7 days later – Social Media and the UK General Election

The 2015 UK General Election day arrived in a flurry of online activity. Would this be the the United Kingdom’s first “Social Media Election?” Would Social Media start to rival the more traditional forms of media – television and print – in terms of influence?

Whilst the main political parties were being criticised for their cautious campaigns – viral campaigns and internet memes based on boybands and, the seemingly implausible, #milifandom seemed to take hold. Parties turned to celebrity vloggers to sway us in to voting for them. Wasn’t this important? After all, recent research from Ipsos MORI said that a third of young people thought that Social Media would influence their vote?

But as the results rolled in through the early hours of Friday morning, defying opinion poll predictions and the more left leaning consensus of the “Twitterati’, it turned out that this wasn’t the social media election at all…

Please head over to The Social Street Project to read more

Being Social: An Introductory Social Media Workshop

Social Media Workshop at Blackbird Leys Community Centre

I have been really enjoying working with The Conservation Volunteers on their social media content and was delighted to be invited to prepare and delivery a workshop on beginners social media skills, focusing on Facebook and Twitter.

The workshop was part of TCV’s ongoing People’s Health Trust‘s HealthStrong CIC funded project in Blackbird Leys, Oxfordshire. The People’s Health Trust believes in a society without health inequalities and working to ensure that where people live does not unfairly reduce the length of their life, or the quality of their health.

But how does using Facebook and Twitter help reduce health inequalities? The UK Government’s Digital Inclusion Strategy (updated December 2014) believes that reducing digital exclusion can help address many wider equality, social, health and well being issues such as isolation. 81% of people over 55 say being online makes them feel part of modern society and less lonely.

I was asked to deliver a workshop focusing on beginners social media skills, to help people to start to interact online. It seemed sensible to focus on Facebook and Twitter. These two social media platforms are currently the UK’s most popular, Facebook is predominately used for informal contact between family and friends and Twitter is great for following news as it breaks, live events and having real-time conversations.

It was very interesting to talk to the workshop participants about why they wanted to use social media and what concerned them about using it. Most people wanted keep in contact with people, but also wanted to use social media more effectively for promoting local causes or businesses. However, nearly all the participants were very concerned about online privacy and this was the main reason why they didn’t use social media more.

The first workshop took place in the well appointed computer room in the Blackbird Leys Community Centre, which meant the workshop format could alternate between PowerPoint presentation (participants were invited to ask questions at any time) and letting people put what they had just learned in to practice.

The workshop content was as follows:

What is Social Media
Why Use Facebook?
How to get Started (Signing up)
Your Facebook Profile
Finding Friends
Connecting and Sharing
Facebook Privacy
What is a Facebook Page?
What is a Facebook Group?
Facebook Jargon Buster

Why Use Twitter?
How to get Started (Signing up)
Your Twitter Feed
What is a Tweet?
Sending a Tweet
Finding People to Follow
How to get more connected on Twitter (interactions)
Direct Messages
Twitter Jargon Buster
Staying Social: Where can you find more help & information?

The content of the course was written to all have relevant local content and I thought it was particularly important to signpost participants to where they could find more help getting online in their local area.

I certainly learned a lot from writing the workshop material and enjoyed my first experience of running a training course. I hope the participants felt the same.

The content I am helping write for The Conservation Volunteers can be found on their Berkshire Facebook page and on their Berkshire Twitter account.

The Importance of Being Social

People having a picnic by the canal

You can’t replace real life interactions, but what role can social media play?

In an age of ‘selfies’ and over sharing, it might be difficult to imagine the role Social Media has to play in community projects. Why does a physical community group need a Facebook presence? What could a community development project possibly have to tweet about? It’s not really as if we can consistently share pictures of our food (though some of the volunteer’s packed lunches do look very good!)

However, after setting up a Facebook page and Twitter account for The Conservation Volunteers Berkshire a couple of years ago, I am taking a little time out from my extended maternity leave to help them maintain and, hopefully, expand their social media presence.

So for projects who’s key purpose is genuine face to face interactions and physical joining in, what role can the rather faceless world of social media play? Firstly, it keeps us connected. The volunteers receive a weekly email (delivered through Mail Chimp) about upcoming tasks and other news, but Social Media helps us also provide updates in ‘real time’, in a quick and accessible format. Rather than people having to wait until the next email, they can also connect with us, though, for example, their smartphones, anytime they choose. We can also use Social Media to feedback thanks and photos of tasks people have been involved in, hopefully making them feel connected and involved in the projects. It can help give us a collective sense of identify

We also use it to connect to wider audience – partner organisations, other interested parties and the wider community. Recently, by using a local hashtag (#rdguk) some work the volunteers had done at the local community sports stadium was widely retweeted by a plethora of community members, private companies, local politicians, generating much feedback and thanks. Giving the volunteers’ work the status it well deserves. Social Media can quickly share what we have been doing far and wide, helping us raise the profile of ourselves and our funders.

I am currently exploring other ways we can use Social and traditional medias to raise our profile and continue to outreach to a wider audience. What experience have you had of using these tools? What other Social Media platforms have you used? I would be really interested to hear your views of using Social Media in the context of community development work please. Over to you…

*As always the view expressed on this blog are my own and not those of any other organisation.