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/


SOCIAL PHOTO: 11 groovy ways Flickr can be used by local government

There’s four billion reasons why Flickr is brilliant.

Four billion? That’s the number of images uploaded to it over the past five years.

Best bit? You don’t have to be David Bailey to get something out of it. You could be Bill Bailey.

What is Flickr? It’s a photo sharing website. You join as an individual. You upload pictures. You can add them to groups. You can comment on pictures too.

There are tens of thousands of groups on a bewildering range of subjects. Football? Check. Walking? Buses? Cricket scoreboards?  Clouds? They all have dedicated groups. There’s even one for Gregg’s shop fronts, believe it or not.

There are also geographical Flickr groups based on areas like the Black Country, Walsall or London.

Why bother with Flickr? Because a picture says 1,000 words. Besides, it’s a brilliant way to capture, celebrate and collaborate.

It’s a cinderella social media platform without a Stephen Fry to champion it. But there is a growing and exciting number of uses for it.

So what are the barriers for people to use it?

Like any platform, there are obstacles. None are insummountable.

There’s the usual cultural issues for an organisation using web 2.0. People can talk to you. You can talk back. You may have blocking issues too.

There may also be concern over images. Surely there’s room for dodgy pictures? Actually, not really. The Flickr community is a hugely civilised place. Your first uploads get checked over before they are seen. People comment constructively.

Isn’t it just for good photographers? No. Amateurs thrive here. Snap away.

How about copyright? Copyright is with the photographer. Even if you’ve commissioned it. Don’t upload someone else’s shots without their permission.

Eleven uses of Flickr in local government

1. Be a dissemenator – Stock photography – Newcastle  use it as a way of allowing stock photography to be disseminated. With photographers’ permission. Like Calderdale Council’s countryside team.

2. Be a campaigner – Create a Flickr group for a campaignWillenhall, Aldridge and Darlaston  in Bloom, for example.

3. Be a way to open-up museums – Create a Flickr group for a museum exhibition. Look at Walsall Museums.

4. Be an enabler – Set-up a Flickr meet. It’s a brilliant way to connect and collaborate.  Here’s my blog on this event from  a council perspective and from a Flickr photographer’s perspective from the excellent Steph Jennings and also Lee Jordan.

Here’s some shots from the Walsall Council House Flickr meet (see left) which saw the Flickr group invited into the Council House.

5. Be a Flickr Twitterer – Link to pictures via Twitter. Pictures are always more popular than straight forward links. They brighten up your stream.

6. Be a marketeer – Use Flickr pics for marketing. Leaflets can be brightened up with Flickr shots – with permission.

7. Be a Flickr webbie – Use Flickr on the council website. Like BCCDIY or Lichfield District Council, Brighton & Hove Council or the Walsall Council header.

8. Be a civic pride builder – Create a Flickr group for an area, like Sandwell Council did.

9. Be a picture tart – Post council Flickr pictures to different groups. Shot of the town hall? Put it in the Town Hall Flickr group.

10. Be a stock photography user – the Creative Commons is a licence that allows the use of shots with certain conditions. There is a category that allows for not for profit use, for example.

11. Be a digital divide bridger favourite walks or a way to celebrate heritage is an excellent way to encourage people to log on.

There’s eleven. That’s for starters…

Steph Jennings from the Walsall Flickr group and the Lighthouse Media Centre in Wolverhampton made some excellent points at Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands on how Walsall Council used images on their website.

This YouTube clip helps explain it:

This blog is based on a session at localgovcamp Yorkshire and Humberside in York (#lgcyh) which also had input from @janetedavis, @allyhook and @barnsley55.

Much kudos to the Walsall Flickr group and to the inspirational @essitam and @reelgonekid.

Creative commons: Smiling blonde girl Pink Sherbert Photography.

Flickr screenshot from the Walsall Flickr group pool.

Other pics by Dan Slee.