The issue of social media bubbles has become a bubble of its own just lately.
Post-Trump, post-Brexit and post-truth the issue is this. People build their own bubble from people of a smilar view.
Driving home today listening to Radio 4 I came upon a rather excellent programme Bursting the Social Media Bubble. The iplayer link is here. It’s worth a listen.
Euan Semple has in the past written about there being volume control on the mob. I get that. Nobody wants to see some of the vile abuse you don’t have to go far to see. But what about reasonable people who have a contrary view? They’re not the mob. So, what about them?
Just recently the excellent Alan Oram from Alive With Ideas spoke about the need to have some naysayers in the mix. Why? Because if everything is excellent and amazing you are not getting the bit of challenge you sometimes need.
Besides, without a contrary voice we’re not exercising critical thinking and testing out what we think.
As BBC presenter Bobby Friction says:
“Social media is no longer a simple medium where we just chat and wish each other a happy birthday. It IS now the media. We need to start looking at our own social media bubble because we do have some control.”
Looking at Facebook side-byside
The Wall Street Journal’s Blue Feed Red Feed tackles the issue of rival bubbles by displaying the same subjects side-by-side. It shows Facebook posts about limited key words. Although US, as an exercise it’s fascinating. But does it tackle the issue? Not really.
A danger to you as a comms person as a filter bubble
Across the UK, the population feels as though it has never been more fractured or diverse. My Dad has a Facebook account and never uses it. He’ll watch the Six O’Clock news religiously. My niece gets her news from Facebook. My daughter watches BBC Newsround at school. How we consume the media is diverse.
A risk of a filter bubble is that you think the UK is made-up of likeminded people who all check their smartphones within five minutes of waking up. Newsflash: it isn’t.
But I also think that the forward thinking comms person needs to think about how to enter social media bubbles too. The Facebook group that carps about the council. The community page that is suspicious of the police. We need to be there too.
You can start with your Facebook algorithm
You can start with your own Facebook timeline.
You may have 300 friends. You are only seeing a skim of things from people you’ve regularly interacted with before. You don’t interact with those people? You won’t see them.
So, to widen out the views you are hearing from your friends there’s a tip.
Go to the Facebook home page.
Go to the News Feed in the top left hand corner and click. You’ll get a two-option text box.
Select: Most recent rather than top stories.
Give me a shout if I can help. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org and @danslee.
Picture credit: Federico Feroldi / Flickr
Look after social media accounts? There are a series of questions you need to ask and depending on the answers you may need to delete the account.
Over the past few year we’ve run a series of comms reviews on organisations. Social media has formed part of that. We’ll look at how well they are performing and give advice. Often people know they need to but don’t always have the time or the expertise.
What stuck out was the number of social media accounts operated by different sectors. You can see the findings here:
The optimum number of social media accounts for an organisation
It got me to thinking about what the optimum number of accounts for an organisation was. Really that depends on the organisation. It depends on its staff and it depends upon who is the audience.
In the comms2point0 survey, the stats for fire, police and ambulance really stuck out. On average each service has almost 50 social media accounts. Very often they are frontline staff, teams or stations. A local face for the service can work well.
But once a year at least I think every organisation needs to take a long hard look at itself just to check if they are on the right path. If you are responsible for an organisation’s social media footprint that means asking some tough questions and yes, it’ll mean going through the accounts forensically.
Some questions to ask during a social media review
What are the channels? Make a list of all the accounts attributed to an organisation.
Who has access? It sounds straight forward but so many organisations don’t keep a list of those with access or their email address. Let alone store that in one place where it can be easily accessed.
When was the last time they were updated? Look to see how active they’ve been. An account gathering dust probably isn’t much use.
How many times did they post content in the last seven days? It’s a simpole metric but it gives a snapshot.
How many replies did they get? Again, a simple metric but the more activity there is shows how engaged poeople feel with it. Engagement is good.
How many replies did they respond with? But once people engage with it you need to take a look at how they are responding. An account that blanks all people’s questions isn’t a good one.
What’s the balance of content? I’ve argued for a long time that an 80 – 20 split is desirable. The 80 is the human content that’s the bright picture or the meme. The 20 is the call to action. Mess this up at your peril.
Are they embeded on the right webpage? It’s fine having an account that speaks on behalf of a team. Or even an individual from that team. But is that account embeded in the relevant page on the organisation’s website?
Do they help tackle the organisation’s aims? In other words, do they make a difference and help important people sleep at night? Can this be quantified?
When you carry out your social media review, you’ll find some surprises. Very often, you’ll find a third of the accounts in an organisation are prospering, a third need a helping hand and a third probably need closing down. Don’t shirk at closing down accounts if they need to be closed.
So, don’t go for big numbers. Go for the right numbers.
Shout if I can help. I’m email@example.com or @danslee.
Picture credit: Johnny Silvercloud / Flickr.
This cropped up as a Facebook memory thing this morning. It’s brilliant.
Take a look at it here:
“She took a screenshot of his snapchat and he tried to deny it, he said I didnae like her instagram, I just liked her facebook post that was a screengrab of her instagram, it wisnae her actual instagram.”
If you need to know how the youngstrells are communicating with each other, it’s marvellous.
By the way, this is a YouTube of the actual embedded Facebook. Not a screenshot of their instagram.
“I love newspapers,” legendary Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once said, “But I’m intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet.”
I get that.
It’s hard not to be a participant or a watcher in the media landscape in 2016 without being fascinated at how fast it evolves.
There was an excellent interview by Alex Spence on political website politico with the outgoing director of communications at the Prime Minister’s Office. Craig Oliver spent six years in the post. Leave politics aside, he has some really useful observations. You can read full post here. Here are a few highlights:
On the changing political media: “The reality is that we are not in a 24/7 news cycle. We are in a 360-degree, 3D news cycle, when news is coming at you all the time, constantly, and the next headline is not the top of the next hour on a 24-hour news station, but in the time it takes for somebody to type out a tweet.”
On which media — TV, radio, newspapers, digital, social — now has most influence on political news: “You’re saying, ‘Is the TV news the most important thing?’, and actually that feels slightly dated as a question. Yes it’s massively important but I still think, what are we saying to the newspapers, what are we saying to the broadcasters, what are we saying to social media, I treat each of those quite equally. They all bleed into each other. Increasingly you have news organisations that do websites, podcasts, vodcasts, you know, essentially mini-TV programs, little videos, little audio bites, it’s all merging together. It’s how are you impacting traditional newspapers, how are you impacting the traditional broadcasters, how are you having an effect on social media and that kind of digital world. It is starting to mesh and move but you still do have to think in each of those three ways about each story.”
On the enduring influence of the newspapers: “Anybody who did this job who didn’t think that newspapers had a very powerful influence on the political debate in this country would not be understanding the situation properly.”
These are points that any comms, PR or social media person needs to understand. It echoes something I’ve been saying for a while. Know your landscape. Know your stats. Don’t be a channel fascist and close things out entirely. Use the best channel. Not the sexiest.
Picture credit: Hakan Dahlstrom / Flickr
Ladies and gentlemen, a period of mourning, please. The internet is over. Switch it off. There’s no more to see.
What has happened? Sgt Colin Taylor has left the Isles of Scilly Police Facebook page.
He has returned to the mainland with his family.
The page, I’m sure will go on, but the man who helped make the page the best public sector social media page has moved on.
If you’ve not come across the page you can find it here.
It is the police Facebook page for the Scilly Islands which can be found off the southern tip of Cornwall.
It’s page describes it thus:
“Like Heartbeat but less frenetic. Policing is like this everywhere but not everywhere is Scilly.”
In numbers, there are less than 3,000 people living on the islands and yet the page drew an audience of more than 50,000. It succeeded quite simply because it was human. Wryly witty and always professional it was clear there was a human behind it. This was why it succeeded.
I have two hopes. Firstly, that whoever takes it on continues in the same spirit but isn’t overawed. And secondly, that Sgt Taylor continues to use social media for his next role in the police. He is worth 500 community police officers.
If you’ve not come across him, he’s also on Twitter here.
This nisn’t messing about on the internet. This is being human and educational so when support is needed, as Sgt Taylor, has said, he could police the island with 50,000 helpers.
Five examples of Isles of Scilly Police public sector social media brilliance
The one when they crowd-sourced the Running Man video
People will look back at 2016 and wonder where there were so many meme videos of police dancing to an obscure dance track.
What started as a joke by one police force spread around the world and when New Zealand bobbies nominated Scilly Police the team there is an example of perfect community engagement crowdsourced support. You can see the video on Facebook here.
The one with the ball bearing gun
Did you know the law about guns? I didn’t until I read an account of a conversation with a visitor to the island.
The one with the lost property
Ever wondered what happens when cuddly toys go missing? They put out witness appeals.
The one with the picture of the harbour
Some places are jst lovely to look at and the Scilly Isles are one of them. So, an operation to fight crime in the harbour has to have an image of the place, doesn’t it?
The one where Welsh football fans are reminded where to tinkle
Everyone loves a happy football supporter. But the problem of tinkling revellers is an issue to tackle on Facebook with a gentle reminder.
There is a debate that runs that public sector people shouldn’t put themselves into social media. This is cobblers. Of course they should. Being human is one of the traits that public sector people need.
There’s a downside when they move on, sure. Morgan Bowers’ much-missed @walsallwildlife Twitter went from the web when she left Walsall Council. But the fact that there is a hole when people move on shows just what a good job they do. Online and offline.
A thousand flowers are blooming in this new era of digital communications.
Amazing things are happening, new rulebooks are being written and old ones tossed away.
But if you are too busy growing roses you won’t spot the great things happening.
Or in other words, look outside your own corner of the world and you’ll find great things.
And so it is with fire and rescue services not just across the UK but across the world. I’ve done some work in the sector and got to know some people and I’ve always left with knew ideas on how to do things.
Often, people in the sector don’t realise just how great their work is. Less in number than local and central government comms people from the sector communicate to save lives and to prevent them. I’d love them to be bolder. They don’t just get you to test your smoke alarm. They save lives.
One myth exploded, though. In the UK the comms is not geared up primarily for documenting heroic rescue. Prevention is better than cure. Statistics say there were 258 fatalities in the 12-months to March 2015 and 3,225 were taken to hospital. There were almost 155,000 fires. This is the second lowest in UK history.
Fire comms people need to move from the pedestrian pace of advice to business to communicating death and sometimes the death of their own colleagues. That takes guts. Not everyone can do this.
There is a community of fire communicators
The FirePRO organisation is the umbrella group for the sector and a bright bunch they are too. But Twitter also connects them not just across the UK but far further. The fact I asked a question about best practice on a Friday night and got a pile of responses is perfect evidence. Neil Spencer from West Midlands fire describes this as a ‘can do, will do, let’s give it a try attitude.’
Here are 14 things you can learn from fire comms
#1 Using planning to get your shizzle ready
Nobody wants an emergency. But they tend to happen and when they do public sector comms people have to react. I’ve lost count of the number of blank faces in local government when I ask what they’d do if a plane crashed, a bomb went off or a tower block started to fall down. Not so fire and rescue.
As award-winning Bridget Aherne wrote in a blog post for comms2point0:
“The way to sum this up quickly – and sorry to anyone who knows me because you’ll have heard me utter this phrase, annoyingly, hundreds of times before – you have to be proactive about your reactive communications.”
Lesson: Good comms planning always helps.
#2 Using Periscope for realtime situation reports
Lesson: If an incident is breaking live video from the scene to give situation reports has real value and can plug into online networks as well as media organisations.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 18-months co-delivering workshops on making effective video for comms. It teaches people to plan, edit, shoot and post video. However, in an emergency the value is not the well-shot video. The value is have video footage from that particular spot at that particular time. Why? So you can communicate with people in realtime. In the UK, there is a duty on comms people in local government, fire, police and other agencies to warn and inform.
As this US example shows, a firefighter giving a commentary or even a brief situation report – has value. Don’t forget anyone with a smartphone and the Periscope app has the ability to fill that information vacuum. Questions can also be posed by people following the stream and answered by fire crew.
In an era where video is highly sought by media organisations online to be in the frontline is priceless.
— EPN564 (@EPN564) July 22, 2016
#3 Using a hashtag
Lesson: A simple sharable hashtag can help spread a campaign.
One of the greatest uses of a hashtag by anyone in the public sector is the excellent #testittuesday tag. Started by Norfolk Fire and rescue it is that brilliant thing of basic advice shared as a hashtag. It encourages people every Tuesday to test their smoke alarm. As basic good advice it can be hard to measure the effectiveness or the fires that didn’t happen because of a test.
— Norfolk Fire Service (@Norfolkfire) April 19, 2016
#4 Using Instagram as a channel
Lesson: Instagram can be used for soft power. Images of the work people to do interspersed with more serious messages.
Services across the world are starting to make headway with Instagram. Really, there’s no surprise. It’s not like there’s nothing to photograph. If there isn’t a fire there’s the equipment or the staff in the equipment. Kent Fire and Rescue Service excell in this area. A stream that is engaging, fun and personable people could do worse than looking at this.
A photo posted by Fire and Rescue (@kentfirerescue) on Jul 12, 2016 at 5:41am PDT
#5 Using mapping
Lesson: Maps can communicate with the media and residents and reduce avoidable contact.
Back when I was a journalist we made a round of calls to fire stations on our patch at 7.30am, 1pm and 10pm. There were six in our patch and a further 14 in surrounding areas which we sort of covered. That’s 60 calls a call.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have a mapping page embedded in their website which gives news of incidents with some basic details. They also post images and videos which can be used with a credit. This must cut the amount of time on routine calls. Hats off to Sarah Roberts for this.
#6 Using the social web as a firefighter and human being
Lesson: People respond to people so let your people.
One thing I’ve long argued for is for public sector people to use social media as themselves. There’s far greater cut-through. People connect better to real people than a logo. So, it’s always inspiring to see real people doing just that. Thanks to @rubonist on Twitter for flagging this.
— Thanh Nguyen (@PIOthanhn) July 29, 2016
#7 Using the social web as a senior officer
Lesson: Using the social web allows senior people to be visible and to listen better. It also allows partners and the organisation to better understand their thinking and priorities.
There has been a trend in recent years of senior public sector people using Twitter to engage, listen, share ideas and give some visibility to yourself.
— Dave Walton (@WYFRSDaveWalton) July 29, 2016
#8 Using embedded social media video
Lesson: Embedding video to drop into people’s timelines can be a good way to communicate.
Sometimes things don’t always go to plan as this incident which saw five people die in Nechells, Birmingham. Video content posted to Twitter shared the press conference to the community. This could have been uploaded to Facebook too.
Press conference given by area commander Ben Brook at Nechells site pic.twitter.com/41OISXyNve
— Jasbir Authi (@JABhammail) July 7, 2016
#9 Using humour and newsjacking
Lesson: Being creative about your communications and the channels you use can pay off.
As London Fire Brigade showed in their epic news jacking of the racy film 50 Shades of Grey imagination on comms works. A campaign followed in the wake of the film to talk about the number of times people had called for help with locked handcuffs, penis rings and other rather embarrassment-creating problems. The #50shadesofred campaign is a benchmark in public sector comms. Data driven it used a range of channels.
#10 Using data to allow people to build their own picture
Lesson: Data can be turned into something searchable to give people street-level insight.
Everyone’s experience is different. This is why it is refreshing to see West Midlands Fire Service use their incident data to allow you to search by postcode to see what incidents happened in your neighbourhood.
#11 Using Flickr as an image library
Lesson: A Flickr library can make thousands of images available for re-use.
Social photo storage site Flickr may not have the sexiness as Snapchat but as a place to be your public image library it remains peerless. There are several organisations in the UK using it well. However, the US use is the benchmark. Los Angeles Fire Department post images to the stream. They have almost 20,000 images. With an open licence anyone can use them. As the argument goes, public money paid for then so why shouldn’t with the permission of the photographer people and organisations re-use them?
#12 Using Facebook for large communities
Lesson: Facebook pages are a start but not the last word on how people can be reached on the platform.
Pages can be a useful way to have some Facebook real estate although they deal with broadcasting to small corners of the web that can be shared on. Manchester Fire and Rescue and Scottish Fire and Rescue are examples.
But to really engage, you need to use Facebook as the page to comment and add content on other pages. Or join Facebook groups as an individual.
#13 Using Facebook for niche communities
Lesson: Facebook pages for smaller communities can be effective ways of reaching them. The Polish community, maybe. Or in Biker Down‘s case motorbike riders.
Facebook has the numbers so it is worth using. Seeing as it has the numbers yo can also carve out niches where people will congregate. There were more than 5,000 serious incidents with motorbikes in 2014. I’ve long believed that the single corporate page is almost always not the answer for large organisations. There are communities within them, so plug into them. If you are a biker the Biker Down page would work.
#14 Using Facebook quizzes
Lesson: Quizes reach people. Often people who are hard to engage with.
Facebook quizzes can engage with audiences that may well be resistant to leaflets and other comms. London Fire Brigade uses them well and creates them to accompany campaigns. They’ve done them to see if people fancy being firefighters, for example. With this one, they are celebrating their 150th anniversary with helmets.
#15 Using Snapchat
Lesson: Yes, you can use Snapchat.
One of the good things about the web is coming across organisations doing good things in other countries. Take Sapeurs Pompiers Volontaires du Gard. They are a French fire brigade in Nimes in the south of the country who have an imaginative use of images on Twitter and Snapchat too.
Thanks for the input for this post from people across the Fire and Rescue comms community. In particular: Catherine Levin, Neil Spencer, Bridget Aherne, Sarah Roberts, Robert Coles, @Rubonist, Thanh Ngugen, Steven Morgan, Phillip Gillingham, Jim Williams, Pave Dhande, Leigh Holmes, Jack Grasby, Pete Richardson, Dave Walton and Dawn Whittaker.
Sometimes it’s tempting to say that better PR can make up for anything… but that’s just a big fat lie.
Take Aston Villa Football Club. They’re a team that has just been relegated from the top flight of English football with four games of the season left.
This was the football equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade only with none of the honour, heroism and poetry. This was not a rush towards the Russian guns with lightly armed horses to maintain a reputation. This was a dash towards a brick wall in an ice cream van. Driven by a bloke in a circus clown’s outfit. Blunders to the left of them, fowl-ups to the right. Into the valley of PR nightmares they rode.
It’s tempting to feel truly sorry for the actual PR team at Aston Villa who have had to all too often pick-up the pieces. How much of a thankless task must that be?
However, in the interests in learning from failure, here are some lessons.
You cannot polish a turd
Yes, PR can do much. But if the product is broken all the PR and comms in the world can’t make up for it. If the owner isn’t interested and a string of bad appointments have been made there really is very little you can do.
I’m reminded of Robert Phillips’ ‘Trust Me PR is Dead.’ His advice to a burger chain facing flak for excrement traces in their burgers was not to talk about the community grants they gave and corporate social responsibility. It was to stop putting crap in the burgers.
Speak truth to power
Of course, what you say may not always be welcome. But honest, diplomatic feedback of what your customers are saying should be given house room. If the customers are angry about something it’s as well to know early. You won’t be welcomed in the short term, but speaking truth to power is a role of the comms person.
What happens on a night out…stays on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
Aston Villa players carved out a special place for themselves through the season by being spotted ‘tired and emotional’ in a range of places. Jack Grealish started the trend pre-season in Tenerife. He then added Manchester to the list after losing to Everton.
Know how to spell
Eyebrows were raised when Frenchman Remi Garde was plucked from the French league to become the man who was going to save Aston Villa from a spiral of despair. In fine tradition the club took to the internet to orchestrate a welcome campaign.#welcomeremy the image on the club website read. Perfect. But his name was spelt wrong. It was Remi.
Know when to be humble
Defender Joleon Lescott has got very rich playing football for a number of clubs including Manchester City. A player who has won a handful of caps for England he has cashed in on the Premier League era. But after losing and getting abuse on Twitter he responded by tweeting a picture of his new car. Then he hurriedly deleted the car and blamed the fact that his pocket had accidentally tweeted the image.
Beware the corporate re-branding
Of course, a new look can breathe life into a new brand. But when the chips are down it can lead to criticism. You have taken your eye off the ball looking at fancy marketing stuff when you should be looking at the basics. Like winning games. Unfair? Perhaps. But perception is everything. So when Villa rebranded for £80,000 losing the traditional motto ‘Prepared’ from the badge they were open to criticism. Especially as they looked so unprepared losing every week.
Follow back… don’t unfollow
On social media, it costs nothing to follow someone back. On a basic level it says that you have been recognised even if your content isn’t slavishly being read. So as a time of the season when Villa needed all the friends they could mass unfollowing 47,000 fans on Twitter wasn’t the best thing to do. The reaction was not positive. Don’t do it.
There is no such thing as off-the-record
With Aston Villa relegated former player and radio phone-in host Stan Collymore laid into some of the more under-achieving players. Singling out Joleon Lescott the car tweeting defender responded by Twitter direct message privately offering to meet and sort things out as men. The screen grab was then tweeted by Collymore.
Say sorry… and mean it.
As the final whistle blew at Old Trafford and Villa were relegated the chief executive Steve Hollis posted an open letter to supporters. It expressed ‘regret’ for how the season panned out and was an exercise in acknowledging responsibility. As an attempt, it was good. No doubt he was hurting. But it would have been far more effective if the word ‘sorry’ had been used.
In the Middle Ages, stocks were used for public contrition. The miscreant was forced to sit there while rotten tomatoes and excrement was flung at them. There’s actually a social role for this. There’s also a place where this takes place today. It’s called the radio phone in. A grovelling apology by the owner on BBC Radio WM may go some way to healing the rift.
Creative commons credit: joshjdss / Flickr