Back in June 2013, the ‘Scrutiny in the Spotlight’ Conference was launched. If I am honest, the use of social media was not top of my list of how we should share information relating to the conference. The @GoodPracticeWAO team (on behalf of the Conference Partners) encouraged me to support the use of social media as a means of sharing and raising awareness. How glad I am now!
While we were planning the social media campaign, we were conscious not to set too many aims, so we focused on the following:
- Encouraging the use of a variety of social media to engage public sector colleagues.
- Raising awareness of the potential impact of scrutiny through the GPX blog; and
- Continue the sharing and learning between scrutiny colleagues.
Whilst these were our key aims, we were very clear we also didn’t want delegates to view the conference as a ‘one off’ event on the 28 November. In our eyes, the conference started (through knowledge sharing) in the first week of September, when I posted our first scrutiny blog. We don’t envisage the conference ending until February/March 2014 as we will be continuing to share the outputs of the conference on a weekly basis.
We have learned from previous experience that when you want to get the right group of people together at a conference, plenty of notice is essential. Particularly when many potential delegates have committees planned at least six months ahead.
However, when we launched the conference diary marker back in June 2013, we could never have anticipated that conference would be so popular. By the beginning of September we were over-subscribed and had a waiting list for delegate places. This also meant we had a ready-made scrutiny community in place to communicate with.
Prior to the conference, our social media campaign was mainly focused around a weekly blog on the Good Practice Exchange WordPress blog. We e-mailed the blog link weekly and used Twitter to promote the blog more widely via the hashtag ‘#scrutiny13’. In the final run-up during the November, we also tweeted daily messages to heighten awareness of the conference and encourage knowledge sharing. Once we had a half a dozen blogs in place, we used Pintrest to promote the visual elements of the blogs and again tweeted them out.
Our main social media focus of the conference day itself was Twitter. We pulled together a ‘Twitter Team’, who were allocated to specific workshops and plenary sessions. Their brief was to share information with colleagues who were not able to attend the conference and to generate dialogue with other tweeters at the conference. All tweets were on the hashtag #scrutiny13 (which you can see on Storify). This was my first experience of a ‘live’ Twitter campaign at an event. After a stuttering start I soon got into the swing of picking up on and tweeting key messages and phrases from speakers and delegates.
We also set up a filming schedule on the day of the conference where all plenary and workshop speakers shared the purpose of their session and key messages they wanted to share. This meant that, following the conference, we could develop a short presentation which combined the main elements of the event captured via video, social media and presentation slides. This material provides a valuable knowledge-sharing resource both for delegates and for colleagues who were not able to attend. We have included a link to a presentation slide pack that delegates can adapt to suit their own needs by including key messages they took away from the conference.
We will continue to share the outputs via the Good Practice Exchange blog, which we really encourage colleagues to share and comment on.
So what have we learnt from this social media campaign?
- Social media is a free and accessible way to publicise events and to share knowledge.
- We are still learning as we go along the social media journey. We can clearly see the benefit of the campaign, as every time we e-mail blogs to the scrutiny community, more colleagues sign up to automatically receiving our blogs. The same can be said for the number of delegates who follow us on Twitter.
- Not that many colleagues actually comment directly on our blogs; but we know that many people read our blogs – the stats below tell the story. Also, many colleagues refer to the blog in conversations or on e-mail. We recognise that we are playing the long game here.
- On the day at least 82 delegates tweeted their thoughts and views using the #scrutiny13 hashtag. The use of the hashtag was essential to marshal and measure our social media impact.
- Their tweets reached up to 48,717 people across the UK and beyond.
- Social media is much more than an ‘instant and disposable’ medium. Tweets can be saved and used as a record of delegate perspectives on the day.
- Twitter’s 140 character limit forces you to focus on what is most important and distill it into a short and punchy message. I have to say my old English teacher would welcome the concept of Twitter as it is resurrecting the art of précis!
- We have been able to engage with scrutiny contributors from all over the UK (and wider), who have shared our messages and added to our knowledge.
So, was the social media campaign worth all the effort?
Most definitely! Not only did we get an instant understanding of what delegates were getting from the conference but, most importantly, we have contributed towards creating a longer term scrutiny community who are willing and able to share and learn from each other. Now that’s what I call Social!