From the box bedroom to the boardroom: how social media is coming of age with care act

mobile browsing

While good web pages are paramount social media must form a key part in how local government communicates the care act, a survey has revealed.

While 95 per cent will use a search engine, 60 per cent of people think that platforms like Facebook and Twitter will be used by people to find out how the change will affect their family.

The care act came into force on April 1 and has been hailed as the most significant change to social care for decades.

The poll for IEWM / West Midlands ADASS was carried out by comms2point0 in March and April and targeted people who work in a social care role in councils and the third sector as well as residents with a loved one who receives care and those who don’t.

The study, which will be presented to the ADASS Spring Seminar, maps out the challenges that local government faces when they are communicating the changes.

While search engines and the web remain the most important channel, the survey shows that social media is vital.  Overall, those believing that social media would be used by people to research or ask a question about the care act reached 59 per cent with 28 per cent thinking it would not. People in the third sector were most likely to think the social web would play a role.

The survey shows that social media has evolved from something once dismissed as something used by teenagers in a box bedroom to something that is used day-to-day and needs to be taken account by decision makers.

Will social media be used by people to find out how the social care act may affect them?

It is clear that all sectors see the importance of web tools like Twitter, Facebook and others with those who work in the third sector most valuing the role they can play. The figures remain broadly constant.

Will social media be used to find out how the care act affects them?

  • People who work in social care:  59 per cent YES and 29 per cent NO with 12 per cent don’t know.
  • People who work in the third sector: 68 per cent YES and 26 per cent NO with 6 per cent don’t know.
  • People with a relative or friend who receives care: 59 per cent YES and 21 per cent NO with 19 per cent don’t know.
  • People whop don’t know anyone who receives care: 60 per cent YES and 24 per cent NO with 16 per cent don’t know.

RECOMMENDATION: Accept as a council that social media needs to be part of the communications strategy.

Which will be the most popular social media channel used?

There were no surprises in the survey with 88 per cent of people naming Facebook and 72 per cent Twitter. YouTube was third with 46 per cent with other channels registering less than 10 per cent.

RECOMMENDATION: A better and evaluated use of Facebook is vital with targeted advertisements an option.

What social media response do you think councils should have to help people understand the care act?

It is clear that the expectation is for all people who are responsible for a council social media account should be briefed on where to signpost people be they social care or not. Six out of ten people thought this level of action is needed.

There was also a surprisingly large number looking for a dedicated social care account.

  • Brief everyone responsible for a council social media account 61 per cent
  • Brief people responsible for the corporate account 50 per cent
  • A dedicated social care social media profile operated by social care staff 43 per cent

RECOMMENDATION: The organisation needs to compile a list of individual members of staff who have access and brief them of where to direct people.

RECOMMENDATION: Consider a dedicated social care account.

How else will people find out about the care act?

Search engines dominate as the first port of call with 95 per cent of those surveyed saying they would use a tool like Google or Bing to look for help. The second highest was the council website with 81 per cent followed by a charity or voluntary sector website on 42 per cent. Just over a third would call the council or rely on the local Press to keep them informed. Less than 30 per cent would rely on a face-to-face chat with a council officer in person. Just 1 per cent wouldn’t try to find out, pointing to a thirst for information that needs to be filled.

  • Search engine 95 per cent
  • Council website 81 per cent
  • Charity website 42 per cent
  • Call the council 35 per cent
  • Read the Press 35 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a council officer 27 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a GP 23 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a charity 19 per cent
  • Call a third sector group 16 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a voluntary group 11 per cent
  • Call a GP 11 per cent
  • Wouldn’t try to find out 1 per cent

RECOMMENDATION: It is vital that councils have a good webpage that is in plain English and can be found easily. Many people won’t go through the council website so the right search terms and search engine optimisation need to be done.

Overall, 247 took part in the survey with 46 per cent declaring them to be social care staff, 16 per cent working for a voluntary group or charity, 18 per cent knowing someone who receives care and 30 per cent not knowing anyone who receives care or working in the sector.

by Dan Slee, Director at comms2point0, for IEWM and West Midlands ADASS

Photo credit: afagen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

2014 IEWM #bestbywm local government social media survey


Social Media


In 2013 IEWM’s Best by West Midlands whitepaper and website raised the bar for local government social media by celebrating and sharing best practice.

The region continues to be at the cutting edge of using digital channels to communicate and listen better to the people they serve.

As in 2013, a survey to captrure where the region is has been conducted by comms2point0 of people working with social media in local government and the findings are striking.

Here are key conclusions from the numbers:

  • Social media use in West Midlands is getting mainstream. Senior officers  who use channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and others have almost doubled to just over 60 per cent compared to last year.
  • West Midlands local government are concentrating on the platforms with Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube the leading five.
  • West Midlands local government are missing out on the chance to communicate effectively with young people through the rise of new platforms such as Whats App and Snapchat. Both have almost zero take-up. This is worrying when they are so popular with young people.
  • Social media is getting gradually more effective on 36 per cent (up from 25 per cent) but the low rate of effectiveness may be a worry.
  • Who is using social media in West Midlands is also changing. Communications remains a bastion with 100 per cent use but frontline use creeping up to 65 per cent from just over half that  12-months ago.
  • But use amongst practitioners is dropping with respondents rating themselves as ‘high’ users dropping from 47 per cent to just 15 per cent.
  • There needs to be more resources given to using social media. Trust, training, tactics and risk are no longer the main barriers but resources with 54 per cent is now the number one factor.
  • West Midlands local government maintain their recognition of the importance of social media with almost 100 per cent thinking it is important or very important.
  • West Midlands authorities are not shifting more emphasis on social media. Unchanged too is the volume of use of social media with 40 per cent on ‘high’ use and 56 per cent ‘medium’ – figures almost unchanged year-on-year.
  • 18 channels are now being used – up three on previous years.
  • Fewer people are using internal social channel Yammer – a drop of just over 10 per cent to 31 per cent – the only major drop in 2014 when compared to last year.
  • Fewer organisations have a strategy falling from more than 60 per cent last year to 42 per cent in 2014.
  • More authorities are relaxing restrictions about sharing platforms such as dropbox which allows people to access documents stored in the cloud.


There are growing examples of good social media use being nominated including leaders regularly blogging to communicate with staff and residents including Birmingham City Council’s Mark Rodgers blog and Sandwell Council Leader Cllr Darren Cooper’s blog as well as Twitter from key officers such as head of environmental health and planning Marc Wilmott who uses Twitter.


Survey findings

There were 26 responses from 20 councils from the IEWM area including Birmingham City Council, Bromsgrove District Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Borough Council, East Staffordshire District Council, Herefordshire County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, Redditch Borough Council, Sandwell Council, Solihull Borough Council, Shropshire Council, Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Telford & Wrekin Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Walsall Council and Worcestershire County Council.


Question 1: In your opinion, how important is it for councils to use social media?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, don’t know 4 per cent.


Question 2: How important is it for you to use social media in your role?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, 4 per cent neutral


Question 3: How would you describe your council’s use of social media?

2013: High 37.5 per cent, medium 55 per cent, low 7.5 per cent.

2014: High 40 per cent, medium 56 per cent, low 4 per cent


Question 4: How would you rate your council’s effectiveness of social media usage

2013: High 25 per cent, Medium 65 per cent and Low 10 per cent

2014: High 36 per cent, Medium 56 per cent and Low 8 per cent


Question 5: How would you rate your personal usage?

2013: High 47.5 per cent, Medium 32.5 per cent and Low 20 per cent.

2014: High 15 per cent, Medium 58 per cent, Low 23 per cent


What are the barriers stopping your council from using social media more effectively?

Cost 8 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Technology 0 per cent (down from 10 per cent)

Training 0 per cent (down from 37.5 per cent)

Trust 4 per cent (down from 35 per cent)

Risk 0 per cent (down from 32 per cent)

Lack of guidelines & governance 0 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Resources 54 per cent (up from 12.5 per cent)

Time 33 per cent (up from 20 per cent)


Who uses it?

Elected members 81 per cent (down from 85 per cent)

senior officers 61.5 per cent (up from 32.5 per cent)

Frontline teams 65 per cent (up from 47.5 per cent)

Communications 100 per cent (no change)


Do you have an up-to-date social media strategy/action plan?

Yes  42  (down from 62.5 per cent)    No    58  ( up from 37.5%)


Has staff training or guidelines published ?

Yes 77 ( up from 75 per cent)


Which platforms are your council OK with you using?

Position, platform, percentage in the 2014 survey (percentage in the 2013 survey)

1 (1) Twitter 100 per cent (100 per cent)

2 (2) Facebook 96 (100)

3 (3) YouTube 81 (82.5)

4 (4) Flickr 65 (75)

5 (5) LinkedIn 46 (40)

6 (7) Google Plus 38 (22.5)

7 (6) Yammer 31 (42.5)

7 (-) WordPress 31 (n/a)

9 (9) Pinterest 19 (10)

10 (15) Dropbox 19 (2.5)

11 (15) Instagram 11 (2.5)

11 (15) Soundcloud 11 (2.5)

11 (8) Audioboo 11 (15)

11 (-) Vine 11 (-)

11 (12) Cover-i-Live 11 (5)

15 (-) Tumblr 8 (n/a)

16 (-) Whats App 4 (-)

17 (15) n0tice 4 (2.5)

18 (12) Foursquare 4 (5)

19 (-) Snapchat 0 (-)
Question 6: Please list top three examples of good social media use in your council.


Walsall Council

Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers @walsallwildlife

Walsall Council area of outstanding natural beauty Barr Beacon @BarrBeacon

Walsall Council park ranger @ArboRangerMark


Staffordshire Moorlands District Council

Engagement with residents, highlighting issues with service delivery and promoting key Council messages.


Worcestershire County Council

Crisis communications – e.g. getting quick information out to the public about road closures, weather, school closures etc, Chief Exec twitter account – to share top council news and personalise the Council as a whole and  Smaller service areas Facebook pages – e.g. Children’s Centres, Library services etc. Allows services to link up with service users to share information and build relationships with those members of the public who are harder to reach ()


Dudley Council

Facebook community forums – engagement directly with deputy leader of the council supported by comms, Flickr – over 500,000 views and huge engagement tool for the authority and Twitter customer services (comms worked with colleagues in customer service centre to create bespoke twitter handle for service requests…potholes etc – works v well and lets comms continue to do day job)


East Staffordshire Borough Council

Notification of suspended services due to weather.
Promotion of events and activities at leisure centres and arts centre
Using facebook during the redevelopment of a leisure centre. (

Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough Councils (shared service)

Social media incentives
Retweets to and from other partners.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Pinterest board created to support city literary festival,

Redirecting traffic queries via Twitter to online roadworks site,

Developing LinkedIn jobs and careers presence


South Staffordshire District Council

Twitter – customer services encouraging more people to contact them via twitter to save on phone calls
Baggeridge Country Park – continually engages with customers and enthusiasts, sets exactly the right tone
Recent site allocations consultation – first time we have included Twitter in a consultation and people seemed to like it!


Stafford Borough Council

Dog fouling – social media built upon the successful work of this ongoing campaign by encouraging people to stop offenders
Fly tipping – similar to the above in which dumped rubbish is pictured with details such as time date and location and encouraging people to give information
Torch relay 2012 Facebook – dedicated site set up to encourage people to turn out and interacted with are partners on the day to connect residents who were posting their pics to it


Sandwell Council

– Our Facebook page continues to grow in Likes and is a really effective way of communicating with residents – despite some users claiming it’s no longer flavour of the month. On a weekly basis we can reach 15-20,000 people and Likes continue to grow at about 100 a week.

– We’re quickly expanding how teams around the council use social media themselves, rather than relying on Comms. Public Health, Libraries and HR are the latest to be joining the party!

The CEO and Council Leader are regular bloggers – we’ve recently revamped the council leader’s blog to give it a responsive design and a cleaner look. Check out


Herefordshire County Council

Hereford Library
Herefordshire head of planning
Hereford libraries Facebook page


Cannock Chase District Council

A Facebook campaign to get victims of domestic abuse to contact help organisations
Live tweeting from Council meetings


Shropshire Council

Corporate twitter account

North Warwickshire Borough Council

Twitter and Facebook used by our Leisure Centres.
Facebook used by the team that managed our skate park.
The past major used twitter during his term.


Coventry City Council

Tweeting live from planning committee
Posting pics of election night count on flickr
Tweeting infographic of election stats


Warwickshire County Council

Monitoring lobby groups (Siblings at same school)
engaging with campaign target audiences (ex smoker factor)
alerting people to incidents (WFRS)


Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Facebook page for new £10 million leisure centre to alert customers to class changes, new courses etc.
Elections – we tweeted all results as they happened and linked to live results page on our website. We won praise locally for that.
Working with Town Centre Partnership to encourage greater sharing of news and issues among local businesses.


Telford & Wrekin Council

monitoring and updating during periods of bad weather has helped us increase our followers significantly.
Our policy is always to respond quickly to comments/reports/questions so that confidence in our brand grows all the time.
Effective use of Facebook advertising to help grow our audience and raise awareness of specific campaigns such as fostering and free school meals.

Web casting of meetings working local voluntary group
Seeking residents views or particular issues – eg. asking them to vote in favour of one thing or another


Birmingham City Council

Local Elections coverage 2014
The corporate Google+ account 55,000 followers
Promoting live webcasts on social media. Opening up democracy to the public 400,000 views for meetings since Feb 2013


Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

1. Answering concerns – answering queries about empty buildings and potential enforcement action – Graffiti removal action.
2. 24 Tweets for Christmas – recycling reminders
3. Posting of elections results


Solihull Borough Council

Facebook posts have a high reach and usually garner a lot of feedback/comments. 2. Everyone involved with social media in SMBC meets every month at the Social Media Cafe to discuss ideas and get advice/help etc. 3.  We have a lot of enthusiasm from across the board for social media, a lot of new start ups and people willing to get involved.

Will have to think about that one!


Good use of social media in the West Midlands across the public sector

  • Police/environment agency during the floods – really great to share information quickly and link up with LAs
  • Coventry – Facebook – snow = high number of likes
  • #WMGRIT – partnership we were involved in around gritting roads in the region
  • Staffordshire County Council – Ironman promotion Comms 2.0 always continues to impress me with the breadth of knowledge about digital communications
  • Staffordshire County Council – Treated Badly domestic abuse campaign
  • I am only impressed if I know the evaluation. So although it may get lots of publicity, it may be funny or people like it (ie police comments around major football matches on twitter) I would need to know if there has been a reduction in drink driving for example to make me ‘impressed.’
  • Really impressed by WMP neighbourhood policing teams’ use of Twitter – good to see the “sweets” being shared right at the frontline. They give a really good insight of what’s going on on the ground.
  • Gritters. Birmingham City’s recent Hidden City campaign.
  • West Midlands Police’s use of Twitter.
  • Birmingham CEX blog and twitter
  • BCC Barbara Nice campaign – integrated mix of channels;
  • @HealthyBrum – excellent public health messages.



by Dan Slee, comms2point0

Comms2Point0 logo







Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Public meeting live on facebook

Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle

Bums on seats at public meetings can be a real challenge for any local authority.

Unless there is a big local issue to engage people, a date with local councillors in a community centre on a rainy Wednesday night can be a tough one to keep. Equally, people lead busy lives and a public meeting is one too many balls to juggle along with work, family commitments and Coronation Street.

So when Dudley Council came up with the concept of community forums, making it as easy as possible for people to get involved was a top priority. There’s 10 held at community centres and village halls across the borough every other month.

They reflect the council’s desire to become a “community council” and the authority is keen to build on local democracy and transparency and give people a greater say in how their council is run. After all, there are lots of stories to tell from the borough’s communities about the work people do, and there’re lots to let them know about how the council can help them continue that work.

Turn out is good, but how do you get more people interested without having to leave the house? Step forward the biggest social media tool on the planet.

The two thousand or so people who like our Dudley Borough Facebook page regularly share posts and let us know when we’ve got things right and, well, not so right. So we decided to use the platform to give people the opportunity to ask questions and raise issues, and discuss them with senior politicians, they were more than happy to take part. It’s a meeting of people and it’s in public, and the early response has been excellent.

The idea has also attracted regional, national and global praise from the media and communications professionals.

Armed with a coffee and a PC Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council, sat for an hour discussing local issues and answering questions as they came in on the page. On the first one, we had over 1,000 post views and 17 individuals actively take part – more than any single attendance at a physical public community forum. Numbers have stayed steady ever since and the council has gained a real insight into what makes people tick and offered up useful pointers for people including how to access up to £5,000 in funding for community groups. Importantly, people have been able to do all this without leaving the house.

In more recent forums we’ve shared key messages and discussion topics on twitter as they crop up during the hour to widen the audience. The Facebook forum has also now been added as an official council meeting with Cllr Lowe and the communications and public affairs team tasked with maintaining and improving the way they work. The online session is held before each round of 10 forums covering the 24 wards of Dudley borough with the offer of further face to face discussion with elected members if they need it.

The key to their success is buy-in from senior politicians and a genuine desire to hear what people have to say. Luckily we have both in Dudley.


Chris Howes

Communications and Public Affairs Officer,

Dudley Council

You can follow and connect with Dudley via multiple channels:






Photo Credit: ringsofsaturnrock via Compfight cc

‘Fails’ campaign drives home alcohol fail message for 11 – 14 year olds

Alcohol Campaign Fail Banner

Alcohol Campaign Fail Banner

Up and down the country, one of the biggest health and financial costs to the economy is alcohol. This is no different in Staffordshire where we’re clear that to change behaviour, we need to intervene earlier than ever before.

At the same time, one of the biggest traditional challenges for councils is communicating with so called ‘hard to reach’ audiences. This can include young people who quite often would run a mile from people perceived as being ‘in authority’ – never mind a ‘stuffy council’. This is particularly true when it comes to lifestyle issues such as alcohol.

Recent blog posts have also talked about how we need to make sure we go to where the audiences are and walk in their shoes (see Dan Slee’s Create content without boundaries as one example).

We felt the same about this and so last summer, we decided to take a different approach in Staffordshire to target these issues, after asking young people directly about their drinking habits and what ways they like to communicate.

This work told us that there was a big difference between how often young people are actually drinking and how much and how often they think their peers are drinking.

We also knew from national statistics that children who had their first drink before the age of 10 sadly are considerably more likely to become a frequent drinker (once a week or more frequently).

It was clear we needed to be smarter to appeal to our target age group, who said friends and social media are the top ways for them to find out information and news.

So working with a variety of partners including Police, Fire and district councils, we set about developing with 30 young people an ‘alcohol fails’ campaign designed for other 11-14 year olds in Staffordshire.

‘Fail’ is a popular internet slang for short videos depicting situations with unfortunate outcomes and are used to point out a person’s mistake – a fail. They’ve got their own dedicated channel on You Tube that gets 1,000s of views on a daily basis and are extremely popular with young people.

One of most well-known fail virals is the Dumb Ways to Die public announcement ad campaign by Metro Trains Melbourne which provided inspiration for the campaign.

Using a leading Staffordshire based animation studio, we worked with young people to develop a series of animated videos with the aim of delaying drinking within that age range and to promote behaviour change towards alcohol.

The animations were based on simple alcohol related stories – future prospects, social life, education – followed by a clear fail message.

Their aim was to engage with young people in an appealing way so that they could easily see why drinking alcohol is a ‘fail’ but in a way that didn’t preach.

The style adopted is reminiscent of  retro ‘8BIT’ style computer graphics and music, which we knew to be extremely popular with 11 – 14 year olds and the animations, while not branded, had signposting to how to see more and access further resources. In designing the characters and scenarios the young people drew on their experience of popular video and online gaming.

It was a risk and at times, challenging but the young people who were involved were really enthusiastic. They had great ideas and really helped us to build something that could appeal to other young people.

We took a multi-platform approach and the resulting animations and visuals were shared on-line via the social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, young people being encouraged to share the fails with their peers (with parent’s permission if they were under 13).

This was supported by targeted activity in venues popular with young people, including the animations being shown at cinemas in the county before blockbuster 12 rated movies. And for free – a real coup for us.  Thanks to Comms2point0 who helped us crowd source clarity from Matt Bond and others on whether we needed British Broadcasting Film certification for the animations. That saved us £2,000 in the end so wasn’t something to be sniffed at.

Large visually cut out stands and counter top dispensers were created, depicting characters from the animations, and placed in video shops, cafes and restaurants and bowling alleys with postcards signposting to a bespoke styled website.

We also managed to get the animations shown at popular age appropriate Christmas ‘light switch on’ events, and at ‘nappy nights’ – targeted youth events at nightclubs in the county.  We also held a series of special town centre events, taking the message directly to young people in places where they regularly hang out.

It was a really different approach and it wasn’t all plain sailing. We also had quite a few ups and downs along the way. One of the toughest challenges was how did we evaluate the campaign and to be honest Public Health England who I asked if we could work with to agree a suitable behaviour change evaluation, weren’t much help. Their view was that the only true measure was the impact on alcohol sales. Given that the campaign was targeted at 11- 14 year olds, this didn’t really correlate. We’ve got some measures that we think can work now but there is probably room for improvement.

But we did secure funding from the IEWM social media ideas fund (part of the Best by WM social media white paper initiative) which really helped as it gave us breathing space to try out things we’d not tried before. It was still low budget overall coming in at £10K which the service paid for.

So far the results are making a difference.

To date, there have been 1,319 views on You Tube, 1,000 visitors to the blogging site which also includes step-by-step updates on producing the animations, and 1,881 likes on Facebook.

Out of 250 young people across the county that we asked about the campaign, 89% said they would share the animation fails and many of them had. And even more importantly for us, 89% also said they would think twice before drinking alcohol as a result of the campaign.

But for me, it’s summed up best by James Skidmore aged 11 from Heath Hayes near Cannock who worked on the ‘Disco Fail’ video.

He said:

“I went to a workshop, and helped design one of the characters in the disco video. It’s really good to be able to watch one of your creations come to life, and I feel proud that my ideas have been used. I hope these videos will stop the next generation of children from drinking and ruining their lives, and it is nice to feel I have helped to make a difference.”

You can see the videos at: on youtube at or on facebook at:

There is also a behind the scenes documentary about making the fails including showing how all the animations and sounds were made by Tentacle. It’s really fascinating to see. Unfortunately it also includes really bad footage of me looking like a 1970’s over enthusiastic tv presenter (as a colleague described me) but hey I can live with that for a campaign that I’m really proud to have been part of, especially given the role young people played in making it happen.

We deliberately didn’t brand it so that it had more appeal to young people but similarly we want other councils to maybe take the approach and adapt it in their areas. If you’re keen to do this, do get in touch and let us know.

Finally, an appeal,  if you haven’t watched them yet, please do so and tell us what you think. Tweet me or leave me a comment below.

by Emma Rodgers

Staffordshire County Council

New Ideas Fund – successful applications announced

Thumbs up

Back in July we launched the IEWM New Ideas Fund to support the development of new and innovative solutions to respond to tightening public sector budgets and demand from increasingly tech savvy communities. We have tried not to be overly prescriptive about what it should or should not be. There wasn’t a form or a questionnaire to fill in and we’ve only asked interested parties to use our suggestions as guidelines:

  • provide specialist support to overcome a technical or workability issue;
  • enable more detailed research into an idea to prove the concept (or not) and provide evidence for a business case to support implementation;
  • implement small service changes and improvements or efficiencies;
  • assist with the roll out of solutions to other authorities;
  • help boost capacity and support engagement in activity on behalf of the West Midlands

We are pleased to report that 18 expressions of interest and 14 proposals have been received to date and 11 have been approved. This is brilliant! Even more so, because it has  confirmed what we have already found through #bestbywm: there are some amazing people out there, often working under the radar, who need only a little support and encouragement to get their clever ideas off the ground. There is also a significant enthusiasm and appetite among public sector colleagues to make improvements – for people they serve and for themselves and the way they work.

We have tried our best to allocate the resources available against the submissions for the ‘New Ideas fund’ with an emphasis on creativity, engagement and new territory.

We have really loved and are proud to be able to support the following:

  • Programme of County-wide Social Media campaigns (Worcestershire County Council);
  • Alcohol campaign aimed at 11-14 year olds (Staffordshire County Council);
  • Development of the Yammer network to enhance internal communications and efficiency (Sandwell MBC);
  • Establishment of #BestbyWM for voluntary sector (RAWM);
  • Production of the adoption training videos to assist those considering adoption (Shropshire Council);
  • Effective engagement of seldom heard voices in relation to adult social care services (Dudley MBC and  CVS);
  • Creating virtual access to the police museum (West Midlands Police);
  • Tourism app for mobile phones which will allow people to download vouchers to visit tourist attractions in Dudley (Dudley MBC);
  • Support the development of “Digital Neighbourhoods” across the city (Birmingham City Council);
  • Voter registration app (Sandwell MBC);
  • The ‘Do you feel safe?’ project aiming to reduce fear of crime ) Staffordshire County Council).

Well done to all successful applicants!

We look forward to sharing all their amazing ideas so watch this space.

Photo Credit: Oh Geez! Design via Compfight cc

Launch event presentations & media coverage

The launch event, opened by Jan Britton, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council and IEWM Board Lead for Transformation, was very well attended by communications professionals and social media experts from across the region and beyond. The paper has featured in various regional and national media and so far, the microsite has been accessed over 5,800 times. Below you will be able to find some videos and presentations from the day and read feedback notes from the afternoon unconference discussions around Tactics, Training and Trust.

Welcome from Jan Brittion, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council and IEWM Board Lead for Transformation

Why a White Paper? by Pete Jackson, IEWM

Introduction to the case studies by Dan Slee, comms2point0

Why is the West Midlands ace when it comes to Social Media? 

Example best practice case studies from Best by WM

Social media: A broad approach from a communications team by Jon King, former Shropshire Council employee

The benefits of an open access social media policy by Fran Collingham & Alison Hook, Coventry City Council

Improving resident contact through social media by Emma Rodgers, Staffordshire County Council View Emma’s prezi here.

Telford & Wrekin Council and bloggers from Lightmoor Live and Telford Live by Russell Griffin, Telford & Wrekin Council

Using social media on the frontline as a countryside officer by Walsall Council countryside officer, Morgan Bowers

Headline survey results by Darren Caveney, comms2point0

Feedback from discussions

Best by West Midlands launch: A discussion on Trust

During a break-out session at the launch of the BestByWM white paper, I led an open-space style discussion on the theme of of trust. Participants included local government communications officers, a council chief executive, and consultants who, like me, work with the public sector to assist their social media use. I started by quoting the Chief Constable of Leicestershire, Simon Cole, (@CCLeicsPolice) who famously once said:

“I trust my officers with an ASP baton, CS Spray, handcuff and firearms. I should be able to trust them with a smartphone.”

It was similarly felt important that local government and other related organisations show trust in their staff’s use of social media. After all, they are trusted to use the telephone, and often to speak at public meetings, without prior approval of each utterance. They are of course expected to avoid bringing their employer into disrepute, but if a council doesn’t need a stand-alone telephone call policy, then it probably doesn’t need a social media policy either. It’s also important that staff who are new to social media – or who are in organisations new to social media – are offered training and support. They should know who they can ask for advice if they’re not sure how to respond to a query, or, in the worst case, if they’re subject to abuse or harassment. After all staff should not only be trusted, but be able to trust their employer! Most important of all, it’s vital that managers realise that social media won’t fix deeper organisational problems. If staff aren’t trusted in their other roles, or aren’t empowered to act with a degree of autonomy, then the use of social media probably won’t be successful. Trust needs to permeate the workplace, not just its social media.

We also discussed how council can earn the trust of their social media audiences – including their partner organisations, but chiefly their citizens and visitors. Avoiding spin is key; whether the account is corporate or used in the voice of an individual front line worker, the approach should be conversational, and on a human scale. If the employee doesn’t know the answer to a question, a prompt and honest holding response (“I don’t know; but I’ll find out and get back to you in a few days”) is far more reassuring to the enquirer than no response, a bluff, or an invitation to fill in a web form or deflection to some other medium. And of course staff should only speak of what they know and not repeat rumour or hearsay. This is especially
important in times of crisis.

by Andy Mabbett


You can also watch summary feedback given by facilitators, Andy Mabbett, Simon Whitehouse & Dan Slee below.


Dan and Darren about the Paper and working with IEWM

Some examples of how the White Paper and the Best by WM microsite have featured in the media:

Launch of the “Best by West Midlands 2013″ on Friday 26th July.

On Friday 26th July we’ll be celebrating the launch of “Best by West Midlands 2013: A White Paper on Social Media in Local Government”

Comms2Point0 and IEWM have teamed up to take a snapshot of what social media looks line in local government across the West Midlands region.

As part of the findings, we surveyed people in the sector. 100 per cent had Facebook and Twitter and 97 per cent said this would improve. Trust and training emerged as clear issues.

The paper also addresses some of the challenges individuals and organisations are facing and provides over 30 case studies to help you understand your own digital and media landscape.

We only have days left until the launch and we can’t wait to share with you some of the fantastic ideas, enthusiasm and hard work of people and organisations in the West Midlands.

The event will be hosted at the Public in West Bromwich on Friday 26th July between 10am and 1pm.

To register to attend the launch event on 26th July please register here: and stay tuned by following#bestbywm on Twitter.

Birmingham City Council on Google+

Back in 2011 I attended an LG Communications conference in Coventry where the subject of Google+ came up. It was suggested councils start a Google+ page so we at least had the name registered. So I returned to Brum and that’s what I did. And then, well not a lot really. I added content pretty much as and when I posted content on the corporate BCC facebook page. And the number of people adding us to circles increased to 145. In twelve months. Wow.

But I persevered. And then something happened which I didn’t expect. In March 2013 Google emailed me and asked if I really was Birmingham City Council on Google+. After I got up of the floor (this also happened when Facebook rang me up) I said yes and we arranged a conference call.

Birmingham Pylon, Birmingham

It turned out Google were very interested in seeing if they could help us promote our page a little bit better and make us a good case study for local government. They started the process by verifying the account and giving me some tips on posting content. Then things started getting interesting.  A verified account is much easier to find on Google, it appears at the top right of the page when you Google search for BCC. This is great because not only is it very visible, it makes a great campaign box to promote key messages. And the number of people following us increased (a lot). 20,000 people had us in their circles by July and we have over 26,000 active users.

Unlike our Twitter and Facebook accounts which have a predominantly local audience, our Google+ page attracts worldwide followers. It’s an ideal tool for exporting the brand of Birmingham globally. I tend to post the same key messages as our other social media channels interspersed with more ‘touristy’ content of events and activities that promote Birmingham as a great 21st Century city.

Content that works really well tends to be images (no surprise there) and also webcasts of BCC Council meetings, which give an insight into mechanics of local government and promote democracy. Also issues that affect everybody, like public health and environmental issues get a lot of interest. It’ll be really interesting to see how the account develops over the next twelve months.

by Guy Evans

Social Media officer at Birmingham City Council

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Telford & Wrekin Council and bloggers from Lightmoor Live and Telford Live

Live cloud, Telford

Bingo cards, bloggers and basic web technology have helped hundreds of residents see what happens at Telford & Wrekin Council meetings.

Hundreds of people have been following proceedings at Full Council by following live streaming feeds they can log onto. Scores more catch-up with the recordings too.

The initiative has seen a massive surge in people following what is going on.

But the scheme itself was dreamt up by residents themselves and works with the help of the council.

How did it start? When resident Jake was watching the Parliament TV channel and posted on Twitter about how this may work online for the council where he lives.

Mark from the Lightmoor Live blog which serves the village and Jake were then approached by Nigel Newman in the Telford & Wrekin comms team, who had picked up on the tweet, to see how the council could help to make the idea happen. The Council had recently revised its policies to allow public filming recording at its meetings.

Once this was approved Jake helped by Mark used an iPhone on a tripod and the bambuser app to stream proceedings.

An online viewer of that meeting Jon contacted Jake and Mark via twitter wishing to help and brought in the idea of using a Google hangout to broadcast the second meeting. Sound quality was improved at a third meeting by plugging into the in-house audio with a Google hangout used linked to YouTube to allow people to follow better quality images.

The Council’s team was on hand to help guide the bloggers through the meeting, explaining who’s who to support captions when councillors spoke and other intricacies of council meetings.

 by Russell Griffin,


Telford and Wrekin Borough Council

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Why hyperlocal blogs are important for local government?

Here’s an understatement if ever there was one: the media landscape in Britain has been undergoing a bit of a seismic shift this last few years.

Web 2.0 and the explosion in smartphone and mobile technology means people are accessing news and information in a myriad of new ways. And this technological revolution has seen more and more people creating their own content too.

Tools like Twitter, Audioboo, Facebook and YouTube, and blogging platforms such as WordPress, mean it’s never been easier for citizens to publish their own information – and to reach sizeable audiences.

Market stall, Stone, Staffordshire

The growth of ‘hyperlocal blogs’ – local websites that focus on a particular city, town, village or other defined geographical area – has gone hand in hand with this technological revolution – and the decline of the traditional print media.

There are hundreds of hyperlocal sites of all shapes, sizes and motivations all over the country – take a look at Dave Harte from Birmingham City University calculated in April 2012 that UK hyperlocal sites were publishing content once every two minutes (

Like many things digital, the West Midlands has a thriving hyperlocal scene. Sites like B31 Voices, Digbeth Is Good, WV11, Lichfield Live, Connect Cannock and many more are providing news and information to their readers and building large communities of interest. In fact, Birmingham has 28 hyperlocal sites, more than any other council area in the UK.

There are many ways in which local government should be engaging with hyperlocal media and tapping into its growing and engaged audience.

Here’s just one reason why it could be well worth its while.

Nesta’s Destination Local report this year into the demand for hyperlocal media in the UK found that 56% of people who use hyperlocal sites feel more informed about their local area.

However, 44% don’t feel that hyperlocal media allows them to have an influence over decisions that are made there.

I’m sure that local councils have a much higher figure for failing to actively involve citizens in decision making.

Is this an area where hyperlocal and local councils can work together?

by Jamie Summerfield,

Founder of a Little Bit of Stone hyperlocal website in Stone , Staffordshire. He is also a former local government press officer and is Staffordshire University journalism school’s hyperlocal website project manager.

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