Storytelling inspiration from a blood cancer charity

At a recent Social Media Surgery in Halesowen we talked a lot about the power of sharing stories about people, rather than solely focusing on sharing information and news.

Madeleine Sugden (@madlinsudn) has just published a fantastic post about a charity curing blood cancer, called Antony Nolan. They made the shift from using Facebook for “mainly ‘housekeeping’ type posts / sharing news stories, to using first-person, authentic storytelling with dramatic results.” Check out Madeleine’s post for details on the journey, the strategy, the results, some great tips on storytelling, and insights into why this approach worked for the charity.


Back in Brierley Hill with a Social Media Surgery

bhill-sms-001Thanks to a warm invitation from the fab Caroline Salter, we’re bringing October’s Social Media Surgery to Brierley Hill. It will be on Thursday 13 October, from 2pm. You can register here.

Caroline is the office manager for Dudley Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations, and is doing great work supporting tenants and residents groups across the borough to use social media to communicate, engage, find relevant information and share their achievements. Caroline came along to Stourbridge Social Media Surgery in April to explore ways of getting more efficient at finding and sharing useful online content.

She returned in July as a surgeon offering help, and supported a volunteer from Dudley MIND to set up a blog using WordPress, and showed him how she was using Buffer for her work. They also shared tips and ideas about contacts, not just social media – which is one of the brilliant things about social media surgeries. We look forward to welcoming members of tenants and residents associations and people from all other sorts of community groups, clubs, societies and charities on 13 October. Don’t forget to register your free place.

Sharing ideas, online communities and stories

The Social Media Surgey in Halesowen earlier this week took a different form to the way things usually run. Natalie from Dudley Advocacy, Nicky from Citizens Advice Sandwell and Tracy from Dementia Friends had come along and were all wondering about how to use social media for their organisations. Between them they had a range of personal experiences of using social media, Natalie and Nicky being familiar with Facebook for personal use (though uncertain about using it for their organisations) and Tracy had been using StreetLife and exploring to make connections in Halesowen.

Tracy, Natalie and Eileen | Halesowen Social Media Surgery @ Coffee Cups in Halesowen

Sharing ideas

It felt appropriate for us all to work together as a group, and great resource to use was Honey Lucas’s simple exercise to tie your social media to your organisational goals (I reposted it here last year because I love it so much). I opened it on my iPad and we worked through the questions, with everyone helping each other when it came to ideas of ways social media could help meet organisational goals. It was brilliant being part of a conversation in which ideas and suggestions were flowing and building, with everyone finding it useful.

Sharing online communities

Libby from Halas Homes joined us later in the session, and there was a fantastic discussion about Designed for non-experts, provides everything helps groups and organisations to create email newsletters, social media posts, and even printed newsletters in just a few simple clicks. Stories are the building blocks in Stories might be a piece of news or information, an event or anything else you need to communicate. With, you create a Story once, adding a picture if you choose. You can then use it as a blog post, in an email newsletter, on social media and on community websites in

interestsTracey had spotted the potential of, and Libby talked enthusiastically about ways Halas Homes are using it, and sharing to the Dudley community. It occurred to me during this exchange that might be a more appropriate tool than a blog for a number of people who come along to social media surgeries for support. It’s much easier to use, and if we can really get a vibrant Dudley community going using then the challenge of getting the word out to wider networks is partly solved in a way that blogging platforms can’t offer,

Sharing stories

During the morning ace surgeon Eileen from Dudley Volunteer Centre (@DudleyVols) had consistently talked about the importance of stories in communicating and engaging people. As we talked more and more about stories and great ways of telling them I was reminded of something brilliant I’ve recently got involved in around storytelling and mobilising people to make change. Thanks to the generosity and excellent network weaving skills of Clare Wightman, Mel Smith and Naomi Brook and the fabulous people they work with, I have taken part in two brilliant learning sessions around leadership, stories, campaigns and mobilising / social movements. (And reconnected with Coventry along the way!) I plan to bring the sessions to Dudley once I’ve been trained up to facilitate them. It was great to hear from everyone at the Social Media Surgery that they would be interested.

All this in 90 minutes together. And what did Nicky, Natalie and Tracy think at the end of the surgery?

“It was more helpful than I thought it would be.”
“I feel less alone with this now.”
“It’s good that the surgeries are a month apart, it gives you time to go away and try things, then come back if you need to, or want to learn something else.”

Our next Social Media Surgery is on Thursday 13 October in Brierley Hill, please spread the word.

Having a go with Snapchat: Learning from a comms officer at Bradford Council

Albert Freeman is a totally lovely guy who always seems happy, plays in a band, and works in communications for Bradford Council. If you go along to an unconference such as CommsCamp or LocalGovCamp you’ll probably bump into Albert, as he is totally up for sharing ideas, learning with others, and chatting over a pint afterwards.

He recently shared a really useful account of his experiment with Snapchat and Instagram Stories for Bradford Council. It’s so helpful when people pull together what they did, what they learned and loads of handy links. I’d never heard of Instagram’s Stories feature, so found that really useful to learn about. Check out Albert’s post on Telling stories with Snapchat and Instagram, and say hi to him on Twitter @AlbFreeman.

I’d love to share links about people using Snapchat and Instagram Stories (or anything digital really) in Dudley borough, to build relationships and do good stuff. Let me know if you’ve done or seen something great lately. (I’m @dosticen on Twitter.)

Social Glow with Stourbridge Speakers Club members

Photo of Neale, Tracey, Sue and Lorna around a laptop in DY1 coffee shop

Once again, giving time to help people at a social media surgery has generated that amazing feeling which has been coined #socialglow (I think Paul Webster came up with that one). This month we helped Tracey and Sue, both members of Stourbridge Speakers Club (@StourSpeakers on Twitter). They want to help to spread the work about the Speakers Club and share the great stories from their activities. Both Tracey and Sue have been doing a fair bit of listening on twitter, clearly felt there was potential in using it, yet had some questions which needed answers before they might move forward.

Sue’s first question was: “why use Twitter?” Mel from Healthwatch Dudley gave an eloquent response, highlighting how Healthwatch uses Twitter during their day to day activity, and gave an example of a recent event and how they engaged all sorts of people who weren’t actually at the event by talking about what was happening on Twitter. I shared slides from Bryony Taylors Simple Guide to Twitter – I still find this so useful when talking to people new to Twitter.

We shared some simple tactics to increase engagement, such as sharing photos, and tagging people who support and have interest in your activities in photos. We demonstrated the power of asking questions – by asking why our followers use twitter. We soon had some responses…

The next question was around what to say, and all sorts of concerns about using social media for different things – work and passions, and keeping private life private. The three of us helping out use social media in quite different ways, so we were able to talk about what approach each of us takes and why – and why all of these different approaches are equally fine.

We showed ways that hashtags can help draw conversations together on Twitter, and soon we were asking Sue and Tracey all sorts of questions about Stourbridge Speakers Club and were interested to find out that it is for people who want to increase their confidence in public speaking.

As the surgery drew to a close both Tracey and Sue were wearing happy smiles and, unprompted, were talking about how inspired they felt. Tracey said she had hoped the surgery would increase her confidence, “but the inspiration was an unexpected extra – now I want to do it!” Sue told us that she now has the confidence to tweet and she felt quite excited! And how lovely that by the time I got home I had Twitter notifications from Sue’s tweets:

If you’d like to experience the social glow which comes from sharing even just some of the basics of using social media with someone involved in community activity, simply offer to help at a social media surgery near you. It really is rather wonderful.

Photos credit: Melissa Guest

Learning to use Facebook Live at a Social Media Surgery

Having been helped at a Social Media Surgery a year ago to set up her first social media account for a local support group, Linda has been a regular at Halesowen Social Media Surgery. Linda quickly got to grips with Twitter, however figuring out how best to use Facebook for the group took a little while. There are differences between Facebook Profiles, Pages and Group which need thinking through. Steph Clarke has written a really useful post about this which I’d recommend if you are thinking of using Facebook for a local group or organisation.

At last month’s surgery, Linda came along asking about what other social media she should be using, beyond Twitter and Facebook. We had a look at the great content Linda had been sharing through Twitter and Facebook, and I thought that the next challenge perhaps wasn’t something else, but rather looking at what Twitter and Facebook could do which Linda wasn’t making use of. I mentioned Facebook Live, and admitted that I hadn’t used it myself at that point, but I understood that it was a fun and immediate way of creating and sharing video within Facebook. (There are some useful tips from Facebook on getting the most out of Facebook Live.)

Linda and I quickly got playing and figured it out, at which point Libby from Halas Homes arrived to find out how to connect Twitter and Facebook accounts. She asked what we were doing, and was also excited to hear about Facebook Live. I suggested that Linda show Libby how to use it. And there it was… we created some Social Media Surgery magic. Linda had come along to receive some help, and now she was giving it. The video below captured the magic moment. Social Media Surgeries are brilliant because everyone can contribute and benefit at the same time.

Sharing Cities

The digital economy has helped the growth of the sharing economy.

The most obvious example is a services like AirBnB (where you can find people to rent out your spare room on a nightly basis). It’s not just the preserve of southern californians.  This is a search for Dudley – Saturday night.



But there are far more ways to think about how sharing can make our cities better places to be and this was the subject being discussed last night at an event in Birmingham.

Julian Agyeman was discussing his book  Sharing Cities: A case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities.

First some sketchy notes I made of the points he was making.

  • The sharing economy can help to build equality in cities.
  • Don’t do area projects, find opportunities for what he called urban acupuncture / pin pricks to relieve pain – He gave the example of the garden library in Medellin – the one time drug crime capital of Columbia.  Built on a hillside where the slums had developed – this encourages new ways of being and connects the city in new ways.
  • Sharing things helps us build relationships –  however we may do that within out own existing networks.  How do we create culturally inclusive spaces? Ones where people talk across what makes them different.
Other examples:

This is what he thinks a city should have on their to do list

  1. Map assets –
  2. Put sharabity in the tender/contracts
  3. Encourage Co production
  4. Measure sharing Walkscore -,sharescore
  5. Participatory budgets.
  6. Change taxation, planning and licensing
It got me thinking.  The social media surgeries are part of the sharing economy.  CoLab Dudley is entirely about nurturing it here.
But it also reminds me that the smartest cities are not oiled simply by faster broadband, mobile phone apps or better tech training.  They are made smarter  by the connections and the best connector is often a cup of tea.  So maybe the way to measure collaboration is to count the number of cups of tea drunk in a city.
(Nick Booth is the founder  of Podnosh – and the chap behind the social media surgery movement.)


Curating and sharing relevant content for DFTRA

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging social media tips with Caroline Salter, who works for Dudley Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations (DFTRA). Amongst her other work she does an absolutely fantastic job of maintaining DFTRA’s website, the @DudleyFed twitter account and Facebook Page.

Caroline is committed to finding relevant online content to share with local tenants and residents associations, and brilliant at bringing together the great things they are doing and helping to share them more widely. Do check out what our local tenants and residents groups are getting up to, and the work that DFTRA do in bringing them together. The current DFTRA newsletter even includes a handy list of the tenants and residents associations using social media and where to find them. Nice work Caroline!

70% of the internet is video… time to develop your video making skills?

The wonderful Dan Slee and Darren Caveney of Comms2point0 have mentioned a few times in their blogs and rather wonderful weekly email that 70% of the internet is video. Each time I’ve read this I’ve wondered “is that because video files take up more space than text files?” (my understanding of the internet being rather rudimentary). Today I wanted to let you know about the NetSquared Midlands Meet-up on 16 May at which Dan will be describing the changing landscape of what is shared online and offering some tips on getting to grips with video making. So I decided to look up that 70% statistic as I wanted to understand it.

I learned from this article and similar ones that the statistic is probably from data provided by a North American broadband services company about home broadband internet usage during peak evening hours. The article is titled “Streaming Video Now Accounts for 70 Percent of Broadband Usage”, which is perhaps a bit misleading, but hey, it’s a headline and needed to be snappy. So the statistic is about what is streamed. Plus, the categorisation ‘video’ includes what I still think of as ‘TV’ – Netflix streaming takes a whopping 37% share of the broadband usage.

Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be getting to grips with video. Dan makes some great points in this succinct list of 7 things you need to know about video in 2016. The important ones for me in terms of ways that we can use social media to connect, communicate and collaborate are:

  • Video on the web is no longer just YouTube
    Once posting it to the 11-year-old social site and then sharing the link was enough. Not anymore. More than 500 million people watch Facebook video every day, according to Facebook.
  • Anyone can shoot video if their phone is good enough
    Go to your camera. Click the video option. Point your camera. Record. There you go. Done. If you have a smartphone you can do it.
  • The best video is of real people and not in an office
    Shoot footage of real people doing real things. They’ll be more interesting and they’ll also have friends, relatives, aunts and uncles who have Facebook profiles they’ll like and share that video on.

So why not take the opportunity to spend an evening with Dan Slee and the equally knowledgable NetSquared Midlands organisers Pauline Roche and Paul Webster, and get to grips with video? The NetSquared meet-up is on Monday 16 May, 6.30-8.30pm at Impact Hub Birmingham in Digbeth.

And what better to end this post with but a video? This is a beautiful video about Bread2Share, a successful Dudley social enterprise, made by the talented Simon of Reel Eyes Films, another social enterprise.