Social media rules!

Powered by article titled “How to use Twitter to tell the best stories about your council” was written by Dan Slee, for on Tuesday 17th November 2015 12.54 UTC

It was November 2012 and there we were, at 10 to six in the morning, at the start of #walsall24 and still not sure whether it would work.

What was this? We had dedicated the day to using Twitter to give people a snapshot of all the things Walsall council did in real time over the course of 24 hours. From fixing a pothole on the A41 to putting on a Zumba class – nothing would be too small.

We had some content lined up: lists of scheduled work from road engineers and leisure centre programmes, as well as someone stationed in the social care contact centre in the small hours.

Would it work? We checked our first potential tweet and knew that it would. It was about environmental health officers investigating a noisy cockerel in a built-up area. Wow. I didn’t know we did that.

From there, we took part in the first Local Government Association #OurDay, a digital celebration of local public services, and hosted the first discussion of a #HousingDay – a similar event for housing professionals.

This year, both #OurDay and #HousingDay take place on Wednesday 18 November, when local government employees and staff working in housing will tweet about their working day.

We learned a number of things from our experience, so here are12 tips for those taking to Twitter this Wednesday.

1. Routine is interesting. From the jet pilot to the parking officer, everyone thinks their job is boring and of no interest to anyone else. But more often than not it fascinates other people. Find the routine and share that.

2. Real time is interesting. One of the strengths of Twitter is the real time aspect – whether it’s football results or road closures. Tell people as you do it.

3. Pictures work and video works better. Words don’t leap off a screen like an image or video footage does. If you have a smartphone in your pocket, use it.

4. Share the sweets. Let other people from across the organisation tell their stories in real time.

5. Tell stories. The boiler being installed in Brown Street, Oxdown, is great. The boiler being installed for Jessie Timmins who has two children aged five and nine is even better.

6. Get people involved. Stories of what librarians are doing are fine. Asking people to sign up to join the library or to take out a book is better.

7. Shout wider … not all the world is on Twitter. So embed the content on your website, use something like storify to capture your tweets and embed them on the relevant webpage.

8. Shout wider … and use other platforms. There’s this amazing website called Facebook that’s doing quite well. WhatsApp and Snapchat too. Experiment, don’t stand still.

9. Shout wider … internally. By screenshot, email, poster or telephone call. The telling of the story shouldn’t be limited to just online platforms. Take it offline too.

10. The best content comes from outside the office. Encourage people who are out and about to use social media and in places where they wouldn’t normally. The street cleaner clearing up rubbish in an empty street at 6.12am, for example.

11. Use the main account as a highlights package, but use others too. Having a wider network of social accounts will work. Let the library tell people about the library, the repairs team about their work. Use the council’s central account to collate and share.

12. Build a community from it. Update your A-Z of council accounts. Bring the people connected to them together. What worked well? What didn’t work well? Meet in a cafe at 4pm where they serve coffee and cake. Do it regularly.

Dan Slee is a former press officer at Walsall council and now runs public sector comms consultancy Comms2point0. This is an edited version of a blog that originally appeared on his website.

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