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?