Category: Social Media Surgery

Growing the civic conversation online – a platform for healthier local democracy and healthier communities.

Austin Rodriguez and Lewis O-Rourke

Bit by bit we’ve been doing something strategic in Birmingham.   Every social media surgery that happens in the city helps in a number of ways:

  • Provides new skills to individual active citizens
  • Creates a place where people can meet each other
  • Helps community groups and the public sector use the web to talk to each other
  • Grows the civic conversation online.

This last one has been the strategic part.

I think that growing the civic conversation online is an important part of building new platforms in neighbourhoods. It helps traditional civic activity work better and new civic models emerge.

This is based on a simple assumption that if more civically minded people are using the web to talk to each other in a community it will be easier for politicians, public servants and other citizens to share ideas, information  and collaborate or campaign.  Of course people can and will use the web to talk about brangelina – but with the surgeries we target those already involved in or wishing to do something consciously civic.

We’ve taken this a step further in the last two or three years. A normal social media surgery is run by volunteers for volunteers – the free help is available to active citizens, local charities and community groups.

With funding from three of  the different quadrants of the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership  and some other initiatives  (thank you) we have run surgeries which involve public servants too. This means that they come to a surgery to get help on why and how to use social media. More than that though they learn alongside local community groups and active citizens. At times they are teaching each other – strengthening understanding and relationships.

We also used the effort to help spread live streaming of meetingscreate alternatives to traditional ward cttes and give public services tools to think about the stages of engaging online.

We sent out a survey to people who’ve used the social media surgeries in Birmingham. 35 people replied, about 10 per cent of those involved. They were a mixture of volunteers, third sector workers, public servants and at least one councillor.

The Survey

social media and public sector
does learning about social media influence how you think about your work

A third of people said what they had learned had influence how they think about their work ‘a lot’ – three quarters replied either 4 or 5 to that question.

One comment from a worker in a charity supporting charities said

“If I hadn’t started using social media  to build relationships I doubt I’d still be employed in my organisation, and I doubt my organisation would be doing some of the brilliant work it is doing. It’s enabled both me and my organisation to be pro-active in a rapidly changing and challenging context”

Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?

65% of people felt better able to make things happen because they are using social media. This is a core point. Growing the civic conversation is not just about more blither – it’s about more action.

Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet
Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet

Developing these skills in community groups and active citizens was also seen as a fresh opportunity by at least 77% of those who replied.  They know that the online civic conversation can help them get things done – so helping more people get involved ought to help that more.

have you seen the online conversation grow?
have you seen the online conversation grow?

More than 85 % felt they has seen the online civic conversation grow since getting involved with the social media surgery.  You would expect that to be the case for most people, simply being exposed to new people and new places where civic things get discussed would have that effect. But it is still encouraging to see that they have a wider civic conversation to take part in.

So Birmingham – you’ve already started a strategic investment in building a critical platform for civic change.   Persistence is paying off. Some more?  And what next? Which other new platforms are worth building?

If you’re not Birmingham, other places understand this and we can help you.  We introduced Dudley CVS to the why and wherefores and they have been running surgeries for years – indeed it was Lorna Prescott who told me that what were doing was platform building (sometimes it takes others to spot the obvious).

Adding Administrators to Facebook Pages (when you’re not already friends)

This is going to sound like a pretty obvious blog post for those of you that already know this but  –Did you know you can add people to become an administrator on our facebook page without having to be friends with them?

No? Well neither did the organisation I helped at Wolverhampton Social Media Surgery this week.

So for those of you that are unsure, here is how you do it:

 

Sign in to facebook and go to the page you would like to an administrator / editor etc to.

Now go to settings:

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The Page rolesScreenshot_051316_025503_PM

From here you can invite people to help you manage your page.

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If the person you are adding is your friend on Facebook and already likes your page you should just be able to start typing their name and it will appear in a drop down list. But if they are not our friend, or they don’t like your page then you will have to enter their email address…it has to the be the email address that they use Facebook with personally.

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Press enter, and you will be prompted to to re-enter your password, Once you’ve done this an invitation will be sent to your new admin, but they wont get notified about it in a an obvious way.

 

This method does not generate an email invitation, or even a standard Facebook notification, so for the invitee to accept they need to log into their facebook account and then visit https://www.facebook.com/pages.

Once here they need to find the invitations tab:

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Any pending invitations to admin pages will be at the top of this page, they can accept or reject from here.

Simple when you know how!

Craftivism and Social Media Surgeries. Being there.

During the Making For Change project I mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Corbett give a talk on Craftivism. Sarah  is the founder of the Craftivist Collective, a social enterprise which uses the techniques of craftivism to engage people in social justice issues, so she was perfect for the #MakingForChange project.

The Craftivist Collective’s approach to activism is more low key, respectful and more targeted approach than that of traditional activism.

To give you an example when the group were protesting in favour of the living wage for staff at Marks and Spencer’s they didn’t rock up to the head office waving placards shouting and stamping their feet. Instead they were took a more subtle approach, holding craft sessions or “stitch ins” outside branches of M&S.

They encouraged people to turn up to their session wearing Marks & Spencer’s clothing and to then to sit peacefully and stitch nice messages on M&S handkerchiefs encouraging the adoption of the living wage, that would then be gifted to all members of Marks and Spencer board.

This low key, quiet protest worked to engage the community. Shoppers, instead of having to shuffle around loud placard waving, intimidating protesters stopped to ask questions, “Why were a group of seemingly well dressed people sitting on the High Street sewing?”. Their interest was piqued, they were intrigued and a conversation was started.

This was only one of the projects Sarah talked about, and they were as equally as interesting, but in all of them the message that Sarah kept coming back to was the importance of being there.

Being there.

By being there with other craftivists – wherever there may be – and engaging in crafts gave people the space, time and freedom to talk about the things that mattered to them in a gentle way. By being there at protests and behaving non threateningly but intriguingly, passersby were engaging and we able to spread the message of the issues that mattered to them.

And being there is a message the we sell both for and at Social Media Surgeries.

When people approach us wanting to set up a Social Media Surgery for their town or neighbourhood it’s one of the first pieces of advice we give. “Just be there”. Find a space, start small, have zero expectations, but be there. You may only have 1 or 2 people come for help, but if you weren’t there you couldn’t help.

And when people come to us for help and support at surgeries, be it at our paid training sessions with councils, housing associations or charities, or at volunteer run surgeries with volunteers, third sector orgs or the solo community activist the message is the same “be there”. Who is your audience? Where is your audience? Find them and be there. Share your stories news and ideas, both good and bad. Write for them, engage with them, but be there. Because if your not there telling your story to your audience, no one else will.

Facebook, Profiles, Pages and Groups. What’s the difference?

facebook-logo

We were running an Awareness Session today for the East Birmingham Community Safety Partnership and it came up in conversation again about the different ways you can use Facebook – profiles, pages, open groups, closed groups – and how confusing it can be to the casual user.

There is a lot of choices and not always a plain English way of describing what each of them are – or why one might me better that the other, so I’m going to give it a go here.

Profiles

Profiles are people – end of.  Profiles make friends with other profiles. Just like real life – you make friends with people – not places, businesses or brands. Friends can interact publicly and privately, and just like in “real life” this interaction can be initiated by either person.

Once you’ve made friends with someone, depending on your privacy settings, you will have mutual access to each others personal profile information, status updates and photos.  – This is one of the reasons I refuse to make friends with brand or businesses who have profiles. I don’t know for sure WHO has access to it – or if I do know – who will have access to it in the future I don’t want strangers accessing photos of my son. Businesses should have pages.

But just like all rules there is an exception, mine is my hairdresser – I have a relationship with the person that cuts my hair and she is a business.

Pages

Pages are set up by people – and they represent groups, businesses charities, community groups etc. They are run by people. People with profiles can “like” pages – which essentially means they are interested enough to follow the updates on your page.

Unlike making friends. This is not a mutual connection – Profiles can view a pages information, photos, status etc but pages can not view profiles. Pages updates will go into their fans news feeds. Their fans updates do not appear in a pages news feed.

Pages can add other pages to their favourites and receive updates from other pages – but again this is not a mutual connection.

Pages can receive private messages, and they can respond to private messages, but they cannot start a private conversation with anyone – contact with a page needs to be initiated by a person (profile).

When a page owner posts to their wall the content appears as the page in date order with the latest post at the top and this is pushed out to fans news feed.  All page owners content is given priority over all content created by fans – all posts to the page by anyone other than the admin stays on the page in a section called “Visitors Posts” – and is not pushed out to other fans news feeds unless the page owner share it.

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I know some people get iffy about running pages with their personal account but in my honest opinion they shouldn’t, for starters there is no link to you from the page unless you choose to put it there. and secondly running a page form your personal account makes life so much easier

I manage several facebook pages from my personal profile and unless you know me, and I choose to tell you, you’ll never know which ones. Unlike groups where you always post as yourself – the default is to post as the page, so there’s little chance for mispost mishaps.

 Groups

People with profiles can create and join groups – Groups can be for anything – they are a way of bringing people together with shared interests.  There are several types of groups  and I like to use  a pub analogy to try and explain them:

  • Public A public group is like a pub on a high street with it’s windows and doors wide open. Any one can wander by and hear the conversation, Anyone can enter or be invited in to join in and you can come and go as you please.
  • Closed A closed group is like standing outside a pub with locked windows and doors – you can see who’s inside but you can’t hear what they are talking about, you can’t join in and you have no idea if its the sort of place you’d want to go – you just have to knock until you are invited in and then decide….If you leave, you have to ask to be given access again.
  • Secret A secret group is like a private party in  a pub you don’t even know exists until someone invites you along.

Whenever something is added to a group it appears at the top of the group feed, if someone comments on something older this is then bumped back to the top so the order of posts is constantly changing giving prominence to the most recent thing posted or commented on. Unless something is “pinned” by an admin to stick to the top for awhile – anyone’s posts could be pinned.

Unlike pages, when a group admin posts to a group that content is adding as themselves.

All posts to groups don’t automatically appear in you news feed the way you receive group notifications can be set per group and deserves a blog post all of it’s own!

So that’s it, my plain English attempt at explaining the different ways to use facebook.