Putting ‘Social’ into ‘Social Care’

This is a summary of my slides and talk from the Scottish Social Services Expo 2014.

SSE2014 social media

Entitled “What’s not to Like?” the aim was to draw attention to what’s great about social media… personally and in professional life. Some examples are specific to Social Services but there are others to – it’s up to you to think about how you can adapt these ideas to your work/life…putting social into social care 003

My key themes were about being creative; being strategic; and being safe with social media.

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Social Media is never easy to describe and I was quite relieved to find this quote from the Carnegie UK Trust. Seeing (or doing) is believing. Give it a go.

I’ve seen this in action with my wife recently, who was quite the sceptic. As a nurse she didn’t see the value in social media – Twitter and so on. In September she started a Masters at Dundee University where they encourage knowledge sharing and gathering through Twitter and in only a few weeks she was totally converted.

One more point from this slide – note the term ‘good use’; anyone can Tweet. Not everyone makes good use of it; so it’s important to check ourselves every now and then – is what we are doing useful to anyone?

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Obviously we could say the same (“was that useful?”) about our personal interactions.

The rules (if we can call them that) of social media are exactly the same as the rules we follow in our personal interactions. In company do we talk about ourselves all of the time? Do we only talk about work. Do we SHOUT, bad-mouth the boss, share too much personal information… etc… If you wouldn’t do it in person then don’t do it on Twitter or Facebook.

At the same time, all of the good things that come from personal interaction can, to varying degrees, be found in social media; Below is a short film I made for Fife Libraries and it draws on the analogy of just as libraries are communities that share and have common interests, so too is social media.

There are of course dozens of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (photo sharing), AudioBoo (the audio equivalent of YouTube), WordPress (for blogs/websites)…

Don’t let this put you off. No one persona manages all of these and does it well. So, to start with, find one you think you might like, that you have an interest in. For example, Instagram was an easy choice for me because I love taking photos. Consequently you’ll start using other platforms for other reasons. I use AudioBoo, which wouldn’t have occurred to me but having tried it I found it really useful for my work in schools – I can record responses without the need for photo permissions and all of the problems video brings.

Finally, if you are part of a team then share the load. Have different people take charge of different areas of content. If you meet regularly you’ll soon find ways of bringing them together in a meaningful way.

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So, what do I get from social media? Well, I would say that in a nutshell, what I gain from the people I follow is ideas, knowledge and their shared experience. That can mean anything from a movie trailer to a white paper.

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You’ll be aware that there are plenty of complaints about social media to suggest that it’s less than useful – so let’s bust some myths…

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However, I have to warn you…

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The trouble is, social media can be very addictive. Before long it is possible that you will become the very thing that kept you from social media in the first place…

Even my wife, the ‘sceptic’ posted this (lovingly prepared (by husband) heart shaped) breakfast a few weeks ago – although not she would’ve if it hadn’t been served on the Denby!

So, as with everything else, we need to be aware of our usage, both what, where and with whom… just make sure you don’t become tethered to your phone.

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Be strategic. Not as difficult as it may sound.

Simply put, get the most out of your content and the time you invest managing social media accounts by giving some thought to what and when you share.

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My interest in Twitter was piqued when in 2009 a New York pilot landed a struggling plane into the Hudson river. Despite being an amazing achievement a large slice of the commentary on news channels was about how the news was broken to the world.

Below is the tweet and the picture which announced to the world what had happened. Minutes after the plane had landed a passenger on a nearby ferry (which was commandeered to rescuer the plane’s passengers) posted one of the most powerful illustrations of what ‘democratised media’ actually means in practice.

That afternoon TV News media were using his image. The next day it was on the cover of newspapers.

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What does this mean for Social Services? Well, are you ever frustrated by the lack of positive stories in the media for your profession? Well go out and share your own. Show the world what you’re up to and how great it is.

Here’s an example from Walsall Council. This one is a council wide project where they Tweeted for 24 hours solid raising awareness of the day-to-day operational tasks that most of us are unaware of or take for granted.

Top tip: Give your content a twist – look for novel ways of making regular information interesting. (No pressure)

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I have a couple of tools to help you manage your new accounts. One is ‘Anatomy of a Tweet‘ which breaks down most of the tools available within the Twitter application and help you get the most out of a Tweet.

The second one – illustrated below – is a Social Media Story Map. This is designed to help you get the most out of the time you invest in writing content for Press release/blog/Facebook as well Tweets, Instagram and so on…

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Start at the top with the ‘content’. Think about how you will illustrate it – photo opportunity, editorial illustration, project photos. Is there a way of sharing those to draw attention to the story? Could you Instagram the pictures, or do you have pictures on Instagram that you could use?

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While you are preparing this content and it’s fresh in your mind you may as well write your Tweets. Pull out two or three approaches to draw people into the main article. Make the best use of your 140 characters.

There is also a space to think about any other channels that may be drawn into your campaign – YouTube, Pinterest, etc… What role do they play. What’s the content? How and when will it be revealed?

Finally, use the timeline to think about how you will spread the tweets to have maximum impact. This will depend on whether you want to get the most traffic to your website or build anticipation of an event.

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Be Creative – more easily said than done. But remember that Twitter is essentially ‘word-of-mouth’. Global word of mouth, but ‘word-of-mouth’ all the same.

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The trick is making yourself heard. In person you ‘remember’ to share with friends the things that are important to you or that you think will be of interest to them. The value is in the sharing. A brand that meant nothing yesterday can mean everything today because a recommendation brings it to life. People value personal recommendation.

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So to get that kind of interaction you need to be memorable. (Again, no pressure.)

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Here’s another example from Walsall and a project, called ‘Who Cares?’, that started with a week long effort and has continued through the blog and other activities. They clearly understood the ‘community’ aspect and ‘asked’ people to contribute. It’s a great example of a Communication team working hand-in-hand with the Social Work department.

Top tip: If you need help, find the experts. You know Social Care – they know comms. See if you can convince your comms team to collaborate…

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This next example which grew out of Walsall’s ‘Who Cares?’ project was to live tweet the experiences of a full time carer. It raised awareness of the challenges that were faced by the carer, on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. It also demonstrated the work and support provided by the Social Work service in Walsall.

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Below is a link to a transcript of a presentation given by Mark Brown of ‘One in Four’. It was given just a few days ago at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2014 (posted by Shirley Ayres on her blog). It his talk Mark drew parallels to Sunday night viewing where, typically, a Policeman, or a Nurse and Doctor, somewhere between the 1920s and 1950s struggles to provide a community, person centred service despite the forces of  bureaucracy. Of course, all ends well.

It’s a great point, made so much better than my summary. But what it comes down to is the following quote, that social media can take us ‘where the people are’. As illustrated through the ‘Libraries’ video, social media thrives within communities. Thos communities can be global, but they don’t have to be. For people made house-bound through illness then the rest of us may as well be on the other side of the planet – social media is no substitute for one-to-one, but it can ‘assist’.

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Finally, Being safe.

There is no catch all solution to this question and so the best advice is ‘be aware’. Do a little home work and try to make an informed decision.

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We all do this. Click the ‘agree’ button without reading the terms and conditions. And even if we did read them would we understand them? Fortunately the internet is full of much cleverer folk than you or I and they often do the digging for us. So, if you want to know if a platform is safe then at least Google ‘platform name’ and ‘security’ or ‘how secure’ – if there are issues someone is likely to have found them and will be discussing them online.

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Another aspect of ‘safety’ is behaviour. Again, the same rules apply online as they do in person (I don’t like the term ‘In real life’ as it suggests the time spent online isn’t ‘real’ or can’t be ‘meaningful’ – see here for more on that).

So behave online as you would in person. And remember that anything you post online – words, pictures, videos, the lot – will still be there long after you’ve gone. The internet has the potential to take the concept of embarrassing parents to a whole new level!

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In the workplace you may have come across the issue of being blocked from using social media. IRISS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services) have some great resources on this on their website. They draw attention to this quote from a SCOTIM report…

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…and then draw out the main excuses from IT departments:

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It’s worth reading the whole document but in a nutshell, Time wasting is a management issue; Reputational damage is covered by the employee code of conduct (I would add that Social Media Policies are essential, but the CoC would format the foundation of that anyway). Security risks are real, but they are as manageable as security risks from any other activity involving access to the internet (such as email). And finally, text-based knowledge sharing for business purposes need not be too demanding on bandwidth availability.

In conclusion. Social media can be valuable but it’s not for everyone and if you fall into that category you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Social media works best when the personality and voice of the individual or organisation comes through – if you don’t enjoy it then that can come through too. So, just move on, do something else.

Equally, if you find that social media isn’t giving you a significant return on your investment of time (and costs) then, again, move on, find something else that will.

So, I hope that this has been a useful whether you were at the Social Services Expo 2014 or not. Please leave comments, recommendations or feedback (on the talk, the tools, the article or the day) – it’s all gratefully received.

Links: Below are the links referred to in the talk – they were all tested and functional at the time of posting but, as you know, on the Internet, things change.



Walsall 24

Shirley Ayres/Mark Brown


1 thought on “Putting ‘Social’ into ‘Social Care’

  1. Pingback: Putting ‘social’ into ‘Social Care’ – #SSE2014 | Jon Gill

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