AUTHENTIC: How to do frontline social media: Morgan Bowers (a podcast, a video and a blog)

With social media dedicated frontline people can brilliantly provide a human face to champion the work an organisation is doing.

Morgan Bowers, Walsall Council’s senior countryside ranger, is a pioneer of this approach and has worked to innovate around how people outside the comms team in the public sector can do to really connect with people.

Seeing what she does blows away any institutional objections that comms people may have to opening up the gate to allow people outside comms to use social media. She connects using Twitter, Facebook, Scribd and a range of platforms not because they are there but because they serve a useful purpose.

Morgan is what happens when you open up social media use at an organisation to allow people to use social tools not as a one-off project but every day.

For my own part, I’m hugely proud of Morgan because I helped shape the open door access for frontline staff when I was at Walsall Council. In short, this was an appproach which saw people invited to come forward with ideas on how they could use social media. If their manager was fine and they were willing to have a chat we let people get going. One thing we did make sure of was that we got people to undergo some basic training for a couple of hours wiith a reminder that the code of conduct still applied online as it does offline. We also had six golden rules based around common sense that we asked people to abide by. Then we let them get on with it and were at the end of a phone if they needed help.

I’ve lost count of the number off times during training I’ve pointed to what Morgan is doing.

So, it was great to catch-up with her sat on a log in the middle of Merrion’s Wood surrounded with birdsong to chat to her to create a Soundcloud podcast you can hear here:

Twitter

Morgan started the @walsallwildlife Twitter account in March 2011 which has grown to 1,700 followers. She looks to update every working day and finds that pictures work well. This may be a newt survey or volunteers repairing a fence. She’ll look to respond to people and will try and answer when people have a question. For events, the real time element of Twitter works really well as well as joining in wider discussions.

Email

With more than 300-people added to her email list people who aren’t on social media can still keep in contact. If you come to a session you can get added to the mailing list to get updates on events being staged by the Walsall Council countryside services team.

Facebook

For Morgan, the people liking  her page are more from Walsall than further afield. Why? Maybe this is because Walsall people sign-up for it and when they comment thekir friends comment when they see them commenting or sharing an image. It becomes self-fulfilling but people are less inclined to click on a link to navigate away on Facebook than they are with Twitter. But they are more likely to share an image and ask what that particular plant or animal is.

Flickr

Pictures are taken by Morgan at events and while she is out and about and then posted to her own Flickr stream as a record of where and what things have been done.It builds up a useful image library not just of the places Morgan looks after but provides sharable content that can drive traffic.

Eventbrite

In the old days there used to be a telephone number and an answering machine and an email address too. Now, the eventbrite platforms allows Morgan to issue tickets for events for free.

Scribd

Being passionate about wildlife Morgan was keen to get information out about the bee populations in Walsall and how people could help. She created a download which was titled very ambitiously The Bees of Walsall: Volume One. It got 2,000 downloads in a short space of time. If a niche subject like bees and Walsall can achieve wuite a lot in a short space of time just imagine what will happen with a more mainstream subject that people are really, really keen to hear.

Audioboo

Morgan has recorded audio trails around places like Merrions Wood in Walsall where she can record short sound clips. She makes QR codes on laminated paper cheaply and then puts them up across the wood so people with smartphones can directly access the clip. The beauty is that it is cheap to do.

What’s the downside?

Is it all good? Are there times when there is a chalk mark in the downside column? Absolutely. ForMorgan, the grey area between work and life can be a problem. She has her own Twitter account where she can talk about other things on days off. But she does often respond when someone on Friday night asks what to do with a baby bird.

So, what’s Morgan‘s return on investment?

For Morgan, the drive for using social media is not to do it for the sake of it but to connect with people. Still do the traditional commss like the press release to reach some people but overwhelmingly the web of Twitter, Facebook and email can be the way that Morgan sells out her activities and sessions which is an important way that she can quantify how effective her and her department is.

The Meteorwatch events that draws people to Walsall venues to help observe meteor showers has gone from attracting just 20 people to brining along up to 3,000 people which is a staggering figure.

A short clip of Morgan talking about her work

Morgan Bowers talks about how she uses social media as a senior countryside ranger out and about. from comms2point0 on Vimeo.


INFO SKILLS: Essential social media skills for librarians (and others)

6175154545_79fc17d7e8_bIn all my years in local government I’ve not come across anyone so Militantly passionate about the job they do than librarians.

So, it was great to be able to sit down with 12 of them and talk to them about social media and how it could work for them. Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers came along too and I’ve hardly finished a training session over the past few years without pointing to her as an excellent example of what a frontline officer can do with social media.

For those that don’t know she blogs, she tweets, she Facebooks and she posts images to Flickr. She’s also written an e-book entitled with great confidence and surity ‘The Bees of Walsall Vol: 1.’ Almost 2,000 people have downloaded the e-book which for me redefines how you should approach an audience.

Firstly, here are some links which show what is possible. It’s vital to look outside of the sector that you work in which is what we did here.

Some basic principles

‘Organisations Don’t Tweet People Do’ is a book by Euan Semple. Even if you don’t buy the book – and you should it’s great – then think of the clear advice that sentance gives. Human beings respond to human beings and not logos.

345712329_f1375f13c0_o‘Be human.’ is good advice on how to engage with people over the social web. In fact it’s good advice for life.

‘The 80/20 principle’ is a good way of looking at a great many things. On the social web it works out as 80 per cent conversational and 20 per cent the stuff you really want people to know. So be sparing with your library events and talk – and share – about other things.

Good social media

Appliances Online Facebook – because they have more than a million Facebook likes by good online customer service done in a human voice:  https://www.facebook.com/AOLetsGo?fref=ts

Sandwell Council Facebook – because there isn’t a Facebook page anywhere in the public sector that is done better than this West Midlands council  https://www.facebook.com/sandwellcouncil?fref=ts

DVLA’s I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test Facebook page – because it shows that putting aside thr logo and even the name of the organisation works if you get the people to pay attention to pay attention:  https://www.facebook.com/mydrivingtest?fref=ts

PC Stanley on Twitter – because it shows a human face in an organisation from a West Midlands Police officer:  https://twitter.com/PCStanleyWMP

PC Stanley blog – because it shows a human face and talks about anonymised aspects of police procedure that most people don’t know about  http://pcstanleywmp.wordpress.com/

8146367606_dae8e82d70_oStorify Streetly floods – because it shows how social media reacts in a crisis and how a trusted voice from police, fire and council online can fill the news vacuum http://storify.com/danslee/social-media-and-flooding-in-streetly-walsall

Facebook in libraries

Facebook works best updated two or three times a day with sharable content. Pictures work well. So does video. Be engaging and informal.

100 Libraries to follow on Facebook – blog http://www.mattanderson.org/blog/2013/01/31/100-libraries-to-follow-on-facebook/

British Library https://www.facebook.com/britishlibrary?fref=ts

Library of Congress https://www.facebook.com/libraryofcongress

New York Public Library https://www.facebook.com/nypl

Halifax Public Library https://www.facebook.com/hfxpublib

Birmingham Library https://www.facebook.com/libraryofbirmingham

Twitter

Realtime updates work well. Pictures too.

Author Amanda Eyereward https://twitter.com/amandaeyreward

Author Carin Berger https://twitter.com/CarinBerger

100 Authors http://mashable.com/2009/05/08/twitter-authors/

Birmingham Library https://twitter.com/TheIronRoom

Librarycamp https://twitter.com/LibraryCamp

Orkney library https://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary

Waterstones Oxford Street https://twitter.com/WstonesOxfordSt

Essex libraries https://twitter.com/EssexLibraries

Just for you here are a few examples of tweets:

Images are powerful

Images work really well and there are a couple of resources. You can link to images you find anywhere. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and you are driving traffic to their website so people will be fine about that.

You can link to Flickr which is a depository of more than five billion images. See the Libraries Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/librariesandlibrarians/

But remember not to abuse copyright. Don’t ever right click and save an image hoping you won’t get found out. There’s a Google app for just that. But what you can use are images which have been released with a creative commons licence. Basically, creative commons allows the re-use of pictures so long as you meet basic criteria. There are several types of licence so check to see which licence has been attached. Often people will be fine for re-use so long as you attribute the author and link back to the original image.

1140607337_e05a4b2a4a_oSearch the Compfight website ticking the creative commons search button http://compfight.com/

Have a look at Wikimedia which has a lot of specific content. If you are after a creative commons image of Jack Nicholson or The British Library search here:   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Audio

You can brighten up book discussions amongst reader groups, or author visits, or bounce and rhyme stories by recording them with people’s permission and post them to Audioboo or Soundcloud. These are applications that gives you three minutes of audio that you can share with the web or embed in a webpage.

Here is author WHJ Auden readingh one of his poems: http://ht.ly/tSdv6

Blog

Blogging is made for libraries and librarians. You can host discussions here and allow for comments on different aspects of the library.

Author reading: http://www.sarahsalway.net/2012/03/01/pop-its-the-last-day-of-the-pop-up-poetry-reading/

Literary blog http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/authorblogs/

YouTube

Video works great. You can make your own or maybe there is some content around a theme you are looking for. The First World War, for example. Create your own channel or search and share what is there. Look out for the comments section here. They can be a bit ripe.

Birmingham Library http://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryofBham2013

Southend library reading group http://youtu.be/dEh7fBfB_O4

But where will I get the content from?

It’s amazing how once you take a few doggy paddle strokes in the shallow end that all this makes sense and you start over time to get a return on the time you put in. There are no quick fixes. A few minutes a day will help you and as with anything what you get out is what you put in.

Here are 11 things you could do as librarians

1. Record an interview with an author on Audioboo or Soundcloud and post to your Facebook, Twitter or email list.

2. Post details of events to your social media accounts. Use something like hootsuite to schedule when the messages appear so if needs be repeat the message at a time when more people are likely to be around. Lunchtime, first thing in the morning and evening are times when people tend to be online more. Don’t forget though, if you are cancelling the event, to unschedule any queued content.

3. Share things that other people have posted. If it is in your geographical area and a public sector or third sector organisation have posted something share it or retweet it. You’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

4. Use a popular hashtag on Twitter around a TV programme. Check the schedules. A link to a book or DVD on dancing or dress making with sequins may work with the hashtag #strictly while Strictly Come Dancing is being shown on a Saturday night.

4993073773_09ef5a6093_o5. Connect with other librarians so you can build a network of other people doing a smilar job to you. This works especially well with Twitter.

6.  Use an image of a cat from compfight that has a creative commons licence – see the above – to illustrate a campaign on cats and other animals. What you have on your display shelf or window can be repeated online too.

7. Create a Facebook group or a Google group – which works with email – for a reading group.

8. Post book reviews from librarians on your website and onto the social web.

9. Take a picture – with people’s permission – of people using the library or people taking part in an activity.

10. Be creative. Ignore all the above and use your imagination. Make your own case studies.

11. Install WiFi.

Picture credits

Who needs books? http://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/6175154545/sizes/l/

Sitting reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

US poster http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/345712329/sizes/o/

Library search engine http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/4993073773/


BOW SKILLS: 37 skills, abilities and platforms for today’s comms person

Before the internets were invented life must have been so dull. Y’know, really dull.

You wrote a press release, you organised a photocall and once in a while TV and radio would show an interest.

A few years back the yardstick of success where I work was getting the local TV news to come host the weather live from your patch.

There’s been a change. Like a glacier edging down the mountain valley blink and not much has happened. Come back a while later and things have unstoppably changed.

Truth is, it’s a fascinating time to be a comms person. We’re standing at the intersection between old and new.

Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans once said that he loves newspapers but he’s intoxicated by the speed and possibility of the internet. That’s a quote I love.

Here’s another quote I love. Napoleon Dynamite once said that girls only like men with skills. Like nunchuck skills, bo staff skills or computer hacking skills. For a digital comms perspective Napoleon’s quote could be applied there too. What you need are social media skills, press release skills and interactive mapping skills. And a bit more.

Sitting down recently I calculated the many strings to the bow that are now needed. I counted 37 skills, abilities and platforms I’m either using on a regular basis or need to know. Some more than others. Or to use Napoleon’s parlance, bow skills.

Out of interest, and to save me time in googling their associated links, here they are:

TIMELESS SKILLS

The ability to understand the detail and write in plain English.

The ability to understand the political landscape.

The ability to communicate one-to-one and build relationships.

The ability to work to a deadline.

The ability to understand comms channels and what makes interesting content on each.

WRITTEN CONTENT

Write a press release. The ability to craft 300 words in journalese with a quote that’s likely to tickle the fancy of the journalist who you are sending it to.

Use Twitter. To shape content – – written, audio, images and video – in 140 characters that will be read and shared.

Use Facebook. To shape content – written, audio, images and video – that will be read and shared.

Use Wikipedia. To be aware of what content is being added knowing that this belongs to wikipedia.

Use LinkedIn. To shape content – written, audio, images and video – that will be read and shared.

IMAGES

Arrange a photocall. The ability to provide props and people to be photographed and to work with a photographer and those being photographed so everyone is happy.

Use Flickr. To source pics, to post pics to link to communities, to arrange Flickr meets.

Use Pinterest. To source pics and share your content. To build a board around an issue or a place.

Use Instagram. To share your pics.

AUDIO

Arrange a broadcast interview. The ability to provide an interviewee when required and give them an understanding of the questions and issues from a journalists’s perspective.

Record a sound clip to attach to a release, embed on a web page or share on social media. I like audioboo. I’m increasingly liking soundcloud too. It’s more flexible to use out and about.

VIDEO

Create and post a clip online and across social sites. Using a camera or a Flip camera. With YouTube or Vimeo.

WEB

Add content to a webpage. That’s the organisation’s website via its CMS.

Build a blog if needs be or add content to a blog. That’s a blog like this one or a microsite like this one.

To know and understand free blogging tools. Like wordpress or tumblr.

COMMUNITY BUILDING

To know when to respond to questions and criticism and how. The Citizenship Foundation’s Michael Grimes has done some good work in this field.

To know how to build an online community. Your own. And other communities.

HYPERLOCAL

To engage with bloggers. Like Wolverhampton Homes’ policy suggests.

To be search for blogs to work with. On sites like openly local.

LISTENING

To be aware of what’s being written about your organisation, issue, campaign or area. By tools like Google Alerts.

MAPPING

To build and edit a simple map. Like a Google map. And be aware of other platforms like Open Street Map.

ADVERTISING

To understand the landscape to know which audience reads which product. Like the local paper, Google Adwords and Facebook advertising.

MARKETING

To understand when print marketing may work. Like flyers or posters. Yes, even in 2012 the poster and the flyer are sometimes needed as part of the comms mix.

INFOGRAPHICS

To understand when information can be better presented visually. Through a simple piechart. Or more interestingly as a word cloud or via wordle. Or if its packets of data in spreadsheets or csv files through things like Google Fusion Tables or IBM’s exploratory Many Eyes.

OPEN DATA

To understand what it is and how it can help. It’s part of the landscape and needs to be understood. Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee’s TED talk is an essential six minutes viewing.

NEWSLETTERS

To understand what they are and how they can work. In print for a specific community like an estate or a town centre or via the free under 2,000 emails a month platform mailchimp to deliver tailored newsletters by email. There’s the paid for govdelivery that some authorities are using.

CURATION

To make sense of information overload and keep a things. With things like pinboard.in you can keep tabs on links you’ve noticed. Here’s mine you can browse through. For campaigns and useful interactions you can also use storify to curate and store a campaign or event. You can then embed the storify link onto a web page.

SOCIAL MEDIA

To know the right channels for the right comms. Social media shouldn’t just be a Twitter and Facebook tick box exercise. It should be knowing how and why each platforms works for each audience. Same goes for the smaller but important platforms like Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Flickr.

HORIZON SCANNING

To know what’s on the horizon and be prepared for it when it lands. Same for emerging fields like Augmented Reality. What is science fiction today will become commonplace in years to come. People like hyperlocal champions Talk About Local who are already working in this field.

ANALYTICS

To know how to measure and when to measure. The measurement for traditional comms have been around. Potential readership of newspapers. Opportunities to view. Opportunities to see. The new digital landscape doesn’t quite fit this and new ways are being worked out. There isn’t an industry standard means just yet. But the gap has been filled by those who claim to be. The very wise Dr Farida Vis, who took part in the Guardian’s acclaimed research into the English riots of 2011,  pointed out that sentiment analysis wasn’t more than 60 per cent accurate. There’s snake oil salesmen who will tell you otherwise but I’ve not come across anything that will be both shiny and also impress the chief executive. Tweetreach is a useful tool to measure how effective a hashtag or a tweet has been. Google Alerts we’ve mentioned. Hashsearch is another useful search tool from government digital wizards Dave Briggs and Steph Gray.

CONNECT

To connect with colleagues to learn, do and share. Twitter is an invaluable tool for sharing ideas and information. It’s bursting with the stuff. Follow like minded people in your field. But also those things you are interested in. Go to unconferences. Go to events. Blog about what you’ve learned and what you’ve done.

WEB GEEKNESS

To truly understand how the web works you need to use and be part of it. That way you’ll know how platforms work and you can horizon scan for new innovation and ideas. It won’t be waking up at 2am worrying about the unknown. You’ll be embracing it and getting excited about it’s possibilities.

Good comms has always been the art of good story telling using different platforms. No matter how it seems that’s not fundamentally changed. It’s just the means to tell those stories have. That’s hugely exciting.

This blog was also posted on comms2point0

Creative commons credits 

Who are you talking to most? http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/6810200488/sizes/l/

Reading a newspaper upside down http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2542840362/sizes/l/in/set-72157623462791647/

Photographer http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2744338675/sizes/l/in/set-72157605653216105/

Reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2477046614/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Eternally texting http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4473276230/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Toshiba http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4711564626/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/

Smile http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5542156093/sizes/l/in/set-72157614042974707/


SOCIAL SOUND: Can We Use Audioboo In Local Government?

Okay, so here’s an idea. You record a quick interview or a snippet of a festival and then you post it online.

Nothing revolutionary and I’m sure people have been doing it for years but for a few weeks I’ve been experimenting with Audioboo.

What’s Audioboo? It’s a way of posting online short recording clips of interviews, sounds, noise or perhaps even with permission live music.

You can download it for free through the app store or via the Android market and all you need is a smartphone or an iphone.

There are other platforms out there and SoundCloud has its followers too.

The dabbling I’ve done is centred around photocalls I’ve attended where some parties have been gathered together. With them all in one place it’s made sense to whip out the phone and make a quick recording. In less than five minutes you can have something posted to the web.

At a cold photocall with a few minutes to spare I made an Audioboo, posted it to the Walsall Council Facebook and Twitter and by the time it took to get back to the office there was an email: “One of the neighbours has listened to your recording and thinks this is a great project.” Beginners luck maybe, but it did get me thinking.

For some time I’ve been thinking about how to generate content for different places. This is another string to the bow of the comms person.

Intro to Audioboo from Mark Rock on Vimeo.

Why bother? Here’s NINE good reasons

  1. Because it’s a good way to post a recording straight onto the web.
  2. Because you’re offering different content on a different platform.
  3. Because it’s free.
  4. Because you don’t have to be a BBC-trained sound engineer to use it.
  5. Because you can record snippets from frontline staff and events.
  6. Because it’s simple.
  7. Because you can post it to Twitter, Facebook and embed on a website very easily.
  8. Because you can listen as a podcast.
  9. Because it makes your content more accessible to the visually impaired.

How do I do it?

Go to Audioboo and create an account.

Press record.

When you are happy post it to the web.

Add metadata (that’s things like the words ‘Walsall’, ‘regeneration’, ‘new homes bonus’, ‘housing’ if it’s a New Homes Bonus scheme done by the regeneration directorate in Walsall.)

It’s that simple.

How about some examples?

Here’s a Norfolk County Council social worker talking about why he does his job..
http://abfiles.s3.amazonaws.com/swf/fullsize_player.swf

Here’s Devon and Cornwall Police on setting the budget.
http://abfiles.s3.amazonaws.com/swf/fullsize_player.swf

Here’s a former postman recalling the Swansea docks posted by Swansea Council
http://abfiles.s3.amazonaws.com/swf/fullsize_player.swf

Here’s Walsall Town Centre Champions talking about plans to bid for Mary Portas cash
http://abfiles.s3.amazonaws.com/swf/fullsize_player.swf

Here’s Scottish pipers playing at the Godiva Festival posted by Coventry City Council
http://abfiles.s3.amazonaws.com/swf/fullsize_player.swf

So what’s next?

I’m sure there’s more possibilities but here’s three that struck me:

1. Broadcast journalist content. Nick Booth from Podnosh many years back spoke of creating clips along with a press release that could be downloaded by broadcast journalists. That’s a step in that direction.

2. Adding Audioboo links to press releases when they’re e-mailed out. Add a straight forward link.

3. Embedding Audioboo links to news stories or web pages. As a way to brighten up web content.