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!

What we got up to at Stourbridge Social Media Surgery today

A few photos and short stories from today’s Social Media Surgery in Stourbridge. Photo of Debbie, Melissa and Nicki talking about Facebook Debbie and Nicki from Home-Start Dudley were supported to gain confidence and knowledge about how Facebook and Twitter work. With support from Melissa from Healthwatch Dudley they talked through how to set up a private Facebook Group for Home-Start volunteers to connect with each other, share useful information and ideas and support each other. Nicki talked to Nick Booth about the experience of social media surgery being different to traditional training. She said:

It’s good to get individualised support that is tailored to our level of understanding and the needs of our organisation. This will give us more confidence to use social media, as trustees of an organisation it feels like a massive door opening to us and the possibilities are endless and will help our organisation to move forward in a positive way!

Photo of Deepak, Lorraine and Carl, huddled around a laptop in deep concentration, with Jon behind them leaning in Jon from Dudley District Citizens Advice Bureau bought Lorraine and Carl with him so they could learn together how to use Twitter in their different roles. Deepak from Dudley Libraries Service showed them the ropes, and helped them understand how to reach more people, have conversations using people’s Twitter handles, and how to use hashtags. Photo of Alison sitting by Karl around a table, Steph in the foreground talking to them Steph from Podnosh and first-time surgeon Karl helped Alison from Stourbridge Street Pastors to understand the relevance of Facebook and Twitter to her work, and how to link them and engage with more people. Photo of Becky and Nick working on a website on Nick's laptop Becky from Dudley CVS worked with Nick Booth from Podnosh to find out ways she can help local community groups and voluntary organisations to use and develop data skills and use Open Data. They are meeting next week to blog about this, so we’ll share their learning here too. In the meantime you can see what other local groups have been learning from Podnosh about Open Data on this blog.

(I’ve created this entire blog post on a WordPress App on my iPhone while on a bus. It was easier than I thought, though I need to figure out how to add alternative text for the images I upload, a basic accessibility consideration.)

Social Media Surgeries for data and open data skills

OpendataCould your community group or charity be more effective if you collected information in different ways, used it better, shared it with the right people?  Would it help if you could more easily find information that government has about the places  or perhaps the people you are trying to help?
Nick Booth (from Podnosh, who helped us to start our social media surgeries) is experimenting with ways we can use social media surgeries to share not just social media skills with local community groups and charities, but also data skills. Nick will be coming along to our social media surgery in Stourbridge on Monday 23 February to chat to people from local groups and charities about this. Register here if you’d like to to come along. We’d also welcome colleagues from Dudley Council who work with data and are interested in seeing how it can be useful to local groups, and what role they play in helping that.
Here’s a bit more information from Nick:
What should I expect?

As always we start with you and your group.  What are you trying to achieve? What skills and tools do you have at the moment?  Can we show you new ideas that could help you achieve more? Can we help you in practical ways use those skills and tools – there and then? Always the same relaxed approach of a social media surgery.

What’s your aim?

Our ultimate aim is to encourage more community groups and local charities to find good uses for Open data.  This is numerical information that government shares in public.  so we can have a better understanding of the places we live in and the way government works.  But we won’t throw you into anything difficult, we’ll start where you are and help you with the numbers and skills that matter to you.

Is there any information online?

As we work with people we’ll learn together how to solve problems. We’ll describe what we’re doing and share it here on the blog.  We will also be writing about things that might help you, tools, sites where data is stored, examples from other organisations.

I have no idea what you mean when you say open data!

Sorry – it is jargony.  Open government data is when government shares information on the internet that it owns  and grants you and I permission to use it (using an open government license) A simple example is local government releasing a monthly list of all spending over £500.  You can find the Dudley one here.  There is also a website called All About Dudley which contains all sorts of data. But don’t be phased by any of this – we want to help you develop the understanding and skills that might be useful for what you are trying to achieve.

Image credit: Auregann – shared on wikimedia commons

Social Media Surgery dates for February and March 2015

Melissa Guest and I will be running Social Media Surgeries throughout 2015.

Social Media Surgeries are completely free advice sessions for community and voluntary groups, clubs and societies. Find out how to use how to use blogs, video clips, photo sharing sites, Facebook, Twitter or other free web tools to help your group. We can help you to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate easily and for free.

Upcoming dates and venues are:

Photo of Deepak and John at a cafe table with a laptop

Deepak from Dudley Libraries giving his time and social media know-how to help John from Community Transport at a recent Dudley Social Media Surgery