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.

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!