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.
Celebrate what you want to see more of is a good maxim for life. Which is why I’ve been been involved in a project that celebrates some of the best local government social media use not just in the West Midlands but, let’s be honest here, the best in the UK, Europe and frankly the World.
It’s not often in life we put down our pens, pause and actually celebrate the things that we’re good at. In the West Midlands we’re good at social media. Not just good but really good. We know how to do it well and we’d quite like the chance to do more of it, please.
That’s why we wrote the Best by West Midlands whitepaper which I’m hugely proud of. I strongly urge if you are intereseted in digital communications as a comms officer or if you are on the frontline you download it or you take a look at the microsite.
It offers a take on where we are and it shows where we need to go to. Why do I like it? Bercause it shows that people are passionate about improving the services that are offered to people where they live. Even when things are difficult and when their jobs are on the line. One local government officer postponed her holiday just to be at the launch. That’s quite amazing. But not if you know people who are working with social channels and passionately believe in the difference they can make.
What is the Best by West Midlands whitepaper?
This cracker of a thing is a 16-page report and microsite. It’s something that I’ve been involved with wearing a comms2point0 hat for the excellent IEWM. In a word, it is brilliant. Its brilliance comes from the good work being carried out across the region at museums, in woodland, by social care, by people in their community taking pictures and also by communications teams who act as enlightened gatekeepers who are sharing sweets and building capacity.
In one of the slides at the launch event I posted the words ‘Wake up London, you’re dead.’ This is probably overdoing it a bit. But only by a bit. But the underlying point of that statement is this. The community in the West Midlands that helped shape Best by West Midlands are not looking and waiting for an edict from London to do good things. They just are doing good things. They’re looking to other places for inspiration across the region and across different sectors from Monmouth, Cornwall and Northumberland too.
It’s the culmination of five years of work
For me, at any rate, this is a the continuation of a timeline that started five years ago listening to talk of the possibilities of social, to four years ago localgovcamp in Birmingham which changed how I do and think and to events like Hyper WM, brewcamp that I’m involved with and others like UK Govcamp that you can’t help but learn from.
How you can use Best by West Midlands
You can get tips of barrier vaulting past the gatekeepers
You can – if you are a chief executive or a senior officer – deploy some arguments as to why your organisation should be dragged along.
You can learn more about evaluation and ROI. In short: yes, you can. No, it’s not audience. It’s the numbers that are actually the ones that matter to you most.
You can learn more about the digital landscape in the West Midlands.
You can use the survey headline results
We surveyed 31 of the 33 councils n the West Midlands and boy we tried with the remaining two. We found that trust and training are barriers and that elected members were using it in greater numbers than senior officers. When 97.5 per cent expected their use to increase this is cause for concern. You can see the full stats here and here is a snapshot.
- All West Midlands councils have at least one Twitter and one Facebook account
- 85% of respondents said that is very important that their councils uses social media
- And 92.5% said it is very important to use social media in their roles
- Yet only 37.5% claimed their council’s usage was high
- And only 25% claimed that their council’s use of social media was effective
- 47.5% of communications people said that their use was high
- Training and trust are the biggest barriers to greater use of social media today
- Only 15% of respondents said that there were no barriers
So, what is the challenge?
Have we got everything nailed? Is this just backslapping? Actually, it’s no to both. While we think we’re doing a good job the challenges get bigger. Gritting is one area we’ve got nailed. Everytime we go out we tell people. But if we’re still talking of this as being at the cutting edge of where we are at with digital we will have failed.
The real challenge is to see how social can make a difference where it is needed most. Ask yourself where people within local government are most worried. What keeps them awake at night? Universal credit. Public health. Housing. They’re the big ticket areas we need to tackle that in truth we need to tackle.
Creative commons credits
Best by West Midlands report http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/9374406595/
Birmingham Pylon http://www.flickr.com/photos/auspices/3093305495/
Acton Scott Historic Working Farm http://bestbywm.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/twitter-for-acton-scott/
A major US newspaper announced plans to fire its entire picture desk a week or two back. All 28 of them. To go.
As someone who has worked on newspapers and now deals with them as part of their job that’s a significant step.
It also underlines in it’s own small way this whole ‘the landscape is changing and pr people need to develop new skills’ thing that I’ve been writing about for the past four years.
Of course, it’s really tempting to dismiss this as the death twitch of an industry that is on it’s knees and move on. What really stopped me in my tracks was a blog by Andy Ihnatko an occasional contributor to the newspaper in question the Chicago Sun-Times.
In it he recognised the pain this step was causing but rejected the idea that newspapers just deserve to die.
He makes an excellent observation that newspapers need to get new skills and as the web and mobile web get more important. What struck me was the observation that perhaps the web developer is now doing what the photographer used to do. Their ability to produce eye-catching content that brings pages alive are now playing the role the snapper and picture editor used to.
Newspapers are a machine, he writes, adding:
“The machine was fantastic at manufacturing what readers wanted from 1850 to 1999. But it now needs to be retooled to manufacture what readers want in 2013.
“What if it fired photographers, but hired more web developers, and gave that department extra resources? Photographs aren’t than just pretty pictures; they serve many practical functions for an edition of a newspaper. They allow for a more attractive page design, they make the newspaper easier to visually navigate, and they offer the reader an alternative method of engaging with the stories.
“ A well-designed, responsive web page does the same things…with the added modern benefit that it allows a story to look great on any device. “Your photos aren’t anything special” is an aesthetic complaint. “Your site goes all screwy when I access it from my iPhone” is a report about a bug that prevents the user from reading the content.
“The point is that if a newspaper really wants to double-down on the value of their content, having a great team of web developers on staff is critical. I’d be less concerned about the sub-par photography of a site than I would about a site that’s hard to read on the device of my choice.”
So in summary, web developers are critical.
When you consider how mobile-first my own life is that has a ring of truth. My holiday frustration at the webpage that doesn’t show on my mobile to tell me the swimming pool opening times, for example.
What are the lessons for local government comms people?
It’s the importance of knowing that to present your story on the web you’ll need to present it well and in a way that people can read it. It’s getting more important that you’ll need a good web developers in your team to help you tell your story.
It also means that submitted pictures to newspapers in times of cut picture desks have real value. For now.
So, it’s back to that changing landscape stuff again really, isn’t it?
Job descriptions we used to have don’t hold up anymore. There used to be a dedicated customer services team but as Eddie Coates-Madden has said on many occasions we’re all now customer services now.
Why? Because once you start to use digital channels you open a door to anew world. It’s one where people can talk back to you, ask questions, be snarky, be nice and to ask why haven’t the bins gone out.
Customer services on Twitter really fascinates me. For the first 18 months using @walsallcouncil I was it. When I asked for Christmas Day dinner to be postponed for 10 minutes because we were going out gritting and I had to tweet it I kind of new I was probably in too deep.
There is a rather fascinating new Twitter that has sprung out of leftfield. It’s called @whs_carpet and it tweets pictures of carpets in WH Smiths branches across the country.
How niche! I hear you say. You’d be right. But what this does is actually shine a light on the customer services and priorities of this High Street and train station shop for newspapers, books, pens and bars of chocolate for a pound.
Biscuits? Sand? pic.twitter.com/cY0fC51XWX
— WHS_Carpet (@WHS_Carpet) June 30, 2013
It’s also really quite fascinating.
What it says in a very subtle way is say that if the shop can’t be bothered about the state of the floor, what does it say about how it treats its staff and its customers?
Or more directly, the impression you get from the stream is (parental advisory required)
The subtext revealed by @WHS_Carpet is, basically, “we don’t give a fuck about our shops or our workers, just buy our stuff and piss off”
— Pete Hindle (@petehindle) July 3, 2013
But Dan, this is supposed to be a blog about comms and social media? Yes, it is. But we’re all customer services now, remember? Besides, I’d love to see how the WM Smiths comms team – and customer service – address it. Right now, it’s an elephant in the room and no-one from the organisation, as they say, has been available to talk about the biscuit crumbs in Brighton, the worn vinyl in Hitchin or the growing stain on the company’s reputation.
You can also read Stefan Czerniawski’s post on poorly handled online customer service complaints here.
Creative commons credit