. But what happens when the textee is out at the middle? Twitter allows you to post score updates as the game progresses. Twitter works really well as a place to post real time information.
Drinks at Bromsgrove X1 now 68 for 4, George given out , interesting decision but they even out over a career KP @BrewoodCricket
— Bromsgrove Cricket (@BoarsCricket) August 26, 2013
6. You can celebrate individual performances
So, when one of your players has played a blinder you can celebrate the fact with a suitable tweet. Even though they get bowled next ball.
SKIPPER LAWRENCE HITS A 100……..and then promptly gets bowled next ball?! Magnificent knock worthy of winning any promotion. 2nds 158/4
— Penkridge CC (@PenkridgeCC) August 31, 2013
7. You can promote events that are taking place
Post a flyer onto Twitter to share the events that are taking place that you’ve lovingly organised.
8. You can celebrate what younger players are doing
Good teams have a decent youth set-up. With the permission of parents you can add a picture of the next generation to keep parents informed and the children a pat on the bat. You’ll need parental permission of course.
— Chester-le-Street CC (@cls_cricketclub) September 1, 2013
9. You can tell players about meetings
Nets, AGM, EGM and all that jazz. The sort of things you’d like players to go to. You can stick it on Twitter as another way of reaching people.
To all those who will be attending nets on Thursday : We need to hold a very quick EGM after nets to change the… http://t.co/CsBC62dlJ3
— Bollington CC (@BollyCC) September 2, 2013
10. You can tweet what your ground looks like
Trying to tempt people down to enjoy a drink / play / make the tea? Maybe a shot of the ground in the sunshine may be a way forward. Here’s a shot from a Sydney ground.
— Mosman Cricket Club (@MosmanCricket) November 3, 2012
11. You can tweet weather flashes
With your ground under water and the covers on the temptation is to shut-up shop. Heck, no! Post a picture and show the world the puddles on the outfield.
Not looking so bad for tomorrow now but we are ready! pic.twitter.com/MnfMpg2eR7
— Quatt Cricket Club (@QuattCC) August 23, 2013
12. You can remind people they can come and enjoy watching cricket at your ground
It’s baking hot. It’s a lovely summers day. There’s a new barrel on. So, why not tell people and make them welcome down at your ground? Yet, very few clubs really open the door to the rest of the community when their ground is the best place to be anywhere in England.
13. You can recruit new players
When you are down on numbers a shout on Twitter can help you track down a new opening bat, a six-year-old who fancies a game or maybe an overweight purveyor of dibbly dobblies who can hold down third man and long off.
14. You can arrange nets
Every Thursday there’s nets staged at an indoor sports centre in Tividale in the West Midlands. It gets arranged every week via Twitter if there are enough people. Sometimes we remember to add the #jiminycricketnets hashgtag.
15. You can be part of the community
If the social club, community centre, charity or football team in your town, village or estate has an event and posts details of it online then share them. That way you are being part of the community and they’ll share what you are saying too. Everyone loves a sharer.
16. You can market events and fundraisers – if you are not too salesy
Nobody likes junk mail. That stuff that gets pushed through your letterbox. It’s not very social. Nobody likes the car salesman who is trying to sell cars to his friends and family when he’s out at the pub. So don’t do it. Think about a balance of things you’d like people to do and buy with some interesting content they’re going to find engaging. An 80:20 split weighted towards the interesting and human is fine.
17. You can post audio to the Twitter stream
Wollaton Cricket Club have a brilliant soundcloud stream where they grumpily interview each other as to how the game went. Soundcloud is an application you can download to a smartphone. It’s very straightforward to use.
18. You can post coaching tips to the Twitter stream
There’s a stack of free content that’s out there on YouTube already. Make the most of it. Here’s how Michael Vaughan used to carry out the cover drive like a young Dan Slee.
19. You can livestream a game
It wouldn’t be right not to round-up suggestions for Twitter and cricket without mentioning Wray v The Rest of the World which was livestreamed thanks to John Popham and others. Initially, this was a demonstration of how broadband could be used in a rural setting. But after Stephen Fry supported it it got global coverage. The story is here. But it does beg the question why cricket clubs can’t livestream footage on a Sunday afternoon. With applications such as Bambuser they can.
20. You can talk about how good the cricket teas are
Seeing as nothing brings people together like cake there’s plenty of room to expand on this. With pictures too.
Early contender for tea of the season at @StourbridgeCC yesterday
— Stratford CC (@StratfordCric) May 5, 2013
Twitter works best when you realise that this is not a sales machine but a conversation. You can contribute to the conversation. That’s the case whether you are a cricket club, a company or an organisation.
21. You can post pictures
Of the game that’s being played and the idyllic summer sky. Then in winter you can look back and in the words of The Kinks’ Ray Davies, prove that summer existed.