Category: Social Housing

When it comes to Social Media think “Quality not Quantity”

Wolverhampton Federation of Tenants Associations

I was at the Wolverhampton Social Media Surgery this week when a patient came for some help, who highlighted to me in a practical way somethings I’ve known and we’ve taught for a long time….

When it comes to Social Media it’s quality over quantity is what you’re looking for and being useful is what matters most.

Lorraine had come for some advice with the Wolverhampton Federation of Tenants Associations (WFTA) facebook page. I’d helped her set it up at a previous surgery  and now she’d come along asking for help getting more “fans”, as at that point the page only had 44 “likes”.

The WFTA promotes the interests of social sector tenants within Wolverhampton and aims to ensure tenants and prospective tenants are able to have a say over services and are able to influence them so they are relevant to their needs. The WFTA facebook page is used to share information about the service the WFTA offers, engage with tenants and to advertise events they have coming up, most recently around welfare reform and regeneration. Lorraine wanted more fans so she could reach a wider audience, for more people to see the content  for the benefit of the community but also as evidence to her boss, and the project funders that their social media was working.

Not only 44

She was fixated on that number 44, “only” 44 people were engaged with her page –  “only” 44 people had clicked like – “only” 44 people are seeing my posts And on she went asking should I pay for advertising?  How can I get MORE people to like the page –  So I suggested that before she rushed out to pay for promoted content (something she had asked about) we look at the insights for her page….

We looked at the the reach of the page and the reach of individual posts. One update alone had reached 358 people. Some had more, some had less but that’s the one we focused on, so lets work that out in percentages, ((358-44)/44)*100= 713.63,  rounded up  that’s a 714% increase in the actual amount of people that were seeing the post  to what she had thought were seeing it as evidenced by the number of people that like her page.

So where were the views coming from – how was she reaching so many people when she only had 44 likes?

The Right Content

Lorraine was being useful to her target audience and so in turn her content was being shared.

She could have only had 244 fans and still ended with a a total reach of 358 or maybe even less for that post if 200 of those people were the WRONG people to be talking to and the content was irrelevant.

Those 44 people were the right people for her to be engaged with. They thought the message she was sharing was useful and they in turn were sharing across to their own profiles and pages ultimately it IS the quality of the engagement that matters more than the number of people you think you’re engaging with.


How advantaged thinking helped Fiona help herself to help her organsiation help itself.

We get to work with some brilliant organisations.  Foyer Federation has been developing approaches around what it calls Advantaged Thinking and talent –  intended to allow foyers and the young people they work with to use an emphasis on finding positive ways to view the world and focus on talent (rather than deficits) to improve how young people work with foyers to further their lives.

Today I bumped into Fiona McCance who describes herself on her blog:

My name is Fiona and I am 21. I have been living at the Northampton scheme run by Mayday Trust since 4th February 2013. When I arrived at Mayday I was very concerned about having to build a relationship with someone new and was very reluctant to communicate with the staff but after meeting my then Key worker I was challenged with the patience of a saint. After a while the barriers I had set up slowly disappeared and I was able to communicate what help I needed and what ambitions I had in life. Well, that’s where the fun started and my life changed completely

Fiona came across some of the Foyer’s work and was so inspired by this positive approach that she encouraged the people who run here Foyer to get more involved with the advantaged thinking as a way of working.  It has changed all sorts – seeing the first Learning Abilities Foyer established by the Mayday Trust and also changed Fiona’s life – as she tells you in  the video above.



Why don’t we trust networks to do things at scale? #ukgovcamp13 #lsis13

A picture of a traditional set opf scales with german writing
Image thanks to vividbreeze on flickr

I’ve had a bonkers busy few weeks – meeting and talking to a wide range of people and it’s helped me start thinking through a problem with networks:  they tend not to be trusted to reliably deliver solutions at any sort of scale.

Let me share how and why I’ve started looking at this (and I’m sure I’m not the first).

Catherine Howe  (her govcamp piece here) and myself were both in a session at the fabulous ukgovcamp last Saturday.  It was the end of the day and  I think (I came in late)  it was on what makes cross sector collaboration work and  convened by  Jag Goraya with a big dose of help from Saul Cozens.

A problem of scale?


The bit of the discussion that helped me went along the lines of.   “The answer to a lot of public sector problems do sit in developing healthy networks and developing and encouraging the cultures which help networks thrive.  Do that and  people tend to do what makes sense, rather than what is prescribed.”  I was trying to understand why achieving this is so difficult and suggested that it was a problem with scale, something along the lines of…

  1. Large budgets and large problems tend to lead to large things being created and commissioned.
  2. These have a direction of their own and – on the whole – need to be seen to succeed.
  3. Networked activity is different – it is often lots of small activity with little or modest innovation – that doesn’t appear to be capable of delivering at scale.
  4. So large organsiation charged with sorting large problems are loathe to trust to a networked approach.

In truth I think networks can deliver at scale.  A city is such a thing, the families that make up a community likewise. The benefit for using networked approaches for sorting big problems is we don’t need to invest everything in one large solution then persuade ourselves it has worked.

Dollops and cock up


Instead we need to learn how to recognise the pattern of networked progress:  plenty  of success, a good dollop  of treading water and a decent slice of cock-up, indifference, waste and failure.

I think way forward collectivity this will improve on social problems more steadily and in a way that people can more easily get involved with than a large scale service offer tends to do.  It’s also relates to why I’ve had problems with unrealistic expectations – that setting expectation too high leads to harming social movement – zero expectations encourage success – high expectations make even achievements look like failures.

That was the gist of where ukgovcamp  had got me to.  It was built on other things recently:

  • Listening to a conversation the week before at a conference I spoke at for the Hampshire Association of Local Council’s digital conference  (again with Catherine Howe) amongst a group of councillors from some of the larger
  • At the LSIS Governance conference in Manchester late last week I started talking to a Clerk to a Further Ed college that had been asked to improve educational attainment in a particular neighbourhood.  They wanted a steady approach that built community links, strengthened social capital and relationships and built aspiration in the community. The funders wanted rapid change – so what they are likely to buy  is intense extra activity with the students about to take their GCSE’s – one is the big and brittle – v the modest but maybe meaningful.

Capturing the subtle incremental change that comes through networks is partly why we have been working with Gateway Family services and Birmingham Settlement and Nominet Trust to develop an impact assessment app which measures and organises the modest – as well as the sometimes downright remarkable –  shift that happens in people and places.  But turning this into something that politicians and policy makers will trust to deliver is an interesting problem.

Any solutions?


Other govcamp posts:

Rowena Farr

Dave Buckster

David Bicknell

John Glover

Jonathan Flowers

Julia Chandler

Ben Procter

Ann Kempster

Dave God Briggs

Jason Cobb


Day 1 (for John) of Nominet Trust’s “Our Digital Planet” Exhibition in Bristol

John Popham is working for us and Nominet Trust in Bristol for the next couple of weeks. He popped this up on his blog last night.


Internet Station - a portbale room with signs on the ourside say9ng our digital planet and images of people using digital equipment

Today was my first day as Internet Station Manager on Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Exhibition. Our Digital Planet is a touring exhibition highlighting the benefits of the internet, and the Internet Station is an portacabin where people whose interest in the internet is stimulated can come to learn more about any aspect they are unsure of. The estimable Lloyd Davis has already done a stint in the role when the Exhibition was on Brighton seafront, and he will also be guiding it in Cardiff, while I will be back in Liverpool and Glasgow. In all this, we are working with the amazing Nick Booth, and his team at Podnosh Ltd.

In truth, it was a fairly slow day, a useful gentle introduction for me to the initiative, and I was fortunate to be working alongside Kieron Kirkland and Vicki Hearn from the Trust who were able to show me the ropes. A Monday in the middle of a shopping centre, was probably always going to be a quiet day. But, already some interesting issues are starting to emerge. This is true Digital Inclusion activity. Some of the people who approached us had very little knowledge of the internet at all.  Nearly all were frightened, about giving away too much information about themselves, about losing money to scams, and about breaking something. They faced multiple barriers to getting online, but a common factor was fear engendered by media scare stories.

Inside the Internet Station

It was evident as well, that quite a few of the people who came along had literacy problems. It amazes me that many people who promote the digital inclusion agenda fail to take into account that a fairly high degree of literacy is needed to use the internet, and that, many who don’t go online avoid it for precisely that reason. But, there were a variety of reasons for being there, and not all were total beginners; including the young woman living in a hostel who came in to look at photos of her son on Facebook because there is only one, very slow, computer in her hostel. There was the man who wanted to know how to “unfriend” someone who had been sending him threatening messages on Facebook. And there was the man who wanted to know how to search for cheap coach fares to Blackpool, before going to challenge the ticket sellers at the Bus Station to beat the online price.

One of the interesting queries was from the young woman who came in under the mistaken impression that we were selling broadband packages. She explained that she had no internet connection at home because her previous supplier had been too expensive. “I’m not paying that for broadband,” she said; “that’s a holiday”. I helped her search for a cheaper supplier. Which shows up the great irony. How do you search for the best broadband package when you don’t have access to the internet to do so?