#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.


140 CHANGE: Twitter may change but who cares? you still need to embrace chaos

22435524039_7431c7fa21_bTwitter is not the last word in digital communications and maybe it’s about time you remembered that.

There’s been a lot written just lately about how Twitter is changing.

If you’ve missed it, the way you are presented with tweets is going to change. Gone will go the timeline of most recent first. In comes a Facebook-style algorithm of things they think you’ll like first. It may be optional when first introduced. The unique 140-character limit may also go too.

Of course, being Twitter, there was a meltdown on Twitter and a hashtag #TwitterRIP.

It may be the end of Twitter. It may just evolve as Facebook has done.

But all this talk of change poses you three questions.

  • Where else can I now get what I get from Twitter?
  • As the ground shifts beneath our feet should we really be surprised?
  • Do I even care?

Do you care? Many people do. If you have been using the platform you will. If you won’t it won’t trouble you. But if you aren’t a bit interested in how all this will affect how you do your job, that troubles me.

Once-great platforms like Friends Reunited, AOL or MySpace have withered. Why should Twitter be any different?  Besides, as broadcaster and historian Dan Snow wrote in The Guardian, if Twitter didn’t exist someone would have to invent it.

What makes this an important question to think on for UK public sector comms people is that Twitter has become hugely important. It’s precisely that the most recent tweet gets shown first that makes it useful to it. Realtime matters. What was first truly shown during the riots of 2011 was confirmed yet again this year by flooding.

But hold on. Maybe we got lazy. Maybe we just thought that Twitter was everything. So, maybe it’s actually quite healthy to rethink that.

What can do what Twitter does?

Thinking about LinkedIn. Sharing a useful link to help you with your work was one thing Twitter was brilliant at. But more and more when gathering links for comms2point0 it’s been to LinkedIn that I’ve been turning. What was once an ecosystem for grey people is now a thriving network.

Thinking about blogging. Again, LinkedIn scores well. Blogging functionality was introduced in early 2014 and engagement rates are good. Anecdotally, people are far more likely to comment and share on a post on LinkedIn than in on a blogging platform.

Thinking about email. With a decent list and decent content your organisation can duck below shifts in platform changes. Almost everyone has an email address. A cinderella platform it is quietly being effective for many places. Ask Amazon.

Thinking about other platforms. As social media grows and evolves an ecosystem of channels for sub-groups has developed. WhatsApp. Instagram. Snapchat. It means your job has got harder to understand how each works. Know enough to know when it is relevant for what you are trying to do.

Thinking about Facebook. If you want Facebook you can have Facebook. Why would you want Twitter? For organisations without a budget to advertise and reach key demographics will continue to struggle.

Thinking about serendipity. Of course, one of the great things about Twitter was the stumbling across something a friend had just shared that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It’s hard to see how this won’t be affected. Email bulletins like Nieman Lab, Feverbee or econsultancy do that for me. You’ve probably got some good ones too.

Thinking about how Twitter used to be. Back in 2008 it was an amazing place where many people were connecting for the first time. Events were organised through it and friendships grew. Much of my Facebook timeline is now those original Twitter people I’m connected to.

It’s foolish to think that disruption and change won’t stop. It will. Maybe these Twitter chances will be seismic. Maybe they won’t. But as Robert Phillips writes in ‘Trust Me: PR is Dead’ to embrace chaos is one of the most important things a 21st century comms person needs to do. So, who cares? Embrace it.

Picture credit: Sebastian teer Burg / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/AbxVDZ

MINDFUL AWARE: And how to deal with negative or inappropriate comments… and keep sane

2474521727_6b00bc3b61_bJust this week I was reminded that those who run social media accounts for an organisation need extra sets of skills.

To make something work well you need to put body and soul into it. You expose yourself online much more than you do offline. It can be 10 o’clock at night and you are dipping in to respond to a query.

There’s an excellent post on comms2point0 by Emily Taylor on how to deal with criticism on behalf of an organisation. That’s when people get angry about a project that isn’t going down well or some other aspect of what your employer is doing. It’s a great post. You can read it here.

But in an off-line conversation, I was also reminded that a thick skin is also something you need. It’ssomething I’ve blogged about before.

There are anecdotes of unpleasant trolling of staff. Thankfully, that’s rare.

But I’m struck by a dedicated local government officer who looks after a corporate account who told me: “I don’t look at Twitter in the evening now. I have enough of people telling me I’m an idiot between 9 and 5.”

There’s some excellent advice on staying positive online if you are getting cheesed off with your friends’ perfect baby pictures when you are, say, a new parent. Use the off switch. Unfriend. But when you are running a corporate account it’s not so easy.

For five years I ran a corporate Twitter account and was responsible for the training of more than 60 others.

Advice for people who speak online for an organisation

What advice did I give above and beyond the points made in Lucy’s post?

Don’t take it personally.

Count to 10 before replying.

Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level and to a passer-by it’s just two idiots arguing.

Talk to a colleague or a friend if you feel things are getting on top of you. Blow off steam.

Ask – or maybe even let – a colleague to step in and take over for a while.

If you feel it becoming an issue talk to someone and make your line manager aware. Stress is a workplace issue and your employer has a duty to you. Asking for help isn’t being weak it’s being strong.

Have set hours when you will deal with stuff and time when you won’t. You are not on 24/7.

You’re not alone.

Picture credit: Ben Tesch / Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/4LEz6H


ANTI-SOCIAL: What are you going to do about love and hate in 2016?

4053398162_31444711b1_bBack when I was a journalist I used to cover Magistrates’ court a couple of times a week.

It was a mundane list of people charged with minor driving offences with the odd murder thrown in.

There were two characters to look out for. One was ‘Tipton.’ Most of the time he wore a woolly hat because he’d got drunk once and self-tattooed his forehead. Only he used the mirror so the word was written backwards.

Another character was ‘Love and Hat.’ He’d had ‘Love and Hate’ tattoed on his knuckles but an industrial accident robbed him of a vowel from ‘Hate.’

“Don’t laugh when you see him,” I was told. “He hates it when people spot it and laugh.”

In 2016, there is a question to be answered by everyone who uses social media around love and hate I’m not sure what the answer is. And no, not laughing, either.

Undercurrent of hate

There feels like an undercurrent of hate on the social web. You’ll have spotted it in 2015 Asylum seekers, Paris attacks, Charlie Hebdo. Labour leadership election, votes for bombing Syria, Britain First, Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump.

Hate rises to the surface in sometimes unexpected ways. Maybe it’s a colleague or a shared tweet.

In 2016, there’ll be more. Trump (again), the EU referendum. More terror attacks. You know it.

A tipping point

For me, a tipping point came in a former colleague’s Facebook post. Anti-Muslim sentiment reached fever pitch. It was the call to machine gun refugees that did it. This bothered me. A day later as no-one else was I chipped in to counter. No, it’s not alright to randomly shoot people. Not everyone agreed. But I felt better for drawing a line in the sand.

And what to do..?

Of course, one of the good things of holding a politically restricted job was a bar on making political comments. It makes life easy. Broadly, I follow that now even though I’m no longer politically restricted. It’s just easier. I get the advice of not feeding the troll. I also get what Euan Semple was getting at when he said that there is a volume control on the mob. But I’m, not sure that’s enough when it is so close to home. I also get the meme of folk singer Pete Seeger and the words: ‘It’s very important you learn to talk to people you don’t agree with.’

The mass unfollow-a-tron

There’s an application you can use to auto unfollow everyone who likes the Donald Trump Facebook page. Ha! Great stuff, right? Thing is, I’m not so sure. I’ve signed-up for his campaign emails just as I have Hilary Clinton to see what they are saying and how they are saying it.

It’s made me think about what I do. As a conscious attempt, I follow people from all the mainstream political parties. I want to find out what they are saying. I rarely engage on controversial stuff. If you come out with stuff my Grandpa spent four years in a tank fighting you are gone. But I’m wondering if that’s the right path. Or if that’s enough.

So, what are you going to do about hate in 2016?

Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/7bbJ4d