Newly Elected Councillor? …then this is for you!

Are you a newly elected cllr? Well congratulations! Please accept these links from the CllrSocMed Team as a welcome gift.

Over the last few months the team have been running cllr lead social media sessions across the Yorkshire & Humber region. Along the way we have had some great fun, worked hard, and gathered together a wide range of resources, all freely available to you, the elected.

There’s a mixture of advice and guidance from short instructional videos, to real insights directly from some of your cllr peers who use social  media on a daily basis.

It can all be found on the CllrSocMed site, but below are links to give you an idea of what the social media world could mean to you.

Councillors and social media …why bother?

Steven Tuck explains …the internet and social media (in 2 minutes)

Some Tips on Twitter: Twitter in Plain English

Cllrs and Twitter: some alternative case studies

Steven Tuck explains …what is a blog? (in 2 minutes)

Blogger.com: How to set up a blog

Blogger.com: Add a new post and insert an image

Cllr Simon Cooke …talks Cllrsocmed

Cllr Tim Cheetham …talks Cllrsocmed

Cllr Mike Jordan …talks Cllrsocmed

That should be plenty for now. We would advise listening to your fellow councillors, it really is about you and them, rather than us!

Oh, and if you feel the urge, please feel free to add yourself to our councillor social media map.

Best of luck to all of you. Here’s to the future!!

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Cllrsocmed Tour of Yorkshire & Humber: Reflection and Evaluation

With all current sessions of the Cllrsocmed Yorkshire & Humber now completed, it’s time to provide a round up of where things are, what distance we’ve travelled and what additional resources we’ve generated for Cllrs at their request, so we can continue to support their social media education.

In addition to our inaugural Cllrsocmed session in York, at the Local Gov Camp Y&H, four further sessions have taken place across the region, taking in Scunthorpe, Scarborough, Barnsley and Leeds. Over 50 local councillors attended these sessions, representing 15 different local authorities.

The approach of the Cllrsocmed team during the sessions has not been to run them in a traditional training approach. Indeed, it has been very much the opposite. Councillors are a massively diverse group of people, whose experiences and knowledge are shaped by personal and public views, politics and the culture within the local authority they represent. Therefore, to provide a blanket, one size fits all approach on social media, would have been a grave error. Rather, it is an exploratory approach (to the ‘what is social media question’) that provides a more effective education. The expectation that just showing somebody how to set up a Twitter account and that is it, would be a seriously flawed point of view.

What it has been necessary for councillors to explore is what social media means to them, in real terms. Topics raised by them during the sessions, have included: how can I use it for campaigning; what if I say something wrong; case studies; political awareness; it’s just more time I don’t have; how can it be better than email; if the council provided me with the right equipment; the organisation don’t have those websites open to us; blurring of personal/councillor boundaries; we need the right support to develop our skills. Valid topics, all covered through discussion and debate, which is why how the sessions are delivered is very important.

Therefore, a key feature of the sessions’ success has been that the Cllrsocmed team includes a cross party representation of councillors who already use social media; Cllr Tim Cheetham, Labour; Cllr Simon Cooke, Conservative; Cllr David Woodhead, Liberal Democrat; Cllr Andrew Cooper, Green Party. While it has been the officers who have facilitated the organising and running of the sessions, it has not been ‘officers telling councillors what to do’. That role has gone to the councillors in the team, peer to peer exploration; it has a far more meaningful and inherent value. The importance of this should never be ignored.

As the sessions were about exploration and knowledge development, rather than specific mechanics, the most valuable way to evaluate the learning was capturing narrative comments. We recorded how councillors felt at the start of the day, midday and at the close of the session. Here is an indication of councillor progression:

Start: “I wonder how much it costs and how much time it takes”…”a bit nervous as there seems a lot to learn”…”apprehensive”.

Midday: “It is less about the technology, than the political perspective”…”for the first time I have been interested in the blog”…”able to ask questions without feeling ridiculous”…”I was dubious at first, but it’s not that scary really”…”knowledgeable presenters making you feel keen to get started”.

Close: “as an adjunct to more traditional channels of political communication, yes please”…”huge potential for the future”…”increased confidence in this new media stuff”…”has given me ideas about how to use it more effectively”…”definitely worth my while”.

Through listening to the councillors and reflecting on the live blogs, we have taken on board the varying needs of participants. This has resulted in development of numerous tools or insights of the sessions, all of which can be found on the Cllsocmed: Social Media for Councillors blog.

Cllr Simon Cooke talks Social Media

A few words from one councillor to another.  A brief video clip of Cllr Simon Cooke following the cllrsocmed session at Scunthorpe.  Follow Simon on Twitter (@simonmagus) or view his blog.

CllrSocMed:Final Destination…Leeds

@StevenTuck lecturning

Welcome to the last piece in the CllrSocMed tour of the Yorkshire & Humber. This final session comes to you today from Leeds, down at the Carriageworks, Millenium Square. We’re expecting pretty much a full house today, so it’s all hands to the pumps. We’ve also got a lovely view of the Leeds ice rink. Our lead councillors today will be @SimonMagus, Bradford MC, and @ClrAndrewCooper from Kirklees Council. We’ll try and keep you up to date with conversations and debate as they progress throughout the day.

Entry 1: Introductions are underway. Goes without saying that we’re hoping for a good session today. @TimSwift is here from Calderdale Council, Halifax. Fantastic, that’s my home town (rather than my adopted Huddersfield). Also, we have @CarolePattison from our own Kirklees Council. Another brilliant cross section of cllrs is going to make for a really good day.

Entry 2: @StevenTuck starts by doing his ‘what the internet is’ explanation. You can never get bored of the simplicity of the explanation, of his history of the internet, and how it has gone from geekery to an all inclusive medium so people can communicate via twitter, blog etc etc. You don’t have to be Rupert Murdoch to publish your opinion or view point to the world!!

“There is no point of a communications tool being difficult to use” – @StevenTuck. And this, “there is more computing power in this *waves phone* than there was when they sent the first sattelite into space”.

Entry 3: @ClrAndrewCooper, talking about blogging – “As cllrs we’re expected to have opinions. Blogging is a way of getting them out there”. Is also touching on how he has grown with the technology, how he now can do and link to more things and use more tools, that make his presence more accessible.

Entry 4: What do you do about comments posted on your blog? Well, you can set a blog to moderate, so the comments have to come via you first before releasing. However, you’re not necessarily going to get thousands of comments there! And anyway, people who comment more than likely have an interest in the subject matter. Really important for cllrs to make sure they moderate some comments, because if they are ‘unnacceptable’ – in language, abuse, racist – you could labelled as endorsing those! There is a big BUT though – do not refuse release of a comment, just because it disagrees with your opinion as a cllr. It is important to repsond where necessary. What is the point of having a blog if you’re not going to engage with people who have taken the time  to comment? People want to be engaged with!!

Entry 5: You can use your blog to try and just push your political message or view out there – but the social can be just as, if not more, powerful. Expressing the human side of who you are, and what you do,  as a person away from politics, whether that be reading, rock climbing, or work, or where you go with the family…difficulties of parenthood, worklife balance….an endless list…balloon modelling!

Entry 6: A morning dominated by blogging, covering the ins and outs of the whole affair. The interest and focus has been around content of a blog, political and social, and we’ve touched on how easy and/or difficult it is. Conclusion is pretty much that it is as easy or difficult as YOU make it. You can set up a blog that is as simple as sending an email, or develop one to include pictures, photos, video, link to posts or websites. It’s really about exploring – you can’t break the internet!

Our lead and attending cllrs have stepped back a moment from there discussion, while @StevenTuck responds to the question,  what is RSS? This is pretty much how you can grab the link from a webpage or blog and pull it into your own web space.

We’ve sort of come full circle this morning. Early on we touched on ‘blog comments’ and interest, concern and exploration of how you can deal with comments, and our lead cllrs are helping put that into context – “don’t worry about it” is pretty much what they’re saying! Lets also remind ourselves, that in terms of social media, a lot of the discussion we have had is not about the technology and tools, it has been the social interaction or communities that exist!

A brilliant, place to start for cllrs wanting to find cllrs is @TweetyHall!

Entry 7: Moved onto twitter – micro blogging. In context with other social media tools, like flikr, blogging, youtube – all these things rely on you to communicate with people, in order to generate interest. You’re not going to attract anybody to any part of your online presence if you don’t actually  present yourself. The magic power that gravitates people towards you, is you and your interaction with them! Twitter opens up a wide range of opportunities to open up a broad dialogue, through posting links to your blog, photos, other websties and documents.

Entry 8: We’re back, after what was a very nice lunch. So, with appetites satisfied, we’re now straight into creating a blog with our attending cllrs – surgery time! When setting up a new blog, don’t set your password as password – just saying!

Entry 9: That process of setting up a blog is really easy. It took about 10 minutes, which did of course include questions, answers and discussion. Using an application like Blogger.com, which we have just used, well once you’ve gone through the set-up process it is just about as simple as sending an email. No, really, just as easy as sending an email!! Of course, there are other simple blogging tools out there too. Now, from the question being raised of how you drive traffic to your blog (otherwise nobody will know it’s there), the cllrs in the room are asking how you might link your blog to say, Facebook? Observation: We reached this point in last weeks visit to Barnsley, but via a slightly different route, the point being that the natural inquisitive nautre of cllrs exploring the ins and outs of a topic, probably through council meetings and studying agendas and reports, they absolutely know which questions to ask to get to the answers they need – they are…quite…relentless! This is one reason why cllrs are key to driving social media within local authorities 🙂

Entry 10: Local campaigning, use facebook! About you and what you’ve been doing, create a blog! For networking, researching your local area or specific topics, Twitter can be great! They are all social tools, which can be used to push information out, pull information  in, and gather local intelliegence, and which develop greater interaction via human input.

Entry 11: Tagging has been raised and so we respond! It is a way of labelling posts, descriptive words that help your post to be identified. #hash tags are the twitter equivelant to tagging a blog – afterall, twitter is just a micro-blog, so it works the same way. Tagging can be in someways likened to having a filing system, or at least creating one. Tag your posts with a number of descriptors and the potential for them to be picked up by other people increases; for instance, tag them with a place name, your name, subject matter, organisation, geographic location, but also a building name or name of a person.

Entry 12: Well what another blooming interesting day. So much so that we’ve not actually wrapped up yet. Supposed to finish at 3pm and it’s now 3.20pm! These cllrs, I told you they were relentless – you’ve got to love it; the pursuit of knowledge, information and how they can use it. Brilliant! An amazing day and a fitting way to end our tour of Yorkshire & Humber.

South Yorkshire gets a visit from the Cllrsocmed team

Hello from Barnsley Digital Media Centre, from the Cllrsocmed team. We have 12 visiting cllrs today who we hope will inspire and be inspired. Our lead cllrs today will be the familiar @Simonmagus and from Kirklees Council, Cllr David Woodhead. We’ll be under way soon – as it is at the moment, we’re all settling in, getting coffee, and helping ourselves to biscuits. We’ll provide updates throughout the day.

Entry 1: Introductions. Lets see what variations of interest, input, skill and engagement we’re going to get! Bets on a mixed bag? Always! But that’s the beauty of it, and the very reason why cllrs need to lead sessions like these, not officers. We’ll facilitate, they’ll debate and explore. And by the sounds of it, cllrs being represented by Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield all seem to have a pretty good handle on it. Hey, where did these two Scrutiny support officers come from, wanting to know about how to better support their councillors – the cheek of it 😉

Entry 2: @StevenTuck giving a great ‘brief history of internet’, and how now we have the capability to publish globally via a blog. You don’t have to be Rupert Murdoch, but more than that, we are talking about the internet as a space for social interaction. So, a place where cllrs can interact with their constituents, then? Well, of course!

Open floor…cllrs asking what are the advantages of some social media tools over others. What can they use them for, what is best for them??

Entry 3: Some discussion around linking your blog to, say,Facebook for instance. How to embed one part of your social media presence into another – linking the tools! So, cllrs having brought that to our attention, they want to possibly know about the more technical side of actually doing it. I see some practical surgery activity coming up in the afternoon! Discussion shifts to RSS and ‘how does that work?’ Cllrs showing interest in the advantages of being able to pull information IN to a site, but importantly, how they can pull their own blog into another of their (or push to someone else’s) on-line space.

Entry 4: What if I say something wrong? Actually, what if someone doesn’t look at my archive of tweets properly, and is selective of what they choose to publicise – misrepresentation of my opinion! Twitter is different from blogging, in that with your blog you can write it and come back to it in the morning – a tweet is instant and out there straight away – says @SimonMagus. Plus, we’re all open to misrepresentation, this is just a different way of people accessing your opinion. We’re free to give our opinion, and equally, like anybody, we are free to change our minds further down the line!

Oh, and blogging and alcohol do not necessarily mix! You have been warned, gently, of course 🙂

Entry 5: Tweeting and Hashtags – they allow for national conference from your phone or office. Cost benefits! Networks! Time saving! They allow for the public to follow what is going on from inside a council meeting, for instance Full Council at Kirklees. Webcasting council meetings can further compliment and enhance the experience of the public, and support more engagement to a more open and transparent democracy – they can see ‘council business’ as it happens, which is actually ‘their business’.

Entry 6: Today’s cllrs wanting to see and know about different tools. It might be the usual suspects in terms of those tools, twitter, flikr, blogs, youtube, but it’s how they are thinking about exploring the possible links between them all that is generating the real value of the conversation. Also, use of twitter being highlighted as how quickly information, photo, research can be pushed out, reviewed, pulled in and interaction with other people.

Entry 7: That’ll be a break for lunch then! Deserved by all. There’s been a heck of a lot of energy used in this session this morning. Phew!

Entry 8: We’re back after a very nice lunch! Asking cllrs how they want to proceed this afternoon; what do they want to cover. Looks like ‘blogging’, actually how to set up a blog, that is. Simplicity is king, for @SimonMagus – nothing to do with ability, it’s about time and convenience – for him then, Blogger.com. BIG Question just popped up: Can cllrs use their council issue laptops for posting to their blog?? Much commotion, no definitive answer.

Entry 9: @StevenTuck going through ‘actual’ process of setting up a blog, to demonstrate how easy it actually is. I’m pretty sure there are some support resources within the CllrSocMed blog (scroll down other entries) which Steve put together. Have a look, cllrs. Talking about tagging blogs, with ward name, street, issue etc, so they can be found!! Cllrs really getting it.

Entry 10: We’ve covered the simplicity of inserting a photo, creating a link to another website, redesigning the look of the blog. It really is easy, you can feel the realisation of it throughout the room. There are some well informed cllrs here, and they know that they have the ability to use and utilise the tools available. The session is really about how we adjust settings and updating blog, and how they can actively promote the blog. So, meta-tagging is key? says one cllr. Learn to, or get into the habit of tagging your posts, and your constituents are more likely to find them!

Entry 11: Today’s session has raised all sorts of interesting discussion. The latest is practical grabbing of RSS feeds, shortening URL’s, what TweetDeck is and how that can work for you. Posting from TweetDeck to both your Twitter stream and Facebook account. It’s been a very different session, challenging in a way that offers up the fact that cllrs are out there that not only want to know about how social media can work for them in theory, but in practice. They want to get out there doing it, if they’re not already, and more so, how they link their online presence to the each of the different tools available to them.

We’ll be back sooner rather than later for our next cllrsocmed session; that will be in Leeds next Thursday, then! Can’t wait. We’ll see you there.

Half-time reflections on progress

‘21st Century Councillor’ Using Social Media to Support Local Leadership – So, we have now completed half of our scheduled sessions for this small tour of the Yorkshire & Humber Region. With two more to go, we thought it a good idea to provide a flavour of what we have learned and map any progress made so far. Read on…

The two sessions held so far, in Scunthorpe and Scarborough, have been attended by 26 councillors. A further 19 are booked onto the Leeds session, and currently 12 for Barnsley. So, we’re at the half way point, and below outlines progress to date.

We did a live blog as to how the sessions were going and what topics they covered, as it was happening. This provides a real feel for how participative and open the sessions were, and how the councillors directed the content, searching out what using social media meant to them. The links to those two blog entries are here: Scunthorpe 2010 and Scarborough 2010.

Councillor involvement guided us to produce a number of learning materials of relevance to them, not something we just thrust upon them:  How to set up a blog; Add a new post and insert an image; Some tips on twitter.

The events have deliberately not been ‘traditional training’ sessions. The sessions have been primarily guided by the councillors attending, not ‘officers telling councillors what to do’. To this end, traditional evaluation of the course becomes less important. What is best measured is the ‘distance travelled’ element of individual councillors. As there are so many different variations of skill, attitude, understanding and, yes, enthusiasm, we have generated a predominantly narrative/qualitative measurement. This was done by a ‘3 question’ approach, of ‘start’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. Of course, more specific analysis of the feedback will be conducted, and learning taken forward to future sessions.

We’re at the seaside today…Scarborough!

Excellent, we’ve made it to Scarborough for the next Councillor Social Media session of the 2010 Yorkshire & Humber Tour. It’s a full house of 15 local councillors, mostly from Scarborough, but also York as well.

Entry 1: We’ve kicked of! Great atmosphere already (maybe the sea-air had something to do with that). @CllrTim and @SimonMagus are the cllrs in the chair, @Gr8governance and @StevenTuck up front and we’ve started with ‘mythbusting’ social media and what all the terms mean…ooh, rapidly moved on to a discussion about blogs and blogging!

(If updates are few and far between, I apologise in advance, not a great connection)

Entry 2: Debating what is acceptable comment for cllrs using social media. Discussion around the YouTube councillor case of using public meeting footage, member of public making twitter joke about ‘blowing up an airport’, through to cllr ‘stoning’ comments’. Ooh, now moved onto referencing @Baskers from a civil servant point of view! Cllrs seeking clarification about what is acceptably said, what not, what they are fearful of or could innocently get caught out on! Hence those previous examples being raised!!

Entry 3: A shift; now the what a blog is, what it can do, what you can do with it, what you can and can’t say, and all those things have been discussed, there’s a clear keen line from room of cllrs of ‘we want to know how to do it’! So, discussion continues and moves to setting up a blog. (Cllr Tim talking about humanising through a blog; more people say hello to you in the corridoor!) Mr Tuck setting up bogus account to show how easy – cllr realisation of this ease filtering through the room! Social Media Surgery time!!

Entry 4: Our blog for today is called ‘In a cupboard in Scarborough’ which we are creating on Blogger.com. It’s a collaborative affair with everybody chipping in! “It’s just like sending an email” says Steven Tuck. The template picked, image inserted, publish! Published…and there it is! “Yes, you can preview it before you make it live”, “Yes, there is an automatice timeline, putting newest post at the top”, “Yes, you can take previous posts off…just press delete!”, “Does it pick up the date automatically? Yes, always”.

Entry 5: Getting into more technical discussion; Councillor asks “can you automatically link your blog, so it updates your facebook account at the same time?” Yes, absolutely. That would be extending your online persona then! Cllrs definitely getting social media. Additionally, marketing you/your blog, getting people to read it, is key. Link your traditional leafletting, for instance, making sure you have your blog address on there. Driving traffic, to your blog!

Entry 6: We’re back after lunch! Everybody wants to move on to Twitter. “It’s a blog”, just a micro-blog, limited to 140 characters. All the social media tools are about communtities and networks. To join in these communities, online or off-line, you need to involve yourself. With twitter, the virtual room is of endless proportions and you can choose who you listen to, who you reply to, and through this interaction your community creates itself around that group of people. Twitter, is an on-going conversation, 24-7, never stops…but you can dip in and out as you wish.

Entry 7: Oh, how frustrating! Just got connection back. Sorry folks. There has been a brilliant debate about Twitter for most of the afternoon, with some interesting Facebook speak too. Yes, some of the conversation has been about the usual ‘What’s best?’, but actually, using the word ‘debate’ is miss-use on my part! This has been about how can I utilise these tools, whatever I choose, to connect with my communitities, to reach my constituents, to find out what the real issues are and what an ‘alternative demographic’ is talking about and interested in. Cllrs from the floor leading the exploration of issues and possibilities. Brilliant stuff, from all. Attending cllrs are just pushing and probing all over the place…they’re right on it!

Entry 8: What support are councillors getting from their organisation, from the leadership, from their officers, web-team, political or staff leaders??? What can they do to be able to get access to social media? Instant frustration emanates from cllrs throughout the room! Significant!!