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.

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.

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:

Struggling to find time to share on social media?

If you’re anything like me it can feel challenging to make the time to sit down and do something like writing a blog post, scheduling some tweets or Facebook posts, or jotting down ideas for making a simple video. Perhaps even more so when you’re doing it as a volunteer and there are so many other things to do in your voluntary role.

It feels like a good idea to help people from Dudley’s local groups, clubs and voluntary organisations who struggle to find time to get stories about the great work they are doing out there through social media. Starting this month, our regular social media surgeries are being expanded to include support for people who would like to use the time for writing or other forms of story telling.

There’ll be a team of us on hand to give tips around simple ways to share your great news, activities and ideas. You can increase engagement with your stories effectively by sharing them multiple times in simple, clever ways. We can help you think through this and introduce you to free online tools which can help you.

Our next surgeries are at Cafe Grande in Dudley at 6pm on Thursday 11 February and at Coffee Cups near Halesowen at 9.30am on Thursday 10 March. They are free to attend, we just ask that you register in advance (click on the links) and buy a lovely drink from the cafes who host us for free.

What would you write about or create if you had 90 minutes to spend on it this week?

A shiny new year!

We’re kicking off 2016 with a new look to this blog, guest posts in the pipeline and an idea for a bit of digital fun in Dudley.

I hope you like this new blog theme, you can still find pages which are about this blog, social media surgeries, bostincamp, civic tech and local blogs from the top left menu bars above (the square of thick lines in the top left corner of the image at the top of the page).

So… what’s planned for 2016?

Social Media Surgeries

We’ve got social media surgeries starting again February, we’ll be at Cafe Grande in Dudley on Thursday 11 February from 6pm and back at Coffee Cups in Halesowen on Thursday 10 March from 9.30am. More dates will be added shortly, including sessions in Stourbridge. If you can offer some social media know-how or would like to come along to get some support, just register using the links above.

This year we are also inviting people who have set up the basics to use time at social media surgeries to create content for the web. We can share ideas and tips on storytelling, scheduling posts from different social media platforms and keeping the conversation alive.


BostinCamp will be back before Easter. Do get in touch if you have something you could share about social media, civic tech or something vaguely related. You’ll have up to 10 minutes to kick start a discussion, no powerpoint, lots of tea and cake. Please also let me know if there is anyone you would like to hear from, and we can ask. Bostincamp is a bit like free training in an informal setting with an emphasis on being sociable. And eating cake.

Digital Playtime

Thanks to one of those post-event conversations in the pub with the amazing Laila Takeh (@spirals) and her colleagues following VCSSCamp in London in November, I’ve been inspired to start something called Digital Playtime in Dudley. It would basically be a regular time for people who work or volunteer in digital communications (and anyone else interested) to get together, play with platforms and tech, and share knowledge on using new tools, devices, accessories etc. If that sounds like something which would help you in your work, please do get in touch. It would be great if a few of us could get together over a coffee to plan this and make it happen. Leave a reply below, or get in touch with me on twitter (@dosticen) or WhatsApp (07501 722255).

Digital Playtime.001

The new header image on this blog of the Andromeda Galaxy (which I’ve slightly cropped) is from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, shared on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Handy tip: if you are ever looking for images which you can use for free online and in print then Creative Commons Search is a good place to start. (If you can’t see details of a license then you probably don’t have permission to use an image.)

The problem with Facebook Pages

like us on facebook

Often people coming along to social media surgeries are keen to harness the networking power of Facebook. If you are involved in a local club, group, society, social enterprise or voluntary organisation, under Facebook terms you will need to set up a Facebook Page rather than a personal profile (see how are Pages different to personal profiles). So if it turns out that Facebook might really be a useful communication and collaboration tool for a group, we obviously point people towards Facebook Pages, and help them to set things up.

Before I used Facebook my knowledgeable colleague Melissa Guest repeatedly tried to explain to me why Facebook Pages are like islands. A key difference between Facebook and Twitter is that your Twitter timeline displays a stream of all the tweets from all the accounts you follow (there are also summaries available now too), whereas Facebook uses algorithms which make decisions about what posts you will see and not see in your news feed. I hadn’t realised quite how much these algorithms affect the likelihood of a post on a Facebook Page reaching people who have liked the Page.

This article about the organic (non paid for ) reach of Facebook Page posts was recently shared by the excellent Comms2point0 this week. Here’s an extract about brand pages, I can only assume it’s the same for group or charity Pages:

“Here’s how it works (in simple terms): Your brand page posts a piece of content. Facebook immediately puts that content in a very small pool (but statistically significant) of your followers news feeds (sub 1% of your following depending on how many people follow your page). It chooses the people most likely to engage with your content. 

If that test audience engages well with your content it will open up your content to about 2-4% of your total audience, and if they also engage deeply with the content then it may begin to loosen the resigns and open it up to more of the audience. HOWEVER, if your engagement is low as a part of that initial test audience then Facebook will chose not to show it to anymore of your audience.”

Despite knowing this rather disappointing fact I will still be posting across the handful of Facebook Pages I manage or jointly manage. Partly because I know from questions people ask that they expect projects and organisations to have a presence on Facebook. Partly because if a few of use our Facebook profiles effectively to share content from Pages we can get things out a bit further. And partly because Facebook events are a really effective way of inviting people to something and simple for them to respond.

What do you feel about Facebook Pages and their utility?
How do you get the best from connecting with people on Facebook?
What advice would you give at a social media surgery about using Facebook?

And if after this you need cheering up bit, I can highly recommend checking out more of the great things which Dan and Darren aka Comms2point0 do and share, on their blog, on twitter, through their lovely weekly email and yes… on their Facebook Page.

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!