Social Media in the Public Sector

Here’s a podcast I put together from a conference I chaired today called ‘Social Media in the Public Sector‘. The students on the MA Social Media degree I lead had been doing podcasts last week (ably taught by Caroline Beavon) so I thought I best join in the fun.

The conference was very much of a traditional format, it’s almost as if the unconference approach taken by the localgovcamp movement is happening in a parallel universe. The speakers were good and on the 17 minute recording below I speak to (in order):

  • Jane Postlethwaite, Social Media Officer, Brighton and Hove City CouncilAlex – NHS London
  • Paul Melhuish, Digital News Editor, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
  • Alex Talbott, Communications Officer, NHS London
  • Amanda Coleman, Head of Corporate Communications, Greater Manchester Police
  • Professor Vlatka Hlupic, Professor of Business and Management, Westminster Business School
  • I then speak to a few audience members, two from the UK Border Agency and two from local councils in the south of England.

Hope you find it useful. I always find it interesting to listen to how people are using social media within the workplace.

Copy also on Soundcloud: http://snd.sc/AnE80N

A bit more about Teaching Social Media

I’ll try not to go on about it too much but as a follow-up to my previous post (about Teaching Social Media) I thought I’d share a video that one of my distance learning students put together as part of his engagement with the MA Social Media. I share it because it’s a good example of what a distance learning student on the course might be asked to do and I don’t want you to think (based on the last post) that it’s all, y’know, a bit too ‘theory’.

So, here’s Jeff Sage, a full-time distance learner who lives in Canada where he runs a communications consultancy. He’s responding to a task about how/why he might set up a Social Media Surgery in his hometown. It comes on the back of a talk the students had from the fab Nick Booth.

Specifically the task was:

“This week I would like the distance learning students to reflect on the talk by Nick Booth and consider how you might go about setting up a social media surgery in your own town. What would your strategy be? Have a read of Nick Booth’s ‘recipe’ list as a starting point.

Your response should be a short (5-10 mins) video that tells us the following:

  • What’s your town like? – rich? poor? digitally deprived??
  • Is there a way to connect to voluntary groups and community organisations (an umbrella organisation of some sort)?
  • How would you go about connecting to other digitally minded folk to persuade them to help set up a surgery?
  • What’s stopping you doing this?”

Enjoy Jeff’s response about London, Ontario:

(BTW, the other D/L students gave terrific responses as well, about Cologne and Geneva, but it’s Jeff’s manner that particularly makes me smile a lot)

Teaching Social Media

As you may know I lead a Masters Degree in Social Media. Often, some wag will say ‘is that just about learning how to use twitter then?’. I get less of it now than I used to but it’s a tad tiresome nonetheless. So, I thought I’d post up some content to give a glimpse of the kind of thing we do cover.

We have a distance learning version of the course running for the first time this year, the content for which comes through the university’s virtual learning environment (we use Moodle) but also via a podcast channel. So the video below is also an example of the kind of content that distance learners will get. Sometimes it’ll be bite-sized and recorded from Dave’s lounge; other times it’ll be a longer recording of a lecture given in class.

The video I’m sharing is about a couple of tricky readings I had given the students. One was from Joss Hands, the other, Chris Atton. To support the students I created this short video of me going through a mindmap of the readings. In class we’d had talks from Nick Booth and Noha Atef so at times it tries to relate the concepts in the readings to their talks.

But the main reason to share this is to make it clear that we don’t talk about how to use twitter, we talk about marxism, about cultural studies, about becoming ‘scholarly practitioners‘:

As an aside I got a nice tweet back from one the authors, Joss Hands, when I shared the video with him.

“Twatted, which is the past tense of tweet”

Obviously this clip of Stewart Lee is well-watched by now but I put it here for three reasons.

The main one is that I’m curious with BBC embedded videos how long they stay online. I know that sounds a bit doubtful but I instinctively feel that a Youtube embed would always be there (or at least would be there up until the point a copyright owner noticed an infringement and took it down) but the BBC ones I feel might disappear at any moment given how some stuff seems to come and go on iPlayer. So I’ll check back now and again to see if it’s still around. Better than leaving it open in a browser window as it has been for about a month now.

[note – the BBC changed where they put it on their site and altered the embed code so I had to update this page in March 2016. I think it had been bust for a while before that]

Secondly, it starts with a terrific observation about Facebook user stats.

Thirdly, if you haven’t seen it then it’s funny, as is Stewart Lee. I saw him in Edinburgh last year while he was rehearsing the material for the series this is from and I laughed lots.

Social Media use in the West Midlands: some stats, some caution

A while back I wondered out loud if there was much research about social media use in regions or localities:

tweet

It got quite a bit of retweeting by both local goverment workers I know and by social media consultants, so it had a decent enough reach. Despite that I didn’t get a reply other than a couple saying they’d be interested themselves in the data if I found any. Of course that isn’t to say none exists, just people I know didnt have any to hand.

The reason I tweeted was twofold. Firstly I’d been looking at Dan Slee’s presentation that he gave at a national government IT event. Dan quotes quite a few stats around social media use as part of the rationale for using Social Media as part of his professional practice within a local authority. He makes this assertion:

slide

 

I’m unsure of the source for the figures for facebook but presumably it’s extrapolated from the earlier quoted figure of 26 million facebook users nationally (now at 29.7m). The population of Walsall is 253,499 (2001 census). So whilst a third of the UK population uses Facebook, 88% of people in Walsall seem to use it.

That didn’t seem right.

My second reason for asking for local social media research was because I knew some was about to be completed for the West Midlands. An internal piece of research by Centro was looking at how to plan future media campaigns and how much note they should take of recent digital developments. So the research was to look at the correlation between public transport use and digital technology take-up.

My wife was key in putting the report together and she’s let me have a copy of it (PDF). Before we look at some findings let’s have some caveats although the survey is pretty confident so to speak. 2061 interviews were conducted across the West Midlands, a sample of this size has a margin of error of +/- 2.2% at a 95% confidence level. The data was weighted to each district (of which Walsall was one) so that the same number proportion were surveyed in Walsall as they were in Birmingham. Gender split was even, class split was even (to give it the lingo: ABC1s, well-off folk and C2DEs, poor folk).

  • Caveat 1: when you get to the districts the numbers are fairly low. In Walsall the sample was 207.
  • Caveat 2: Although the survey was to a quota (it tried to ask the same amount of young people as old people), that quota was for the region as a whole. So it may be that in the districts there’s a slight unevenness across age, gender and class.
  • Caveat 3: under 16s weren’t interviewed, they never are in these things.

Oh and you have to see past all the stuff about buses. In summary, young people and old people use buses and in general they are C2DEs. But onward. Here are some findings for the West Midlands Metropolitan County only about Social Media use:

  • Of those surveyed, 41% used Facebook weekly or more often, 21% used YouTube and 6% Twitter, 2% MySpace.
  • Younger respondents were the most regular users of social networking sites especially Facebook (83%, weekly).
  • Few respondents over the age of 44 used social network sites, this was particularly the case for the over 65’s (6%)
  • Men slightly outpaced women in all forms of use of the internet, while ABC1 use was more regular than C2DE
  • Females (42%, weekly) were slightly more regular Facebook users than males (39%, weekly) while male respondents were more likely than females to use Twitter (7%) and YouTube (25%).

But what about Walsall? That 88% figure? Well the ONS tell us that only 77% of West Midlands folk are internet users (Q1 2011 data .xls file, the stat is buried in table 2) compared to a national average of 82.2%. The Centro district info (caveats above) tells us that for Walsall the figure drops to 66% (poor old Sandwell is a mere 62%). Of that 66% (167,309 people), 54% use Facebook more than once a week. The upshot is, 36% of the entire population of Walsall, about 91,000 people, access Facebook more than once a week.

That’s a lot of people. It’s not 222,00 people, it’s less than half of that, but it’s still a lot. Further, they are predominantly young people. Indeed, across the West Midlands 83% of young people who access the internet use Facebook more than once a week.

So here’s my point. The figures stack up. They’re convincing in their own right and suggest that there’s a generation that is at ease with this technology across a range of devices. For Centro it actually creates a dilemma. Bus users are old and young – both ends of the digital divide. What to do? More cool digital stuff to keep the kids happy and attract more ABC1s out of their cars? What about the OAPs, of whom only 27% have internet access?

Centro’s marketing is now fairly informed. The headline figures used by Walsall seem uninformed – they’re over-extrapolated. And I worry about that. I worry that in local government there’s a tendency to want to create solutions ahead of doing the research. Research can be dull (I’m surprised you’re still reading), but it allows for targeted interventions. I wonder how much the sometimes very  cool social media activities produced within local gov (some listed here) amount to anything more than marketing exercises. Typical of me of course but I’d like to seem a more cautionary, better informed approach. Less of the quick wins, less of the gimmicks and more solutions that target the citizens you need to reach.

I was going to talk about twitter but it’s pretty much a minority activity  (of the 207 people surveyed in Walsall only 23 used and it’s very much for young, male, ABC1s). Also tweetathons and their benefits or otherwise are discussed elsewhere.

Thanks to Mrs H for access to the stats and for making sure I made clear the confidence level of the research but also its caveats – she rocks.

Making my job more difficult

In case you don’t know what I do for a living I’m a kind of champion for use of digital stuff by businesses in Birmingham. And the easiest, no-cost, digital stuff to get your head round is Social Media. I’m always hunting down examples. I love the fact that Herefordshire-based Wiggly Wigglers have bloggedpodcasted and Youtubed their way out of tough economic times. I love that they dumped their expensive bought-in customer lists and built a customer base around their facebook group and twitter followers. Those are loyal, repeating customers, helping each other get the best from this company’s products. No expensive helpline needed – they help each other.

I work in partnership in my job. Trying to slip my thinking into other people’s strategies. That £17m support package for businesses announced yesterday? In amongst those big fat projects to be delivered through Business Link and the Universities is some of my thinking – there’s a sprinkling of digital stuff. I sit on the sub-group of the Birmingham Economic Development Partnership that helped draft them. I can play an influencing role there, those people in the group know me as that guy who thinks social media is useful. None of them are great users of social media themselves but they aren’t dismissive, they understand there’s a change happening, a change that might be useful for all businesses to understand and take note of.

So it’s kind of crushing to see a representative of the partner who most connects to businesses castigate social media out of hand. John Lamb’s piece in the Post is atrocious. At the end of the piece it says: “John Lamb’s views are not necessarily those of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.” As I say on my own About page, I use the same head for work as I do everywhere else. My personal views are wrapped up in my work views. If I’m expressing a disappointment here on my personal blog then that’s how I’ll be feeling next time I go to a meeting with Birmingham Chamber.

Actually, I know the Chamber is taking an active interest in new digital tools, which is great but having a key representative take such umbrage to their use just makes my job that much more difficult and that much more disheartening.

*Sighs*

That cinematic backwater thing – maybe I just need to chill

I thought I’d leave a week until I blogged about last Monday’s ‘Cinematic Backwater‘ debate which kicked off the excellent Fazeley Digital Festival. I thought maybe I’d calm down in the interim, that the underlying issue of ‘does it matter that Norwich get cool films before Birmingham?’ would vex me less.

Suffice to say I’m still vexed. And I’m even a bit more vexed because having now aired the topic in public I could see that I wasn’t alone in feeling frustrated at the current state of film exhibition in the city. For those new to me moaning about this take a read of the original post that resulted in this event being created. I was joined by a fantastic panel: Roger Shannon – Film Producer & academic; Ian Francis – film festival curator; Rachel Carter, Film Producer and co-founder of Fullrange Media.

All agreed that yes, it did matter that some films tend to only get to Birmingham on their second-run. Not all in the audience agreed but in general the discussion covered:

  • the dominance of film programming by the few to the detriment of the many;
  • questioned whose role audience development is in the region;
  • pondered the cultural priorities of a city where Digbeth can have three modern art galleries but no cinemas;
  • debated the link between a thriving culture of exhibiting the weird/leftfield/arty/independent and the impact that might have on the films that we produce out of the region.

Roger brought with him a whole bag full of consultants’ reports from the past 20 years that in one way or another touched on the issue of whether Birmingham needs a new arts cinema. He drew our attention in particular to a recent report by Tom Fleming ‘Mixed Art-form and Media Venues in the Digital Age’ (link to PDF).

There was some reference to the Arts Lab/Triangle era and there was much nodding at the suggestion that what we need now is perhaps the best of that (its radical edge for a start) combined with the dynamic and vibrant social media scene that’s currently setting the city apart. That’s perhaps where this discussion should go next.

For me though it still comes back to competitiveness. Those in the city with access to resources and the power to influence decisions need to understand that when Norwich are getting interesting films ahead of us then the time for action is now.

My Dad is definitely not on Twitter


About a year ago I was talking to some work colleagues about an event that was taking place about social media. “It’ll be full of the usual suspects,” I said. “But Dave,” they responded, “you are a usual suspect.”

I suspect that’s how I’m viewed – a usual suspect. Truth is I don’t actually attend that many events. Birmingham Social Media Cafe maybe from time to time but little else. In the last few weeks though I’m aware that I seem to be all over the place. I pitched up at West by West Midlands 2, I chaired a debate about cinema exhibition and most recently I’ve been explaining why my poor dead Dad (30 years gone this year) isn’t on twitter.

You can read elsewhere about the mindmap idea behind the event ‘My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why’ at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth. I think I gave a rather dour speech about how Twitter seems to come with a whole set of unwritten rules that puts newcomers off and can be intimidating for organisations. Tolerance towards people’s mistakes was my request. Some useful points were made from the audience. One of them took me to task about my argument that digital doesn’t archive as well as analogue. Digital captures conversation, was his response and what a rich seam to mine that would prove to future historians.

The second half of my talk touched on the Internet of Things. No-one really picked up on this despite my fab example of GusandPenny, the tweeting cat flap. My argument here is simple. Once Twitter gets filled up with objects, rather than people, we’ll realise how dull we are in comparison and how our unwritten rules were naive at best. A Twitter of Things is coming I declared – I’m not sure anyone believed me.

An enjoyable evening overall, some sharp questions from an engaged audience and some drawing to boot.

Fazeley Studios Digital Festival continues throughout next week.