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!


5 reasons I love the way West Midlands Fire Service do digital

When it comes to fantastic examples of social media use, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) are right up there. Here are 5 reasons why I think they are so brilliant.

1. They use photographs really effectively

If you scroll through WMFS Facebook Page or twitter account (@westmidsfire) you’ll see lots and lots of photos. Some are from incidents as the service responds to them. Some are from events and activities with the public. Some are safety advice and warnings. Others show you the day to day life of people who work for the fire service. And many of them are also shared on Instagram, a platform dedicated to photo and video content. I’m in awe of how smoothly West Midlands Fire Service work across platforms with great photo content.

2. They use mentions on twitter to inform and increase awareness

I thought these friendly replies to mentions during a conference in Dudley were just brilliant.

 3. They really get it – everyone is involved

In a Comms2Point0 blog post Dudley’s Fire Commander Neil Griffiths (@NeilGriffths_) describes how WMFS have handed over the power to share stories to the frontline. Below is an extract from the post:

The key to effective social media posting is “mixing it up a bit”, with a wide range of users across your organisation. The more people you have posting, the more diverse your engagement will be. This is why all of our fire stations have a twitter account and some even dual post through Facebook, too.

The majority of our tweets and posts come from our 1322 frontline firefighters from 38 fire stations, who are normally at the sharp end. The sharp end isn’t just responding to incidents, but also includes working with partners to improve the lives of our most vulnerable people. Being at this sharp end provides them with a great understanding of the communities they serve because they interact with them every day. So, through our 71 twitter accounts with over 80,000 followers we are able to inform our communities of the most relevant incidents and activities we undertake almost instantly.

4. They embrace a diversity of video content

West Midlands Fire Service have a You Tube channel and a Vimeo account to share video content. Videos they upload range from professionally made and edited films to short, unedited uploads from mobile devices at incidents the fire service are called out to. There are also uploads of media coverage and videos of speakers at WMFS events, such as this footage of Prof. Sir Michael Marmott at the Improving Lives to Save Lives event.

Neil also talks about video in the Comms2Point0 post:

The latest example of how social media can be used within our environment was a video we produced at a local fire…

 As the dynamic phase of the incident was concluded an opportunity to provide our communities not only with some information but place the reality and seriousness of a fire into some real life context allowing a birds eye view of the scene…

Using an iPhone and iMovie a video was created before the story broke, allowing the press and our communities the timely facts. 

5. They are quick to try out new platforms

West Midlands Fire Service already have over 130 followers and lots of applause (nearly 3000 hearts) on Periscope, a live video streaming app which was launched only 5 months ago. I’m yet to catch a WMFS live stream on Periscope (Periscope videos are only available for 24 hours), but I hope to soon. It caught the attention of communications folk at CommsCamp15:

I couldn’t resist chipping in upon seeing another great response from @WestMidsFire:

A handy list of some of West Midlands Fire Service social media accounts:

Twitter: (@westmidsfire)
You Tube:

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!

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.)

Who should Dudley Council’s new tweeting Chief Exec be having conversations with?

screen grab of @sarahnormancx twitter profile

How exciting is this?!

Hats off to Dudley Council’s new Chief Executive, Sarah Norman. At 8.35am on her first day in the job last Monday she tweeted:

The twitter account @SarahNormanCX is a brand new one, and I am loving the commitment being made to using it. The Chief Executive of Dudley Council has been regularly sharing updates from her day, asking questions and retweeting other council and partner organisation accounts . (You have no idea how deliriously happy it makes me to have just typed that last sentence.)

This is spurring me in to action. I’ve already renewed my commitment to posting here, and have some great things lined up to share about #digitaldudley. And thanks to Sarah Norman I’m going to get something added to this site which I planned from the very beginning: a handy list of people who live, work and/or volunteer in Dudley borough and who use twitter and you would recommend conversation with.

So my questions to you are:

  • Who should our tweeting council Chief Exec be following and having conversation with and why?
  • Who should anyone new to twitter and interested in community, businesses and/or services in Dudley borough follow and have conversations with and why?
  • What shall we call the handy list? (I’ll make a new page. All I’ve come up with so far is Twitter Talk.)

What is like a party, a great leveller, a place to learn, and to find voluntary work?

When I was planning blog posts for January I thought some readers might find it helpful to know some ways in which using twitter can be useful. I had some ideas about what I could write about, but then it occurred to me to be #social, so I threw this question out on twitter:

‘What’s great about using twitter to communicate, learn, collaborate etc.?’

I was pleasantly surprised at the themes which emerged, as they were a little different to what I might have focused on.

Here are the responses (thank you all for thinking about the question and responding):

  • My fave thing is the networking. Like one big digital party. If I ask a twitter matey something usually someone else chips in. Kate Vogelsang (@Kate_bob), a ‘digital do-gooder for Lambeth Council’.
  • Learning fab things, broadening my horizons and thinking, and meeting new peeps. Emma Rodgers (@EmmaRodgers), Irish mum and Head of Communications for a local authority in the West Midlands, and one of the amazing and supportive people behind some of the Comms2point0 happenings (@comms2point0)
  • I love it builds and helps keep relationships alive. It helps me to stay and feel connected to others, to new people I would never have met. It’s a great leveller. I have much better understanding and communicate more with e.g. elected members here [on twitter]. Donna Roberts (@Donna_M_Roberts), ‘loving mom to 3 boys, dogs and chickens’, who I have the privilege of working with on exciting projects  in Dudley.
  • For me, communication; it’s where all my volunteer work stemmed from, being introduced to many new people also. Examples of Susan’s volunteer work found on twitter? Guide Dogs for the Blind, Healthwatch Dudley, the RSPCA. This year’s ventures are Halas Homes and The Labour Party. Susan Perks (@MissSNP73), an energetic and talented volunteer in Dudley, who always seems open to new experiences and learning.
  • Instant, open and no hierarchy of power to go through. Ability to connect and learn from wide range of interests… Serendipity of conversations and connections has been great. Engaged with some brilliant folk who’d never have met without it. Simon Hanson (@hanson_simon), a generous and thoughtful sharer on twitter based in County Durham, and doing ace things up in the North.
  • One reason: you’re communicating with real people and real experiences as opposed to, say, media misconceptions. Stephen Parry (@StephenParry 80), a ‘passionate people person, cares about the world’ (Simon has become a welcome firm fixture in my twitter conversations over the last year.)

As if to emphasise what people have said, of the 6 people whose responses are shared above I knew two of them (Donna and Emma) in person before I connected with them on twitter. I have had a number of conversations with Susan on twitter over the last few months and finally met her last month. I’ve never met Simon, Stephen or Kate (or if I have I’ve clean forgotten and I apologise!), and yet I read tweets by Simon and Stephen most days of the week, and frequently have a bit of chat with them on twitter. Simon send me links to blog posts and articles which he just knows I’ll be interested in, and Stephen makes me feel great about things I share on twitter, chatting away with me about comedy night, ethical shopping and more.

What do you think about the responses people shared?
What do you use twitter for?
What do you think is great about it?

Image credit: shared by kyu3 with creative commons licence here

Making our neighbourhoods healthy event shared online

Last Thursday Dudley’s Health and Wellbeing Board hosted an event which focused on a priority in their strategy around making our neighbourhoods healthy. As a member of the Development Group which supports the board, I was involved in the planning and preparation of the event. For a number of reasons, primarily (in my view) a lack of exposure to and experience of using social media among council officers, the various Health and Wellbeing Board events held over the last eight months haven’t involved much, if any, sharing through social media platforms.

I was therefore grateful when the lead facilitator for Thursday’s event, Catherine Wilton from Think Local Act Personal, asked before the event about hashtags. Catherine isn’t an intensive user of social media, so it’s great that she thinks about it in event planning. We agreed to use the hashtag which Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) have been using for their work with Health and Wellbeing Board (HWBs) – #TLAPHWB. I quickly created handouts for participants with the hashtag on and information about where content would be shared online following the event e.g. Stority and Flickr. I was also grateful to the team at Healthwatch Dudley, for the loan of their 4G mobile broadband device which enabled us to use wifi in Wrens Nest Community Centre during the event, as the Centre doesn’t have wifi yet.

Once you’ve sorted that as an event planner, much of the rest is down to the online community. Thanks to some great tweeting and sharing of photos on twitter during the event, I was able to quickly pull together a Storify archive from the event. I uploaded photos from my camera and my phone to Flickr here. Together, these tasks only took an hour, which I was easily able to in the evening on the day of the event. There are times which more curation and explanation in Storify is useful, and when more consideration should be given to use of photos on Flickr and thus time put in to editing. However my objective was simply to convey some of the key messages from the event, show the fun people had and try to get across the connections that people made.

Here are just a few of the tweets shared from the event by people in organisations in Dudley.

Matt Bowsher is an Assistant Director in Dudley Council and active user of twitter:

Stuart Johnson is our Police Chief Superintendent and uses twitter in a really friendly way:

Mark Ellerby from Summit House often shares interesting things he hears at events on twitter:

And Donna Roberts from Dudley Council was the twitter superstar of the day, ensuring that there were photos online and that the story of the event was shared in real time:

If you have tips for sharing online during events please reply below. If you would like any advice around using social media in events in Dudley please just ask.


Using social media in Community Forums

Apologies for the lack of posts at the end of last year, I don’t know where the time went!

Our social media surgeries in November and December bought together people doing brilliant things in their communities and organisations, and helped them increase confidence and skills in using social media to help them. The next social media surgery coming up is on Thursday 20 February, from 6pm at Cafe Grande in Dudley – click here to register.

BostinCamp on 5 November was a great success, the 100 tweets shared during the evening are archived here. Something we heard about during the evening was Tim Sunter’s experience of using social media at a Brierley Hill Community Forum meeting organised by Dudley Council.

local saying "community forums, a new way to have your say"

logo from Dudley Council website

The 10 regular community forums held across Dudley borough are designed to “give people direct access to councillors and Dudley Council through regular drop in public meetings” (from Dudley MBC website). During consultation about the community forums when they were first proposed there were hopes from active citizens that social media would be integral to the process (see this report from a participatory workshop at which people voiced this aspiration). However as the forums were rolled out this time last year, use of social media wasn’t being actively encouraged or facilitated.

I was therefore really pleased to see that Tim Sunter (@Brierley _Hill) was live tweeting from a community forum meeting last July. I was also intrigued that in doing so Tim had prompted a discussion during the meeting about using social media. You can see the conversation in Tim’s Storify archive (go down to the sub-title use of twitter in future meetings). I just love that the simple act of sharing a contribution made by someone using twitter and not present at the meeting impressed and changed the views of people at the meeting who had thought that using twitter at the meetings would exclude those who didn’t use it.

photo of people at BostinCamp

BostinCamp in November 2013

Tim shared this story with us at BostinCamp, and also another really interesting continuation of the story. Knowing that a number of people who are interested in what is going on in Brierley Hill don’t use twitter, Tim emailed his curated Storify archive to everyone on the mailing list for the Brierley Hill Community Forum. 21 individuals replied to Tim’s email, including 2 local councillors, with responses being very positive, aside from the 5 people who couldn’t access Storify through council computers.

Tim generously prepared a wonderfully mind map of all the responses which you can see here. Below are a couple of responses he flagged up to share with us:

“I think it is really good way to open the meeting up to a bigger audience. would be really good if the council did it safe you doing it for them and people can give live feed back to issues.”

“I think that life has made attending meetings like this difficult, but this allows people to be in the room if they care and not just if they can make the meeting. Certainly a huge leap in transparency. Thanks for sharing.”

And here’s a great response from a local councillor demonstrating openness to sharing and to figuring out which social media tools to use (which can be rather confusing) :

This is really good – how do you link into it – do you have to be on twitter or could I go in through one of my Facebook pages?”

The next BostinCamp will take place on Tuesday 5 February from 5.30pm – more details and online registration here. Do come along and join us, it’s great to drink coffee, eat cake and talk about social media.

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.