#SocialMediaSanta has been nominated for a 2015 CIPR Award

I’m incredibly excited that #SocialMediaSanta has been nominated for a Chartered Institute of Public Relations Scotland Award. Something that started out as a really simple idea I had in 2012 has snowballed in to a campaign that last year provided thousands of toys to homeless children across Scotland – thanks to your generosity and the amazing hard work of Shelter Scotland. Watch this space and follow the #SocialMediaSanta hashtag to find out how we get on at the awards tomorrow and to take part in the 2016 campaign.

How Berneslai Homes use social media to engage younger tenants

I’ve been doing a lot more training and consultancy work with housing associations, in particular I’m interested in how housing providers can use social media to connect with young people. In this guest blog post, Molly Howe, E Communictions Officer at Berneslai Homes, looks at their efforts to connect with Generation Y.

Molly Howe

Berneslai Homes value social media as one of the key tools to enhance engagement with Generation Y tenants. Having struggled to engage with younger tenants for the past few years, we turned to social media as a prime engagement tool for this specific audience and have found that it has not only allowed us to reach a wider, more diverse audience, but has also boosted our online presence.

A lot of our younger customers are communicating with us online daily, whether it’s asking us to chase up a repair, ask us a general question or tell us about their experiences with us, so it’s absolutely vital that we offer them various social media channels to support their choices in engaging with us digitally. Offering not only younger tenants, but all tenants more free and accessible channels of communication has opened up so many opportunities to communicate with our audience and achieve particular organisational aims.

I personally found it very useful undertaking some research into why Gen Y tenants prefer to use social media as their preferred method of engagement and the results showed exactly what I expected – faster response rates, privacy, no associated costs and it’s much easier for them than picking up the phone. However, I was even more surprised to find that a wide range of tenants prefer social media as their preferred method of engagement, with our second biggest audience being built up of those tenants over the age of 60. With this in mind, my team at Berneslai Homes have spent a large majority of the past year dedicating campaigns and media releases to the world of social media.

Our theory relating to Facebook engagement with younger tenants is that our younger audience prefers to be captured by images, videos and posts that are short and sweet, so most of our campaigns are launched with this in mind. We’ve found that doing this increases our followers at a steady rate as opposed to big surges followed by shortfalls. Part of my role is primarily dedicated to social media engagement so offering an office-hour chat facility is something that really attracts our younger tenants to engage with us via Facebook. We’ve found that this is because of the 3 minute response rate they receive and the fact that it is a free tool that only requires their internet.

What I find particularly interesting is that our Twitter account currently has roughly 1,600 followers, most of them representing partners we work with, relevant organisations and staff members. Not many of our younger tenants are currently engaging with us using this channel and this is something that I personally really want to push over the next year. When speaking with some of our younger tenants, we found that Facebook is the only social media channel that they currently use to engage with us because of its unlimited uses and its popularity amongst their social groups. It seems as though our task for the next year is to combat this and try and increase the engagement with our younger audience through Twitter. We have so far started to implement this by encouraging different departments in the organisation, particularly those with front facing staff, to host their own Twitter accounts relevant to the needs and wants of tenants. For example, our Hoyland Housing Management Team uses their Twitter account to post about tenancies, the local area, rent etc.

Throughout the rest of the year we aim to continue increasing our engagement with younger tenants via social media in the hope that we can build on our current strategy and deliver a highly satisfactory customer service experience to more of our customers.

Could hyperlocal social networks transform how your charity reaches people?

If you’ve been to one of my social media workshops you’ll hear me banging on about the need to go to where your audiences are. I really cannot emphasise this enough. It’s great that you have a 500 Likes on your Facebook Page or 3000 Twitter Followers but if your key audience is single parents living in Inverness where are they congregating online right now?

With that in mind I asked Joe Cockerline at Streetlife to guest blog his thoughts on how charities can use his site to connect to local people. This isn’t a paid-for post, while Joe is talking specifically about Streetlife the lessons apply equally to local forums, Facebook Groups, etc.

These days, a social media presence is a given for any charity. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious candidates for reaching people en masse, but the trouble is the majority of people who see your updates already know about your charity.

For charities operating on a local scale, it can be more valuable to connect with those in the local community who don’t already follow your social media channels. Every one of these people is a potential supporter and, with the cost of printed publicity materials so high, it’s becoming harder than ever to reach them.


Is there another way?


Streetlife is a British social network for local communities. Used by more than 800,000 people and 2,800 charities across Britain, Streetlife works by connecting people within their neighbourhoods – there are no friends lists or followers, just open conversation at a community level. Below are five of the key ways that charities are using Streetlife to connect with their local communities:


1. Finding new volunteers

Recruiting volunteers is always going to be a challenge for any charity. 74% of Streetlife users are aged 40+, representing a settled, community-minded group, who have free time and are prepared to give back to a local cause.


2. Sharing news and updates

Charities are using Streetlife to share news updates beyond their established followership on other social networks. This means local people are kept informed and raises your charity’s profile within the community.


3. Publicising events

From bake sales to raffles, small-scale events are the cornerstone of fundraising for many local charities. Local residents are the people who attend these events, and sharing upcoming events on Streetlife helps raise awareness within the community and boosts attendance.


4. Attracting support for campaigns

The kindness of strangers never ceases to surprise, and you’d be surprised what members of the local community are prepared to help out with. Streetlife users have donated furniture, offered to fundraise and helped to spread the word about charity campaigns in the past.


5. Establishing a presence in the local community

Any charity is much more likely to gain traction and support in the local community if it’s viewed as a real part of that community, rather than just a shop front on the high street or a logo on a leaflet. Streetlife allows charities to have a voice in the community and gives them the chance to offer help and advice to fellow residents.

For a charity, of any size and scope, forming meaningful connections with the local community is always going to be a challenge. Streetlife represents another tool in a local charities’ arsenal, a way to attract support among an important, and too often overlooked group. Namely, your neighbours.

Have we had enough of charity food and booze abstinence fundraisers?

The British Heart Foundation are challenging us to give up chocolate for the whole of March. This nationwide, sponsored challenge, is asking us to raise money for lifesaving heart research in Britain’s first ever #DECHOX (see what they did there). This campaign is as well executed as you’d hope for, with a slick sub-page on the BHF website, a brilliant video and strong social media campaign behind it.

The question is, have the public had enough of fundraising campaigns where we’re told to give up alcohol or ‘bad’ food for a month?

I’m genuinely interested to know your thoughts on this one. Part of me thinks it’s all just a bit of fun, it’s about raising dosh for an important cause first and foremost. The other part of me has concerns with terms like ‘undercover chocolate eater’ when we know so many people have a difficult, often guilt-ridden, relationship with food.

Some people even believe that charity campaigns like ‘Dry January’ actually do more to stigmatise sobriety than they do to combat addiction.

Drop me a tweet with your thoughts.

All the slides from Social Media for Social Good | Glasgow, December 2014

Here’s all the slides from Scotland’s leading conference for people passionate about social media for social good. We’ll be back in May 2015 with a fresh line-up of workshops and speakers. Oh and a new title for the event itself, watch this space.

Sticky Content: Tons of content ideas for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog and beyond
Ross McCulloch – Director, Third Sector Lab

Goal setting – Crafting a simple social media strategy
Leah Lockhart – Director, Relate Lab

Dads rock – Using Facebook, Twitter and more to engage dads, raise funds and campaign
Thomas Lynch – Project Coordinator, Co-founder and Trustee, Dads Rock

Young people online – Safety, privacy and policy for third sector organisations
Claire Connachan – Senior Communications Development Worker, Youth Scotland

Super storytelling – Using simple video & audio to transform your case studies
Rosie McIntosh – Communications Strategy Consultant, Third Sector Lab

#Icebucketchallenge lessons – How Facebook propelled MND Scotland’s biggest ever fundraising campaign

Iain McWhirter – Head of Fundraising and Volunteering at MND Scotland

#Indyref uncovered – Social media lessons from the Scottish Referendum campaign
Kevin Gilmartin – Digital Communications Officer at Glasgow University (Previously Digital Media Producer at Yes Scotland)

One man mission – How an award winning campaigner uses social media to raise awareness of dementia
Tommy Whitelaw – Project Engagement Lead, Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland

Building buzz – How social media could transform your next event
Sara Thomas – Event Coordinator at Beltane Fire Society

Perfect planning – Time and multi-channel management for busy people
Leah Lockhart – Director, Relate Lab

Search engine secrets – Using SEO for awareness raising, fundraising and more
Conrad Rossouw – Digital Manager at Shelter Scotland

Become a #socialmediasanta and give a homeless child a Christmas to remember

12th Dec is the final submission date for gifts.

For the last three years the good people of Twitter have come together to give homeless children across Scotland a Christmas to remember. Shelter Scotland have hundreds of boys and girls – aged from 6 months to 16 years – at their families projects who might not get a present this year. There’s over 4000 kids homeless in Scotland right now.

Us Twitter users can make a real difference to these children, so why not join us as a #SocialMediaSanta. Here’s how:

– Check out this year’s best books for kids, top toys and great games. Lots of which are under a tenner.

– Select an online retailer or support a local toy shop and pick a gift.

– If buying online: Add to Basket, use Shelter’s address at checkout (below) and add a wee message using the ‘gift’ option if available. Shelter Scotland would like to thank you personally for your gift.

– If buying in a local toy shop: Send to Shelter Scotland (address below) or drop it off at their office. Include ‘#socialmediasanta’ and your contact details on the outside of the parcel if possible. Shelter Scotland would like to thank you personally for your gift.

– Voila. You’ve made a kid who might not have otherwise got a present very happy this year.

Here’s the full address for Shelter Scotland, they’ll be distributing presents to the families projects in Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Dundee:

Social Media Santa, Shelter Scotland, Scotiabank, 6 South Charlotte street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AW

I’m not sending out cheesy corporate gifts this year, instead I’ll be sending a present on behalf of each of my clients. Lets make it a really special Christmas. Help spread the word by sharing this blog post and using the #SocialMediaSanta hashtag across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Why not take a photo of the gift you bought and use the hashtag!

3 ways housing associations can embrace social media

My role at Third Sector Lab has allowed me to work with a number of housing associations and housing charities on social media training and strategy development. Digital isn’t about asking staff to find an additional four hours a week to ‘do’ social media. Rather it offers housing associations an opportunity to get their job done more effectively and efficiently than ever before. For me there are three key areas where housing associations can really make the most of social media – community building & customer service, thought leadership and storytelling.

Community building & customer service
Many housing associations have chosen a Facebook Page as their primary space to engage residents online when in actual fact a Facebook Group may be more appropriate for their needs. A simple Google search of ‘Facebook Groups vs Pages’ will help you weigh up the pros and cons. To paraphrase, a Page is a great marketing tool but it’s rare to see one work as an an online community for residents – that’s where Groups really come into their own.

Like many housing associations, Yarlington Housing Group had a small core group of involved residents, but the majority were older and retired. Ken Comber, Head of Communities at Yarlington, wanted to engage younger, more diverse tenants to become part of their resident focus groups. It was important that barriers, such as mental health, physical disability or location, didn’t impede the housing association’s methods of communication. With that in mind, Ken took the plunge and developed a Facebook group called Yarlington Chat. 18 months on, the group now has over 3200 residents signed up.

Yarlington Housing have found that while there are occasional complaints and criticism, most of the posts residents make are positive. Staff have built meaningful relationships with residents, increasing take up of opportunities, such as on training and digital inclusion projects. Ken also found that residents were answering each other’s questions and this resulted in fewer queries coming in to the office – streamlining the business.

Real friendships were formed. Isolated members of society became involved in the communities around them online. Members were offering help and support to each other in areas as diverse as depression and housing benefits. For Yarlington, their Facebook Group has become both a key customer service channel and a vital community building tool.

Thought leadership
Working in the social housing sector is about so much more than providing accommodation. Whether it’s the bedroom tax or making housing affordable for first time buyers there’s some huge issues affecting the sector. Every housing association should have a blog where your Chief Executive, Chairperson or policy specialist can offer their insights on the big issues. If you’re new to blogging a great role model to look towards is Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). JRF blog posts are genuinely interesting or useful and never focus on organisational ‘news’, for example: ‘Care about poverty? Here are 10 reasons why you also need to think about ethnicity’ or ‘The #indyref debate on housing in Scotland needs to go beyond the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. If your housing association doesn’t currently have ability to blog look at guest blogging on sites with existing audiences, such as The Guardian Housing Network. A blog used in tandem with an active Twitter presence is a formidable communications tool.

Video and audio are hugely underused mediums within the social housing sector. While dull, lengthy corporate videos are ten a penny it is rare to see short, engaging content that tells the difference housing associations make on a daily basis. Using simple, free apps like Soundcloud, Audioboo, Instagram Video, Vine and YouTube frontline staff can become social reporters, demonstrating the impact of their work as they go via short conversations with residents. Audio storytelling in particular lets you focus on a person’s voice. In many ways, it’s a more intimate form of storytelling than using video. People are often more comfortable speaking into a microphone than they are looking into a camera.

How could your housing association embrace social media?

This article originally appeared in the Nov 2014 issue of Housing Scotland Magazine.

Social Media for Social Good – Glasgow 5th Dec 2014

Scotland’s third sector social media conference returns to Glasgow on 5th December 2014. I’ve worked with GCVS to programme the line-up of speakers and workshops – which is pretty damn impressive if I don’t say so myself. The focus is very much on learning, debate and making connections. We’ve kept ticket prices low so it’s accessible to all budgets. You’re welcome along whether you work in the charity, public or private sector.

Workshops and talks include:

#Indyref uncovered – Social media lessons from the Scottish Referendum campaign
Kevin Gilmartin – Digital Communications Officer at Glasgow University (Previously Digital Media Producer at Yes Scotland)

#Icebucketchallenge lessons – How Facebook propelled MND Scotland’s biggest ever fundraising campaign
Iain McWhirter – Head of Fundraising and Volunteering at MND Scotland

One man mission – How an award winning campaigner uses social media to raise awareness of dementia
Tommy Whitelaw – Project Engagement Lead, Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland

Search engine secrets – Using SEO for awareness raising, fundraising and more
Conrad Rossouw – Digital Manager at Shelter Scotland

Funder’s perspective – How you can use social media to achieve your aims and demonstrate outcomes
John Fellows – Head of Communications, Big Lottery Fund Scotland

Super storytelling – Using simple video & audio to transform your case studies
Rosie McIntosh – Communications Strategy Consultant, Third Sector Lab

Connected housing – How housing associations and social housing charities can utilise social media
Ross McCulloch – Director, Third Sector Lab & Head of Communications, Relationships Scotland

Young people online – Safety, privacy and policy for third sector organisations
Claire Connachan – Senior Communications Development Worker, Youth Scotland

Goal setting – Crafting a simple social media strategy
Leah Lockhart – Director, Relate Lab

Dads rock – Using Facebook, Twitter and more to engage dads, raise funds and campaign
Thomas Lynch – Project Coordinator, Co-founder and Trustee, Dads Rock

Perfect planning – Time and multi-channel management for busy people
Carolyne Mitchell – Information Officer, South Lanarkshire Council

Five simple ways to get everyone in your organisation passionate about social media

I cannot believe I’m writing a piece on getting everyone in an organisation involved with social media in 2014, but the reality is most charities and public sector organisations are a long way off truly embracing the medium. Technology isn’t really the issue – it all boils down to trust. That isn’t to say that managers feel their staff will spend all day tweeting photos of their cat, but most don’t feel confident managing a strategic approach to using social channels.

While it’s easy to brush off social media as the responsibility of your marketing or communications person (if you’re lucky enough to have one), if you do, you’re missing a trick. Data shows that employees have greater reach, more influence and generate more revenue than official, branded organisation accounts. The organisation that taps into the reach and influence of its employees is much more likely to succeed in the social age.

So, if you’re tasked with making social media work within your organisation, how do you ensure everyone is on board? Here’s my five top tips which originally appeared in my article for the summer edition of Children in Scotland Magazine:

1. Show people that social media can help them get their job done
Staff don’t have an extra four hours in the week to ‘do’ social media. You need to show them how social media can help get their job done, how you can achieve your team’s goals and how you can reach your key audiences. You need a strategy. It’s a scary word, but, with a framework, you can create something meaningful and succinct.

2. Ensure people feel protected and empowered
If your social media policy was written by your IT-support person, it’s probably 15 pages long and terrifying as hell. He/she may be great at keeping your server ticking over, but they shouldn’t be single-handedly responsible for defining how your organisation communicates with the outside world. You need a policy that protects staff and your organisation, while making staff feel empowered and trusted, allowing them to experiment and drive your online communications. And it needn’t be more than one side of A4.

3. Create social media champions within each team
A strategy is great but without people driving it forward you’ll get nowhere. Start small and recruit social media champions who can get their team enthused – this also gives you a better opportunity to demonstrate impact to executive level staff. Give champions ownership of the channels they’re most experienced with and passionate about. Don’t make your video content champion the person who has never held a camera before.

4. Give volunteers and service users a meaningful role
At Third Sector Lab we spend a lot of our time training volunteers and service users to become social reporters for third sector conferences and events. The rich audio and video content these reporters create really tells the story of a conference in the way a written report cannot. How can you involve volunteers and service users in your online communications in a way that empowers them and tells their story?

5. Make sure the Chief Executive believes
The organisations that thrive in the social space are usually the ones who have a Chief Executive that values staff involvement. Just look at Young Scot – their online presence is driven by Louise MacDonald’s belief that social media can help bring about social good. More importantly she trusts her staff to get the job done using whatever tools necessary. While it can feel an uphill struggle at times, getting people from across the organisation involved in social media is worth the pain. People connect with people – they don’t connect with faceless, branded corporate accounts. If you want to use social media as a campaigning, fundraising and potentially service delivery channel you need to remember that.

Do you have any top tips for getting staff involved in your social media presence?

Digital Scotland: Future-proofing the third sector

I was recently asked to write a piece on digital inclusion and digital delivery of services for the Health and Social Care Alliance’s ‘Imagining the Future’ – a collection of think pieces providing insight into some of the essential ingredients for shaping a fairer, healthier future Scotland. Below is the full piece from the document.


Digital Scotland: Future-proofing the third sector

The Scottish Government has a bold ambition: Scotland should be a world-leading digital nation by 2020. It’s hard to argue against that – Independent or not it’s clear Scotland needs to embrace new technology if we are to have a truly diverse, robust economy. The Scottish Government’s ‘Digital Future’ strategy outlines four key strands: connectivity, digital public services, digital economy and digital participation. The Scottish third sector has a pivotal role to play, particularly around digital participation and public service delivery. But without a fundamental shift in thinking there is a danger the third sector will be left behind – along with vast swathes of the population.

30% of Scots don’t have basic digital skills. That figure rises to 50% of people with disabilities and 60% where the individual has no qualifications. 15% of Scots have never used the internet. A Citizen’s Advice Scotland survey found 36% of their clients have never been online. These stark figures highlight a massive societal gap that needs to be addressed if we are to achieve that 2020 vision of a digital Scotland. Access to physical technology and connectivity, particularly in rural areas, are important. But for me they’re not the big issues. We need to ensure people have basic skills needed to get online and embrace the internet. That word ‘embrace’ is key. Oxford University looked at why people choose not to use the internet in their everyday lives – 82% of respondents were ‘not interested’. Researchers found no evidence that these people are restricted from going online. They simply don’t care. For many older, disabled and unemployed people their first foray into the digital world will be mandatory online-only benefits claim forms – hardly an inspiring start. In a sense digital inclusion is more about social barriers than technological ones.

Recent research on digital exclusion from the Carnegie UK Trust recommends that ‘trusted intermediaries, such as voluntary workers, community development workers…can help to deliver the personalised, differentiated approach that is needed to help different groups of citizens in Glasgow to get online’. So third sector staff and volunteers will be key in ensuring the digitally excluded are skilled and enthused but it’s also worth thinking about that other strand of the Scottish Government’s digital strategy – digital public services. I believe the third sector can deliver innovative, effective services through a ‘digital-first’ approach. Of course we will always need face-to-face interaction with service users but let’s not use digital exclusion as an excuse for inaction. So could an Argyll & Bute counselling service save money and reach hundreds more isolated individuals if it allocated half its travel budget to video technology rather than the environmentally-unfriendly, time consuming practice of counsellors driving all over the region?

My experience on Foundation Scotland’s grants committee, chairing other funding panels and working with Scottish charities in my role at Third Sector Lab tells me that two fundamental areas need to be addressed to get the voluntary sector ready. First we need a skilled workforce ready to ask how digital technology can help us deliver cost-effective services that make a real difference to the lives of Scottish people; we need digital champions within every Scottish non-profit. Secondly we need funders to understand the difference digital can make and put their money where their mouth is. We don’t necessarily need dedicated funding streams – digital to should permeate all areas of the funding landscape. We also need to ensure grants officers have the skillset to objectively assess tech-based project applications from charities and social enterprises. Once we make that shift I believe the Scottish third sector can lead the world in digital media for social good.