SOCIAL TOWN: Using social media to tell a town centre’s story

With Walsall 24 we told the story of what a council did across a borough in 24 hours.

With Walsall Town Centre 100 we’re looking to go a step further and tell a different story.

We want to tell a hundred things about the life of a town centre across seven days from May 17 to 23 2011.

It’s not just about litter getting collected this time. It’s the faces on the market, the people in the shops and what gets done to keep people safe and protect law and order.

In effect it’s the council, the police, businesses and other partners joining forces to tell people what they do. It’s also about letting residents speak with Q&A sessions for key people.

All these factors make up the life of a town centre.

In many ways, Walsall is a typical town. It competes against bigger neighbours in Birmingham and the Merry Hill Shoping Centre in Dudley 14 miles away.

There’s three indoor shopping centres, 400 shops, an 800-year-old market, a circa 1905 Council House, a New Art Gallery, two museums and a 35-acre Arboretum giving a splash of green on the edge of the town centre.

It’s a town with civic pride built on the leather industry and one that was once known as the town of a hundred trades – hence the name of this experiment.

What are the channels?

We’re looking to use the council website walsall.gov.uk, the Walsall police web pages, Twitter, flag up some locations on Foursquare and also keep people informed via Facebook. There’s even geocaching too and a Flickr group to celebrate the beauty of the town.

The purpose is not to use a whole load of web tools just for the sake of it.

It’s to talk to people on a platform they might want to use.

How can you follow it?

You can take a look at three main Twitter accounts as well as the #walsall100 hashtag.

@walsallcouncil from the council.

@walsallpolice from the town’s police force.

@walsalltown from the town centre management team.

There’s also historic updates from @walsalllhcentre.

There’s a web page on it to tell you all about it here.

Why more than one organisation?

Because what happens in an area isn’t just down to one. It’s down to several.

Why use social media?

Because it’s a good platform to communicate and listen.

What will it look like?

If you’ve seen Walsall 24, that was a barrage of information in real time. This is slightly different. There may be a background noise of tweets with more focussed on events this time.

For example, We’re live tweeting a pubwatch meeting, a day on the market and a Friday night with the police on patrol. All this is part of what makes a town centre tick.

What else?

There’s a Peregrine Watch staged by countryside officers, RSPB Walsall and the West Midlands Bird Club, a walk in the Arboretum and other things.

There will also be a chance to ask questions with Q&A sessions.

The full list is here.

Why seven days?

To show all parts of the town centre from Saturday morning shopping to a Friday night on the town to a regular weekday morning.

This is what linked social is about. It’s a range of voices from a range of places with input from residents and shoppers too.

Will there be resources from it?

With Twitter being the live action, we’ll look to pull together Match of the Day-style  highlights with storify.com.

Hats off to the following for their role: Kate Goodall, Jon Burnett, Jo Hunt, Gina Lycett, Darren Caveney, Morgan Bowers, Helen Kindon, Kevin Clements and Stuart Williams.

Pictures:

Peregrine Falcon on Tameway Tower http://yfrog.com/hs90k9j

Walsall images from my Flickr stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/


12 Comments on “SOCIAL TOWN: Using social media to tell a town centre’s story”

  1. pete jackson says:

    Great idea Dan – will watch with interest

  2. Sarah says:

    In the Guardian piece about Walsall24 you say: “A report from tweetreach.com told us that the audience on Twitter alone for the 24 hour period was 116,273. Our followers on @walsallcouncil rose by around 10% and we succeeded in shattering some myths that some staff had about social media.”

    Whilst these figures are indeed impressive, I was wondering how the success of the experiment/campaign was measured locally – did satisfaction with the council increase? How many of the new Twitter followers were Walsall locals?

    Broadening the approach to the whole town, over a week, will be extremely interesting, but I wonder how anyone will be able to get a comprehensive picture, the ‘whole story’, with such a disparate choice of broadcast channels – the summary on Storify will be great, but I wonder whether the more interesting minutiae of everyday life in Walsall will be lost amongst the wealth of information that will surely be produced.

    • Dan Slee says:

      Hi Sarah.

      Thanks for the comment.

      It’s a tricky one and touches on how you measure ROI on social media which isn’t something I profess to be an expert at.

      It’s really hard to get an insight into how perceptions were changed by Walsall 24. There used to be annual place surveys but as I understand it these were stopped nationally because of government policy. That would seem to be the best measure.

      As Twitter doesn’t give the same level of detail it’s hard to know a breakdown of our followers for Walsall or non-Walsall. But it’s worth remembering that one of our tasks as an authority is to build our reputation beyond Walsall as a place to live and invest.

      Using several channels – Flickr, Facebook, Twitter – means that it’s hard to get an overall picture. We’re using storify for daily highlights to bring content to the one place. I’m mentally thinking of that as ‘Match of the Day’ as opposed to the live action.

      Day One is here by the way: http://storify.com/walsallcouncil/walsall-100-day-1-highlights

      I’m also conscious that what works on one channel falls flat on another. For example, two or three updates is about as good as it’s possible to get on Facebook without people getting fed-up. On Twitter, although we did get one man unfollowing in protest, the overall trend is that people are happy to get lots of tweets.

      • Sarah says:

        Thanks Dan – I like the Match of the Day analogy!

        You’re right of course, social media is more than simply promoting localisation and I don’t think there’s any doubt that Walsall 24 made more than a few people sit up and take notice – not just of social media from a local authority’s point of view, but also of Walsall (perhaps more as a concept/figurehead/whatever than as a tangible place).

        Walsall 100 will undoubtedly expand on the existing understanding people have of the town which, as you suggest, can only be a good thing.

  3. Good luck with this latest project. Looking forward to seeing it unfold. Dawn and Wilf

  4. Oliver Mack says:

    Hi, great idea. I follow lovemiddlesborough on facebook and while it isn’t the same it gives me an idea of events and initiatives happening in the city. Good luck🙂

  5. […] more information, please check out this blog on Walsall 100 and also our own press release. If you’re on Twitter (and even if you’re […]

  6. Excellent stuff again Mr Slee, a really cracking idea.

    I’ve had a similar thought here for Devon’s communities and was looking to also focus on local voluntary action as well as public services. We have recently relaunched a community directory and i saw this as a great way to promote local action, services and volunteering – big society lite and all that🙂

    Can you please please please have this as a topic at #localgovcamp….

  7. […] 24 hour experiments in Manchester and Walsall have used Twitter to paint their pictures and now Walsall100 will attempt to stand on the shoulders of many platforms to weave a richer tapestry. Story telling […]


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