WhatsApp: great for event team communications

photo of Bostin Tay Party flyers and beer mats on a black tableLast Thursday Dudley CVS staff were being briefed about how our first event at Brierley Hill Civic would run, and what we would need to do if we were helping out. Bostin Tay Party was a festival of food, fun and ale, and we were looking forward to throwing the doors of the Civic open to the community.

We have a Brierley Hill Civic Facebook Page and Twitter account, we’d created Bostin Tay Party event on Facebook, and we had a committed staff team on a rota to help the 2 day event run smoothly. It became apparent that it would be really helpful to have an easy and effective way of communicating between a handful of us who could stay in the loop on key decisions, split responsibility for sharing content on social media, and respond to conversation on social media. Particularly as a key member of the team on the social media front, Becky, was on leave during the run up to the event.

WhatsApp was the perfect solution. Within a matter of a minutes, before the end of the staff briefing, we’d created a WhatsApp group with 6 members. At this point it was 30 hours to the start of the event. I’ve found it interesting reviewing conversation and interactions in this WhatsApp group which we used for a total of 4 days. Below are a few things I learned which have resulted in me to wanting to use WhatsApp for any events I’m involved in organising / helping out at.

1. The WhatsApp group enabled us to swiftly get co-ordinated 

In the first 3 minutes of the WhatsApp group existing a remote team member sorted increased social media admin access across the team. No need for meetings or phone calls!

2. WhatsApp can bridge between the main social media team and others in the wider teamphotos of pint glass with Brierley Hill Civic logo on it

One the day of the event, unprompted, our Chief Officer Andy popped photos of the lovely glasses and beer arriving a the Civic. The social media team then shared them on Facebook and Twitter. This enabled us to have real time photo content without needing to be there ourselves.

3. WhatsApp helped with key information sharing and reduced workload

Donna spent the afternoon numbering the beer vouchers and setting up the entry stations, and updated us on arrangements through the WhatsApp group before she left for the day, helping to keep us all up to speed with what was what.

Our admin officer Dale said that he found the WhatsApp group conversation really useful as he could keep track of what was being done and it saved him from having to text or call people about various things. This wasn’t visible to those of us chattering away in the group, as Dale was in the group without needing to actively contribute, so it was interesting to me to learn that being in the group had helped him in this way.

4. WhatsApp helped us to see what was going on

The Bostin Tay Party started on Friday night, but some of us weren’t on the rota until Saturday. Mel took a number of photos which she shared in the WhatsApp group as well as on Facebook and Twitter, helping the team to see what was happening, and have chat about social media sharing etc.

5. We could share interesting things without waiting for a debrief

On Friday evening I spotted that Facebook has added the ‘very responsive to messages’ icon to our Facebook Page, which has to be earned to appear on your Page. I shared this with the team on WhatsApp, as congratulatory encouragement.

6. It was all so easy

It was so simple to set up the group, and everyone used it ways which were natural and instinctive to them, without any need for explanation or instruction. And as usual with great team conversation we did everything from getting work done to chattering about buses home and going to the circus!

 

I really love WhatsApp and the way it can help teams of people bond, encourage each other, get work done and share critical information widely in a timely manner. I’m in WhatsApp groups of sizes varying from 2 to 30 members, some are short-lived (such as for an event), some morph into new purposes, others have been alive and lively for over 18 months with more and more people being added over time. I’m fascinated by the way WhatsApp  helps teams to bridge with social media like Facebook and Twitter, whether it helps to share content to go out, or brings information in from those other channels to people who might not have spotted it otherwise. I’m also keen to explore the WhatsApp broadcast message function which I posted about here.

I’d really love to hear how you use WhatsApp or what might prompt you to use it.

You can learn more about how people in different sorts of organisations in Dudley are using social media at BostinCamp, we have a great session coming up on 14 October – find out more and register here. It’s a great early evening conversation, it’s free to come along, you can buy a cuppa and slice of cake and meet brilliant people.

(How) do you use WhatsApp?

WhatsApp_logoI was first introduced to WhatsApp by residents of Wrens Nest who  were using it as a way to maintain communication between committee members for the Community Centre. A small team of us from different organisations have been working closely with the committee at the centre, so they added us to their WhatsApp group. I think some of the reasons it was so useful in their context was that you don’t need credit on your phone because it works over wifi, it works across all different makes of smartphone, and it doesn’t require people to be on a social media platform like Facebook (a couple of members of the group don’t use Facebook).

Our team started using WhatsApp for a number of things including:

  • Communications to and between residents who were getting involved in activities with us.
  • Practical arrangements – our most frequent one is finding out who has the keys to the community centre and where can we collect them from!
  • Team communications and updates. It has been really helpful to share updates on who we’ve spoken to and what activity has been taking place using WhatsApp. We did try email updates, but they felt cumbersome and hard work. A quick WhatsApp message can be sent on the spot, and doesn’t clog up email inboxes. Another useful function is that you can export WhatsApp group chat content via email, which we do on a monthly basis to save updates for monitoring purposes.
  • Team planning. While I’d love to be using tools like Trello and Slack, they are big step and if not already part of how you work they probably feel a bit daunting and perhaps present to much of learning curve for a project you might spend one or two days a week on. So we started to use WhatsApp to share screen grabs of planning documents shared in our GoogleDrive, this helps keep us on track, reduces emails, and nudges us over to GoogleDrive when team mates ask for contributions.

Given this experience, I was fascinated to read a blog post by Paul Bradshaw about ways that Online Journalism students had used WhatsApp to publish updates during the elections. Below are a couple of extracts which serve to highlight useful things I learned from reading the post.

WhatsApp has a Broadcast Message Function

Most people use WhatsApp to have group chats – but most news organisations don’t use this.Instead they use WhatsApp’s Broadcast Message feature to publish updates. This is because it has particular advantages:

  • Users cannot see each other’s details (particularly useful if you’re concerned about data protection issues)
  • Users do not know how many other recipients there are (useful if, as is likely, you have small subscriber numbers and do not wish that to be obvious)
  • Users are less likely to reply (useful if you don’t have the time to manage replies – although this can also be a disadvantage if you want interaction)

You can find a guide to setting up a broadcast message on various platforms here.

You can use WhatsApp to share great visually driven content

What made the BirminghamEastside coverage stand out was their focus on visual journalism: not just data visualisation and infographics but also short animated videos using Legend and mobile video journalism.

See number 5 in Paul’s post for great examples of visual content. I also loved the signup page promotion shared in the post (number 3).

Now it’s over to you. Leave a comment here, or on twitter (@dosticen), Facebook or LinkedIn with your thoughts on WhatsApp, for example:

  • Do you use WhatsApp, and if so how are you using it?
  • Are you interested in using WhatsApp now?