NEW TACK: We’re mad as hell and we’re just not going to take it any more, so we’ll be polite, human and factual… a new approach to online snark

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There’s a change in the air with how the public sector is using social media. 

Back in 2008, a public body would get credit for even using the platform.

Over time, that changed. Train companies and others with spot-on online customer services raised the bar.

Trouble is, digital expectations grew just as public sector services were cut through waves of austerity. What the public sector used to do, they sometimes no longer do. That’s a tough message to explain. It’s led to a backlash of frustration, anger and abuse online and often the frontline is the comms officer updating social media. I’ve lost count of the number of people who just switch off in the evening where they used to try and help with customer service questions.

“I get told I’m an idiot 9 to 5 online,” one person who looks after social accounts for a council said. “Why do I want to switch on to get told that in my own time, too?”

My advice for dealing with snark online used to be to play the Uncle Keith card. In short, don’t argue with an idiot. To a passer-by its just two idiots arguing. Swearing? Have a zero tolerance.

But over time I’ve seen a new approach.

It’s a very human approach that draws a clear line in the sand. It calls people out when they are wrong and uses facts and humour.

Importantly, it’s an approach that very often goes down very well with people online. Using the crude measurement of likes and comments, public sympathy can be very often with the human and factual public sector response rather than the troll.

I’ve lost count of the number of times in training when I’ve showed people examples of this approach they’ve practically whooped with joy.

“That’s brilliant.” They say. “I wish we could do that.”

The reality is they can.

Of course, each response needs to be judged on its own merit. But if its factually accurate, polite, professional and maybe a touch witty too then, why not?

Some examples of the new polite, human and firm to snark

Example 1: Bournemouth Council

Take, Bournemouth Council. When they asked people to report potholes they were met with snark. Did they back down? Did they heck!

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Example 2: South Somerset Council

South Somerset District Council were sent an FOI demanding to know how their council tax was spent. The response is factual but also calls upon Ancient Rome.

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Example 3: Dorset Police

I’ve blogged this before, but it’s such a great example I’m blogging it again. They could have left this inaccurate piece of fake news but it was important to challenge it.

 

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Thanks to Tina Stokes and Kristian Ward for this.

Picture caption: Flickr / Documerica.


30 days of human comms: #31 the NHS Trust with a sense of humour

Health people can have a sense of humour too.

The health bible the BMJ kicked things off with an earnest piece about whether or not Peppa Pig was encouraging the waste of GP’s resources. You can read the piece here.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust contributed to the debate with this tweet:

Not leaving things there, the medical profession responded:

And the trust responded too:

Why is this good? The debate around Peppa Pig was a slightly tongue-in-cheek discussion on when and when not to use a GP. For an NHS Trust to remind people that they were human too isn’t such a bad idea. There was no significant event that would have overshadowed the jest.

Thanks to Rachael Stray for spotting this.


30 days of human comms: #30 London Midland signs off

It’s unplanned and ironic that the 30th post in this series is one from a railway company I’ve often despaired at.

London Midland were a train company that operated through the North West, Midlands and London. The trains I largely travelled on in the Black Country had no wifi, no plug sockets, no coffee and no tables. They also used to have their drivers poached.

But as a company their social media was superb. Human. Engaging. Real time. This company set standards their trains rarely did.  If you were sat outside New Street station and wondering why you were not moving along the tracks their Twitter would tell you in good humour.

So, their sign-off when their franchise came to an end was no surprise:

Be more human. Be more like London Midland’s Twitter.


#OURDAY: One day a year like this to see you right

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It’s the annual local government Twitter event today and it got me thinking.

Five years ago I was part of a team at the first local authority to tweet what they were doing across 24-hours.

We won an award for it. But it wasn’t until 10 minutes before the 7am start time that I really thought it would work when I posted a tweet from the corporate account to say that environmental health officers were investigating a noisey cockerel on a deprived housing estate.

In following years the LGA picked up on it as a model and have run sector-wide events.

I’ve had high hopes for the model to help tell the day-to-day story of all the 1,200 activities that local government does. I’m not at all sure that it has managed to do everything it can. It’s not collectively banged a call-to-action drum for social care, for example. Or for people to join libraries or some other service task.

As Twitter slips from third to 5th most popular social media platform maybe the time is right to expand it in future to other platforms. However that may look. Evolve, adapt, learn, iterate.

But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe its enough purely a chance for local government people to be bold, stand tall, be proud of what they do and celebrate all the day-to-day things that build a bigger picture.

If for one day a year local government people can be proud of themselves and each other then that’s no bad thing. If you’ve taken part, well done. If you’ve persuaded someone else to too, even bigger well done.

Or ‘One day like this a year will see me right,’ as Elbow singer Guy Garvey once sang.

Picture credit: raql / flickr


LIKE WTF: “A like’s a like… never fall in love with a liker.”

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.


DIVE IN: Stop Messing About and Dive In with Facebook or You Won’t Reach People

I had this amazing moment of revelation just recently really that I want to share with you. It’s about Facebook.

Yes, I know you know about Facebook. But stick with me. Of course you know Facebook’s numbers are big. In the UK, Ofcom say that 38.9 million adults use the site regularly.  That’s a lot of cute cat videos and holiday photos.

You know all this and so do I. But what I hadn’t done was fully realise just how Facebook was being used by people until I started to look at my own doorstep.

Facebook in my own community

I live in Quarry Bank, near Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Locals have a strong Black Country accent. It’s known locally as ‘Quarry Bonk’. It’s an overgrown village that merged more than a century ago into its neighbours but has somehow retained a sense of its own identity. There’s a high school, a High Street with three butchers. There’s two curry houses and a Labour and a Conservative club.

There’s a Facebook page called ‘The Only Way is Quarry Bank and Brierley Hill’ with 4,258 people liking it. There is 26,000 people in the two areas it covers which means around more than one in ten who live here have liked this page.

Using Facebook’s own search tools I found 16 pages and 14 groups for Quarry Bank ranging from the history group (225 likes), scouts (148), buy and sell (4,623) and a comprehensive school old school friends 1974 to 1981 (70 likes.)

Community pages are bigger than the community newspaper

It got me thinking. How does that compare with those who have liked the local daily paper the Express & Star? Just counting the four Black Country boroughs with 1.1 million residents the 100,000 likes the newspaper has accounts for slightly less than 10 per cent. So in my area ‘The Only Way is Quarry Bank and Brierley Hill’ is bigger than the newspaper.

And my community isn’t unique

Running a search for Dudley – the borough where I live – found a pile more.  In all 102 groups and 42 pages. In the Amblecote ward of Dudley 54 pages and groups and in Gornal 85. In Stourbridge, there are 79 pages and 237 groups These are serious numbers and it all adds up to a conclusion: People are on Facebook in numbers. They are using pages and groups. If you want to talk to them you need to go to the pages and groups.

Every community is hyperlocal

Where I live is typical. Every community has a patchwork of Facebook groups and pages from community pages to clubs, societies, pubs, parks. The village to the estate, the town and the city.

Much work has been done around hyperlocal news sites. People who live in Stone in Staffordshire, for example, have A Little Bit of Stone with a website, Facebook page and Twitter or a blogger like Brownhills Bob. But not every community has people aggregating and writing local news. What they do have are a network of Facebook pages and groups that is hidden in plain site.

You need to take a look for yourself

Don’t believe me? Go to your Facebook profile. Put a ward, village, town or community in the search box. Then click on pages to see the pages. Then do the same with groups. You may be surprised.

What this means for public sector comms people

If people are on Facebook comms people need to talk to them on Facebook. You’ll know you may need a page. But is chucking your content up onto that page as you produce it really the answer?

Some public sector Facebook pages do work. The Isles of Scilly page grew to 57,000 likes driven by Sgt Colin Taylor’s human voice. Sandwell Council’s pagewith 22,000 is a fine example and the DVSA’s page aimed at learner drivers I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test with 57,000 likes also hits the mark. But if you are honest does yours? Does your council’s? Or fire service? Or housing trust?

Public sector organisations have put a toe in the water with Facebook but they’ve not dived in. They are sat on the side waiting for people to swim over to them when there’s usually more fun to be had elsewhere.

What your 2017 Facebook strategy should look like

Yes, you might need your own page. Organisations are encouraged down this path by a trail of sweets provided by insights, the ability to create adds and post on other pages. But with Facebook reducing the reach of your updates suddenly, this isn’t so attractive.

Yes, you might need your own group.  The benefit of this is a greater reach, the ability to create closed groups to limit access. The downside is that you post as an individual.

No, you can’t create a work profile for yourself. Facebook’s terms and conditions are clear that you are only allowed one profile.

So, ideally, people from your organisation should be using their own profile to join groups and pages and add content as themselves. This is a step which some may be reluctant to make. I get this.

But the benefits of using Facebook as yourself is that you become a human being again not a job title and by doing so you can talk to far more people. Back in the day Al Smith pioneered this approach when he was at Newcastle City Council and Tim Lloyd did something similar when he was working in government digital comms. This isn’t new.

Turn off the firehose, turn on your brain

You shouldn’t turn the firehose of your content into spamming pages and groups with your content. Nor should you just chase numbers, either. If a local history group has 50 members with many who all look over 40 they may not object to being told about a flu jab, if that’s your task. Similarly, a community group with 1,000 people may want to know about a plan to change the road layout.

Tips to put this into practice

Make it routine that you make a search on Facebook when you are looking to communicate. Something to say about cycling? Look for a cycling group. Changes to a community? Look for the groups and pages from that community.

Run a review of pages in the area you serve. Log a cross section to show colleagues.

Try and trial posting content as yourself to groups and pages.

None of this is straight forward. It’s messy and it may not work if an admin from a group or page doesn’t want you there. But that’s fine.

But by diving into Facebook and going to where people are you may be surprised.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.


10 places to distribute your video to make it a success

5236263550_12bf640a5b_oYou’ve made a cracking video but you’re really not sure what to do next.

So what do you do?

For the past 12-months I’ve looked, made, researched and co-delivered workshops on essential video skills for comms.

As a comms person I’m convinced that video has a powerful role in creating engaging content. As I’ve said before, a large chunk of the internet is now video and that’s just going to grow.

The two things you need for engaging video

Think of Pearl & Dean. Think of sound and vision. It’s two things that go together. There’s a balancing act for creating successful video as part of a comms campaign. On the one hand you need good content. But on the other hand, good content that’s sat on your mobile phone isn’t going to reach anyone. So think about when and where you can post what you’ve made.

Live streaming is a bit different

Live streaming using Periscope, Meercat or Facebook Live is video. But this is video of the moment which is disposable. If the advantage is to be five yards away from the firefighter explaining the incident is now under control then it makes sense to use that. Speed and realtime point you to these platforms.

Don’t be blinded by numbers

Have a think about your audience. If you are keen to reach 16-year-old students about to decide which college to go to then your idea of success is not to chase Taylor Swift numbers. But if you’ve only reached a dozen then you may need to have a think about your distribution. In other words where people have the chance to see the video.

10 places where people can see your video

YouTube direct. This is the grand daddy of internet video. It’s used by more than a billion people a month. In the UK, more than 40 million people use the platform every month. Post your video to YouTube but keep it at around three minutes. Add tags and a good description so people will find it. Metadata is your friend. Optimum time: around three minutes.

Facebook direct. A new kid on the block compared to YouTube. At the moment, Facebook is rewarding you for adding video content to a page. It likes video because video keeps people interested, engaged and sharing. A hundred million hours of video is watched on Facebook every day. There is a battle going on between YouTube and Facebook but it’s worth posting video here too. Facebook can soar in the short run and is outperformed by YouTube in the long run. So think about posting to both. Optimum time: 21 seconds.

Twitter direct. Like Facebook, Twitter is liking that you post video direct to itself from the Twitter mobile app. But annoyingly, it’ll only let you upload a video from elsewhere if you are using an iphone.Optimum time: less than 30 seconds.

Instagram direct. There is a tendency for organisations to sit back and think that YouTube, Facebook or Twitter means the internet is covered. What hogswallop. If you know your audience you’ll have an idea which platforms they’ll be using. If instagram or snapchat is on their wavelength then think about how you’ll be using those channels first. By doing that you’ll have an understanding of what video may work.Optimum time: Instagram was up to 15 seconds maximum but now can be 60 seconds. Doesn’t mean you should use 60 seconds, mind.

Snapchat direct. Younger people are opting for snapchat. Again, disposability rules in the content. The platform now has 10 billion views a day. Organisations who are using it well have got to know snapchat first and make specialised content. It’s not a place to throw your three minute YouTube video.Optimum time: less than 10 seconds.

Email the link internally. Once you’ve posted the video cut and paste the URL and send it to people. Embed it in the weekly email. Or send it to the 10 people in the team you’ve featured. Invite them to share it and you can start to tap into your staff as advocates. YouTube links are good for this.

Embed in a webpage. It never fails to surprise me that video carefully shot and posted onto social channels then never makes the webpage. If you look after a museum, embed the video onto the right webpage so when visitors come they’ll have more than just the opening times to look at.

A staff meeting or event. You have an audience of people corralled into a room. Of course you should show them the film you’ve made.

A link attached to a press release. If you’re sending out a press release it is becoming increasingly important to add a video or an image to it to register an interest with a reporter. Even if it’s a short video it’s worth doing.

Target influencers. If the blogger, the reporter or the big cheese are people you’d like to see the video don’t hope that somehow they’ll pick up on it. Email them direct. Tweet them direct. Tap them on the shoulder. “I’ve got this video that I think you’ll like.”

On a welcome screen on a loop. If you have a reception or a place where people gather show the video on a loop. You may want to screen it with the sound off if you’ve only got 30 seconds of good footage. Think about silent film techniques and sub-titles.

To learn more about planning, editing, shooting and posting video using a smartphone come to a comms2point0 essential video skills workshop.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.