I’ve been “doing” social media for work for a couple of years now. Its been a lot of fun trying out “new” and “different” things to engage people in what we do. One of the main challenges for me doing a lot of this work has been convincing my bosses that they were worthwhile and not dangerous to reputation. A very tricky task when none of the staff above my level at my work use any form of social media. So, to do this I used a lot of examples some of which I’ve included in this post. The other accounts I’ve included are ones which I find really inspiring.
When we first started using Twitter the account I most looked to was that of PC Ed Rogerson or @hotelalpha9 as he’s possibly better known. When we were looking to enter the world of Twitter I’d seen a lot of people live tweeting their day jobs. These tweets were generally far more interesting than the tweeting of live special events especially when such events can be so far and few between. However, there was a lot of concern around confidentiality issues with our teams posting live updates from their jobs. This was especially true of our Community Safety Team who are very much an enforcement service. By using examples of PC Ed Rogerson’s work I was able to draw the parallel between his role and our Environmental Wardens. This allowed me to set up and run the #edinwarden pilot whereby our Wardens were given access to live tweet their patrols and interact with residents online whilst out and about. This pilot really helped the service become more visible to the online community in Edinburgh and now our Wardens regularly live tweet their patrols, to much positive feedback too. It was also this pilot which got a number of the other teams interested in using social media for work and broke down many of the barriers I had come up against in getting their by-in. At the moment PC Ed Rogerson is on a bit of a twitter break but this post by Mark Walsh (via Mark Braggins) gives an interesting insight into the benefits for Police in using digital media to engage.
Edinburgh City Council now has a number of social media accounts serving a variety of different topics and sections. One of the first ones to be set up, and for my money one of the best, was Edintravel. This account was set up in 2010 to: “to provide accurate and relevant information on traffic delays and to pre-publicise major roadworks in Edinburgh”. It now has over 11,000 followers and provides some great information out to them. However, its not really the tweets posted from the account itself which makes the account so interesting. Its the fact that in addition to the info posted through the account, the account also promotes the use of #edintravel to crowd source real time travel info from people across the city. Its a very simple idea and one which I’m really jealous I didn’t have. It means that rather than having people depending on the account during the hours it is managed, commuters can share information 24hrs a day 365 days a year.
The first social media account I set up for work was a Facebook page. Well…..actually thats not entirely true but lets not go into that just now. Anyway when I was looking at Facebook pages run by other groups and local authorities I saw a lot of examples I liked in terms of the content and interactions they were generating. Ones like Coventry Council’s and Belfast’s. However, the one which really captured my imagination, and I used to show the potential to my skeptical managers, was one from a lot closer to home. It was the first Community Council in Edinburgh to set up a Facebook, South Queensferry.
They don’t have as many followers as the other accounts I’ve mentioned but the interactions on it between the admins and users was great. It was people discussing our services, in the main very positively, but there was no “Edinburgh Council presence”. It was the perfect example of a conversation going on about us without us even knowing or being involved and because of that we were missing vital feedback and, in a number of cases, compliments. I think that if it wasn’t for this page I might not have got our page setup.
These next heros and heroines are a wee bit of a controversial choice. Greener Leith are a community group based in the area of the Edinburgh which I live and their aim is “to promote community engagement, better public spaces and sustainable development in and around Leith”. They do this through events and campaigns but they also have a really strong online presence which they use to great effect. The reason that they could be seen as a controversial choice for me is that they don’t always see eye to eye with the Council. And thats a very positive thing. Its good to be challenged and as a Council officer the community I serve have every right to have their say about what work is or should be carried out in their areas. My day to day work is facilitating the debate between local residents and services and it can be very rewarding for both sides to marry the local knowledge of the community to the professional experience of officers. Doesn’t mean that it is always the smoothest of processes though but then nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
The reason that I’ve included them in this is post is that they share with us a desire to engage local residents in whats going on to make the area a better place to be. They also use a variety of social media channels to do this, just as we do, but whats interesting is that their tone, use of language and use of media can differ greatly from how we as a Council would try to do this. In many ways they almost translate some of our more technical terms or “Councilese” which we do have a habit of slipping into sometimes or just come at things from a different angle. A great example of this is their recent #loveleith campaign about using positive reinforcement to help combat littering.
They’re a group I follow with a lot of interest because I think as a local authority we can learn a lot from them, even if we don’t always agree with them.
Patient Opinion are my final heros and heroines. I first heard about their work at an Scottish Health Council event during Glasgow’s Social Media Week last year called Make Health Social. At this event Gina Alexander gave a presentation on the the project which looks to get feedback from patients on the services they’ve received from health services. Theres nothing new in seeking feedback from your service users using the web or social media but what I think really makes this project stands out is the way it does it. Patient Opinion is about stories. Its not about the user filling out a survey or questionnaire but them giving full chapter and verse about their experience. For a start I think this allows the user to really highlight the issues which are important to them. These stories are then published on the site for all to see and the health services concerned are able to comment on them publicly too, such as this recent example shows. This process is supported by a Twitter account which draws you to the site by posting engaging quotes from these stories.
I’m quite a nosey bugger but I think this is great. What we have a habit of forgetting is that yes the technology behind social media is new but the humans using it still are of the same human nature as they’ve always been. People are interested in people. Patient Opinion very astutely recognises that and it uses it to draw people in to the advantage of all. If you look at the photo of the tweets above, and you’re honest, I think you’ll admit that you want to know more about what these people are talking about, especially the more critical ones. Its certainly a lot more engaging than the standard “Come take our survey/give us your opinions on XYZ” posts which we see numerous times every day.
Patient Opinion is one of these projects which I think I can certainly learn a lot from and expect to see a blog post on here soon about a project which is takes a leaf out of its book.
Thats probably enough gushing from me for one post although there are a good few others I could mention doing some great work. I hope you find these examples and links interesting. Who are your social media heros or heroines? Let me know below, I’d love to hear.