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.


Free social media support for local groups, clubs and societies

photo of a smartphone next to scrabble tiles spelling ‘social media'

Just a reminder that there are free social media surgeries taking place regularly around Dudley borough, thanks to the generosity of local business owners who host our sessions.

Halesowen – at the friendly Coffee Cups cafe (@CoffeeCupsHalas)
Thur 10 Mar 9.30am – 11.00am register
Stourbridge – at the beautiful Talbot Hotel
Mon 11 Apr 10.00am -11.30am register
Dudley – at the lovely Cafe Grande (CafeGrande Dudley on Facebook)
Thur 19 May 6.00pm – 7.30pm register

What is a surgery?

A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. They support voluntary and community groups, local charities, clubs and societies. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, no-one telling people what they think they should know.

Instead you will sit next to someone who understands good ways to use the internet, someone who will listen to what you do, and then show you free, useful tools. If you like what you see they can also help you set up your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. Social media surgeries take place around Dudley borough every few weeks, so you can keep coming back for help.

We’re always looking for surgeons

Think of a surgeon at a social media surgery  as a helper. A surgeon is someone who knows enough about using social media to help someone else. Some surgeons have spent years understanding the internet. Others started learning a few months ago but want to share what they know with other community groups and active citizens.

We have some brilliant surgeons, some work for Dudley Council, some run their own businesses, some work for charities, others are freelancers and volunteers in their own time. If you’re interested in helping and would like to know a bit more about it, please get in touch and we can chat on the phone or meet for coffee.

Contact me on twitter: @dosticen / facebook: lorna.dosticen / text or WhatsApp: 07501 722255 / email:

BostinCamp 4

Bostincamp returned to Dudley last night. 14 people from all sorts of different organisations got together to drink tea, eat cake, be inspired and learn from each other. All of the tweets from the session are archived on Storify. Below are some of the the things people shared, which give a flavour of the session.

Photo of Joy Boyes, Nick Booth and Alison Sayer at BostinCamp

Joye Boyes, Nick Booth and Alison Sayer at BostinCamp

First up we heard from Alison Sayer, the Chief Executive of Halas Homes. Based in Halesowen, the charity provides services and accomodation for people with learning disabilities. Alison has learned by doing when it comes to social media, and developed some really engaging and effective tactics in her use of twitter and a blog.

Then we heard from Joy Boyes, who works for the Office of Public Health in Dudley Council and has experience of numerous public health campaigns and social marketing projects in the borough. The numbers of officers and projects in Public Health using social media is on the increase, thanks to Joy’s hard work over the years and also some Lunch and Learn sessions on twitter that she has run – what a brilliant idea!

We even inspired Jane Clarke to gather the courage to post a tweet!

NetSquared Midlands meetups and digital engagement sessions

NetSquared brings together people involved in charities and community-based activity with people who have digital and technology know-how. They want to make it “easy, meaningful, and fun for people and organisations to get the information, visibility and in-person support they need to maximize technology for social good”. NetSquared events and meetups take place in over 50 places around the world, thanks to individuals volunteering to be NetSquared Organisers.

netsquared midlands logoWe are incredibly fortunate to have two fantastic co-organisers for NetSquared Midlands (on twitter as @Net2Midlands). Paul Webster is an incredibly generous and knowledgeable individual, and one of a handful of amazing people I am forever grateful to for helping me to get started with social media. Pauline Roche is one of the most wonderfully supportive people you could hope to meet, and equally as knowledgeable. Both Pauline and Paul have diverse networks, lots of experience working in and with voluntary and community based organisations, and know a lot about tools and tech that people and in groups and organisations could use to improve what they do and the impact they have.

There are a few NetSquared events coming up in September (sorry I share this news so late in the day). Do check them out, book and get along if you’re interested. They are all free, and all just down the road in Birmingham.

Tableau Public Session on Wednesday 2 September, 9.30am-12.00pm
Free event, register on Eventbrite
Tableau Public is free software that can allow anyone to connect to a spreadsheet or file and create interactive data visualizations for the web. This session is  facilitated by Caroline Beavon who specialises in information design, infographics design and data visualizations. (Caroline worked with Dudley CVS last year to produce a stunning Annual Report in infographics for us.)

September meetup on Monday 7 September, 6.00pm-8.00pm
Free event, register via Meetup
At this meetup we’re going to share our top digital tools, the ones that help us make better use of our time, and the ones that are interesting and fun!

Wikipedia Session on Wednesday 9 September, 9.30am-12.00pm
Free event, register on Eventbrite
Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This session is facilitated by Andy Mabbett who has been a Wikipedian (or Wikimedian) in Residence at a number of museums, galleries and other organisations, provides training and consultancy on Wikipedia-related topics and speaks on various Wikipedia-related topics at conferences and seminars. (Andy gave one of the most fascinating talks at Bostincamp and has helped out at Social Media Surgeries in Dudley.)

A taste of the support available at Halesowen Social Media Surgery

Photo of Coffee Cups Community Cafe from outside, with chairs on the grass in front of the cafeFollowing a very warm welcome from the team at Coffee Cups for the launch of Halesowen Social Media Surgery, we’ll be back at their lovely cafe for the first of our Autumn social media surgeries.

Halesowen Social Media Surgery will be held on Tuesday 15 September between 9.30am and 11.00am, please book here if you can help out or would like to come along to get help. Below are some of the great things that happened as a result of the last surgery.

Becky talked to Loraine from local charity Camphill Village Trust about ways to get more out of Facebook. Loraine learned about blogs, twitter and hashtags. She said: “I’m really pleased because now I feel more confident I can actually have a go. My biggest worry was the fear of something going wrong or losing information. We’ve talked about using YouTube to share videos of people painting pottery in our charity’s coffee and craft shop.”

Linda is involved in a local support group for people with vision loss, linked to the Macular Society. Eileen helped Linda to set up her first ever social media account, using Twitter. Having set up @maculardudley,  Linda sent her first tweet (to the Macular Society head office) and found some people and organisations to follow. It has been fantastic to see Linda tweeting regularly since. She has found great accounts to follow and shares useful information from them, plus news about local events, such as an upcoming Sight and Health Fair at Brierley Hill Civic Hall.

First-time surgeon Sohaib helped James  from Dudley Mind to set up a Facebook Page: Get Set to Go Dudley, Sohaib helped James to get to grips with the basics and how to manage the page, and linked it to the Dudley Mind twitter account. It’s great to see that James has been sharing through the new Facebook Page and promoting activities in a really friendly way.

Sohiab also helped Olivia, co-founder of charity Kids Club Kampala to find out how to use Facebook and Twitter to find a wider audience and also ways to be more strategic about who to engage with. Olivia said: “this should help us to gain support for Kids Club Kampala and raise more awareness about we we do which might translate into more funding”.

Melissa supported a number of people involved in Patient Participation Groups in doctors’ surgeries, including David, who said: “It was useful to learn about StreetLife. One thing I found very useful was to discover that on Facebook there are posts being collated about GP Practices, without the GP Practices having a Facebook presence. Coming to a social media surgery was a useful first step.”

I had fun supporting Hannah, Abi and Joshua from the Ignite youth group at Calvary Church. We talked through ways to promote activities and build relationships on social networks. Joshua said it was helpful to find out that “it’s good to create relationships with other organisations, and retweet and share their information to our followers, and then our followers know what other organisations are doing, and the other organisations might share our information too.” Hannah left with “practical ideas of people and organisationss to check out (e..g Uprising) and things to try that we hadn’t already heard of before, such as encouraging our youth members to become social reporters!” The group also planned to look at the Dudley Community Information Directory to see which other groups and organisations were based close to them that they might be able to build connections with.

2015-06-16 11.26.45Finally, Alison from Halas Homes and Camilla from the Hope Centre had one of those serendipitous encounters which social media surgeries seem to create. Camilla explained that Alison helped her to understand twitter a bit more. “I have found out where I can see my tweets, and learned how to retweet. I now know you don’t get a message when you send a tweet!”

In turn, Camilla helped Alison to connect with the Hope Centre so that Halas Homes residents could make a donation to homeless people which the Hope Centre support. There’s more on this story on the wonderful Halas Homes blog. Also Camilla gave Alison ideas about using Coffee Cups to host christmas parties for voluntary organisations. It looks as though something was planned quite quickly!

Social Media – you had me at ‘hello’

I am ridiculously excited to be posting the first guest blog on this site. It is by Claire Bayley, Talking Newspaper Co-ordinator for Thomas Pocklington Trust based in Stourbridge. Claire responded to this post in which I offered copies of the Creative Citizen’s Variety Pack in return for stories about ways people are using digital tools. It is fascinating to read about what has helped Claire to take on responsibility for social media in her role – and look out for some really useful social media tips in Claire’s story. Here it is.

Photo of Claire with life-size Toy Story characters Buzz Lightyear and Woody

I’ve been a fairly avid social media user for a number of years, I remember MySpace and Bebo with equal parts happiness and embarrassment when I think of the pictures and posts I used to put up. Facebook became big around my University during my first year, so of course I signed up.

After a couple of years Facebook was getting overtaken by parents and their friends, I didn’t really want them seeing tagged pictures of me from student nights out but I’m too polite to decline their Friend Request. I signed up to Twitter as a form of safe haven. I soon saw why it had become such a success, as Stephen Fry once said “It’s not called social change or heavy debate… It’s called Twitter!” If anyone can find a better explanation please email me. I tend to do a lot of retweeting, mostly of silly accounts that accurately express my love of pizza and Gogglebox.

I work for the Thomas Pocklington Trust at the Stourbridge Resource Centre based in Oldswinford. The main part of my job is running the Black Country Talking Newspaper, we record audio news articles that get sent out to over 200 blind and partially sighted people each week in the Dudley borough. I have a fairly technical background and am not afraid of computers and digital media so (I think) for that reason I have recently been asked to head up Social Media for our centre. At first I was excited but then it clicked just how daunting a prospect this is… I’m responsible for our social media presence around the world and all I really do is post pictures of my dogs!

Photo of Claire’s dog on a soft chair with TV remote control and Toy Story Top Trumps pack

Ollie’s day is sorted (via Twitter 24/1/2015)

I went to a conference in February run by Sound Delivery (@sounddelivery), a digital media training, production and consultancy company. It was an intense day to say the least but I will say the word beneficial is an understatement. I went along as someone who uses Social Media on personal time to kill time; but I left feeling so inspired to change the world with my tweets!

The theme of the day was ‘being the story’ I started with a talk from Chris Cox (@coxness) the Digital Communications Manager for Mind, he spoke about the importance of developing a digital content strategy. I soon learnt this is paramount for any organisation in 2015. I’ll share some of the things I learnt with you here…

  • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes – ask yourself what are they Googling for?
  • Broadcast media was a blip – we’re now coming back to peer-to-peer media and storytelling.
  • Content is king.
  • On Facebook, don’t post more than twice per day, people will soon get bored. However, on Twitter you can post to your heart’s content!

It is also worth looking at how engagement is measured. Here are the three main goals…

  • Applause (likes & favourites),
  • Conversation (comments & replies), and
  • Amplification (shares & retweets).

The latter is the one to focus on.

After leaving the conference I realised that whilst we give so much of ourselves on social media, we must also protect ourselves as individuals. I don’t follow anyone I work with on Twitter nor am I friends with them on Facebook. My personal Facebook page is as good as empty to anyone who views it who is not a ‘friend’. If anyone chooses to follow my personal Twitter account then I won’t stop them if they manage to find it. I do not advertise it though and I have a disclaimer about any opinions shared in the little ‘about me’ bit. One of the things I have struggled with is how to set up all of this without leaving my own profiles vulnerable. It is difficult, but it is still do-able and as long as you are happy with the page security you set up and don’t post anything really stupid then in my opinion, you will be fine. Don’t let it hold you back because you will get left behind.

I will leave you with this – stories make the world go round – think of Finding Nemo, it is in effect a story about the power of the story. Why not post stories about yourself, your journey, or the journey of a carer or volunteer? It does not all have to be about the service user (although don’t leave them out altogether!) That’s all the wisdom I have so far. Now, to quote Sound Delivery – get out there and be the story!

Credit & thanks to Chris Cox of Mind and Jude Habib (@judehabib) of Sound Delivery.

You can get in touch with Claire by email: on the new twitter account @TPT_Stourbridge and there will be a TPT Stourbridge Resource Centre Facebook page coming soon!

Social media and social movements

Could Twitter and Occupy help our charities, trade unions and voluntary organisations to both stay relevant in the times ahead and live our values through the ways that we organise?

LiamsThis question is asked, and answered, by activist Liam Barrington-Bush in his new book Anarchists in the Boardroom.  Liam went to Oaxaca, Mexico in May 2012 to begin weaving together stories from grassroots social movements, online uprising and forward-thinking businesses, to paint a picture of what it might mean for an organisation to be ‘more like people’. Part of Liam’s writing process involved online conversations. I took part in some of these on his blog, and then supported the crowd-funding campaign to get the book published. It has been great to been a little part of this journey, and I’m delighted that thanks to our ongoing online conversations Liam has arranged to come and share his thinking and stories with us in Dudley. We’ll be discussing the ways that digital technology is changing the ways that community groups and voluntary organisations in Dudley borough work.

While we probably won’t hit the anticipated 60 people booked to attend the Book Launch in London on Wednesday, there has already been lots of interest in Dudley CVS’s Voluntary Sector Network event with Liam on Friday 4 October (places are free – book here) and Dudley CVS’s Building Blocks programme is also offering free places on a training session with Liam on the afternoon of Friday 4 October (details and bookings here).

For any readers in or around Birmingham, there’s also an informal meet-up with Liam arranged on Thursday 3 October, from 5pm at Brewsmiths coffee shop, see more and RSVP here.

Connecting local business and community

tweetup logo with twitter birdStourbridge Tweetup (StourTweetup for short) is a free monthly social event held at Moochers Jailhouse in Stourbridge.

I recently met Phil Fellows, the driving force behind the events to find out more about what happens at StourTweetup and what it was that motivated him to organise Tweetups in his own time.

Phil is the Managing Director of Swinford Graphics and works hard to promote and connect local businesses in Stourbridge through a ‘best of’ franchise, the Best of Stourbridge. Phil explained to me that he wanted to do something that was for everyone, and that was different to the usual networking offer for businesses. He also wanted to create a platform for local charities and community groups to raise their profile and a little funding.

photo of Phil FellowsPhil wanted to create something which would bring together members of the community in and around Stourbridge, local business owners, business leaders, action groups, clubs, and organisations. He heard about tweetups from a colleague, and liked the idea.

A tweetup (twitter meetup) is a face-to-face meeting of Twitter users. As explained by, a tweetup involves the physical presence of twitter users and may be held anywhere, from coffee shops, to hotel lobbies, to restaurants. Attendees generally have not met in person and do not actually know each other, but have already been acquainted online through the various groups or lists they follow. A tweetup may be organised around a particular subject, or may be arranged just to socialise, make friends and establish contacts.

Phil is an active twitter user, but knew that not everyone involved in businesses and local groups in Stourbridge uses twitter. So he developed the StourTweetup website and promotes the events on Facebook as well as twitter, and of course face-to-face.

It is free to attend StourTweetup events, and they are informal, relaxed opportunities to build relationships with people who run or work for local businesses and people involved in local charities and community groups. You can arrive from 6.30pm, and come and go as you wish during the evening. A guest speaker from a local charity or community group usually takes to the stage around 8pm, with more networking afterwards. Raffle tickets are sold (for £5) and all the money raised goes to different charities or community groups in and around Stourbridge, often whoever it is that has spoken at the event that evening. Since StourTweetup launched this June Mary Steven Hospice (@MSHospice), Tidy Stourbridge (@TidyStourbridge) and GigCaritas (@GigCaritas) have had the opportunity to tell people about their work, and benefit from raffle takings.

A Tweetup is coming up!

This month’s StourTweetup takes place on Wednesday 18 September, with the guest speaker from Dudley Stroke Association. You can book your place here and follow on twitter: @StourTweetup If you don’t know anyone when you arrive, look out for Phil (pictured above) and he will give you a warm welcome and introduce you to a few people.