Social media surgeries, simplicity and being there

A proper cup of tea
A proper cup of tea by James Shade on flickr


I often say this about social media surgeries: please keep it simple.

Why?  Because the most important single thing about a surgery is that it should be there.

Being there is a core part of supporting communities.  Month after month they know you’ll be there, they get used to it, they get used to the relaxed format and they come for help, come for ideas, come for connections, come back to offer help.

It is just a truth that something is more likely to happen if it’s simple.  A cup of tea with a friend is much more likely to happen than a dinner party.  A social media surgery is that cup of tea.  Easy,  informal, friendly.

Sometimes I see people wanting to run surgeries but getting into dinner party mode: trying to get all the partners on board first, guarantee that a certain number of people will turn up, thinking about handout sheets, trying to decide if someone is expert enough to be a surgeon, paying to book a room, worrying about feeding people, thinking it has to be in a library or a public building etc etc etc.

All the while they are doing this, the surgery isn’t there; it doesn’t exist.

The local community and voluntary organisations could have been turning up month after month in their ones and twos (or maybe dozens) getting help.  But that didn’t happen because it had become complicated in the minds of the people who wanted to start the surgery.

A couple of years ago I wrote a recipe for a basic surgery but now I’d like to simplify it.

I think you need:

  1. a free room where there is wifi and you can buy or blag a drink  (cafe is perfect)
  2. a surgery manager – the person who’s happy to choose a time and date and check with the people at the venue that it’s ok with them.  On the day they welcome people, introduce them and  just make sure people are ok.
  3. at least one surgeon (can overlap with manager in the weeny ones)  and hopefully at least one person from a local community and voluntary group who wants some help
  4. zero expectations – high hopes can kill enthusiasm. Expect nothing and be delighted by what does happen.

That’s it – anyone can organise that – you can get one up and running tomorrow if you want.

So please keep it simple.  Simplicity is usually the difference between a surgery being there or not.



This response to this post made me smile:




for original tweets see here and here


  1. Monica Tailor says:

    Hi Nick

    Nice post and I couldn’t agree more! The surgeries in Leeds got off to a faulting start until John and I decided that we needed to commit to doing it every month even if no one turned up. Committing to being in the same place, every month at the same time has meant that people know what to expect. In the early days it wasn’t uncommon for there to be two surgeons to every person wanting help but that seems like a long time ago now.

    Your social media ‘recipe’ is something I’ve come back to more than once so thanks for reminding me once again what it’s all about!


  2. Chris Seymour-Smith says:

    Couldn’t agree more. If all the posh projects in Bham designed to manage teachers’ change around ICT and social media stuck to the Podnosh Keep It Simple Sequence (KISS), I suspect a shedload more teachers would be using ICT to transform learning.

  3. Andrew John says:

    a good post which i think can also apply to the way we all interact with our various audiences, the fact is that regular contact will have a better chance of being productive rather than these grandiose and stage managed events we see around the city

  4. Lorna Prescott says:

    A helpful reminder Nick, and what I love about the social media surgeries we run in Dudley is that I can just grab the laptop and mifi dongle and turn up. We couldn’t function quite so well though without the excellent social media surgery website which allows to promote our surgeries, see who has booked and register people on the day. So I would add that to your recipe.

    Also I think that for people who aspire to cook like Heston it can be difficult to take the Jamie approach – they need to feel comfortable with a dollop of this and a dash of the other (I don’t
    know many chefs, sorry if this not the best comparison)

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