A million in 24 hours

A few months ago I was alerted through social media to a request from Manchester Dogs Home for food. They needed urgent help because the cupboards were almost bare. As the home does such great work and is just round the corner from the office we got moving and started to collect donations as well as highlight the plight on social media. It had a great response and led to one of my colleagues adopting one of the dogs.

When the news of the terrible events on Thursday night came through it hit us hard. Like many people our thoughts immediately went to what could we do to help, how could we try to improve the horrific situation?

As individuals we couldn’t make the situation improve on our own, but when we join together we can, we can achieve anything. This was proved when through the efforts of the public more than £1m was raised in just 24 hours. On top of that donations of food, bedding, leads and anything else to help with their work were flooding in.

I have said many times that social media can be a powerful tool for good. We saw it after the riots and disorder in Manchester and across the world, and we have seen it with many other charity and fundraising efforts. So, I am not surprised that social media played a key part in helping to bring people together to do whatever they could as part of a combined effort that will have a huge impact.

In a world where journalist and the media take a lot of criticism, their efforts to highlight what was happening and to share the message about what people could do to help was impressive.  The Manchester Evening News quickly established a central fundraising site and we see today (Saturday 13 September) The Sun highlight the plight of the dogs needing homes on the front page. Amazing stuff.

But what was also amazing were the many individuals who wanted to do a little bit to help. The people who donated a few pounds saying it was all they could afford in such difficult financial times. The elderly lady who came to work with a trolley full of dog food. She got the bus from home after she said her granddaughter had told her about the appeals for help that she had seen on Facebook. And she said if needed she would do the same again next week.

This was such a horrific and tragic set of circumstances but the response restored my faith in humanity. It was also an opportunity for social media to show how it can really be a source of good that can help improve our lives. So when people criticise social media please remember the 24 hours when £1m was raised to make a difference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Together and a million miles apart

It is not every Tuesday where you can speak to colleagues from America, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and many other places. But this week I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the international social media in law enforcement conference known as Smile. I expected that there would be lots of differences because we are worlds apart. So what did I find?

Surprisingly, there were many similarities when we discussed our day-to-day work, priorities and dealing with issues. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Manchester, Massachusetts or Melbourne there are many key elements of developing conversations with people you serve that are universal.

Start by recognising that having some form of plan is a good platform to develop the use of social media. The key being knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it. And include in this the need to be able to evaluate what you do so you can show the impact it is having.

Then you can recognise that some key principles are important for everyone. These principles include being honest in what you put out, identifying ways to be interesting and engaging in your conversations, recognising that people have an insatiable appetite for information about policing and law enforcement. All these elements are the same no matter where you are based.

I was privileged to have the chance to speak to a colleague from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police New Brunswick who have dealt with tragedy a few months ago with the death of three officers. The issues they faced were reminiscent of the aftermath of the tragic deaths of Greater Manchester Police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.  Both cases brought home the risks and danger that police officers face on a daily basis.

In the drive to maximise the opportunities from social media the issues appear to be the same no matter where you are. Some themes included how do you capture important data, how can you share more information, how can you ensure that officers are supported to use social media, and how do you stick to your digital principles when faced with a crisis? The conference this week was a chance to try to share these universal issues and work together to find solutions. We may all occupy very different parts of the globe but we share the planet and the challenges of the digital age.

For those I had a chance to speak to, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience, and for those I didn’t, I hope we can connect in the virtual world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Twitter reality check

I have to admit to being very excited about the arrival of Twitter analytics for all. A week ago I start to look at the data that was available and wondered how much use it would be to individuals as well as for small businesses. The answer is that if used in the right way it is a great source of information that is available free.

The key for any small business is to know why they are using social media. Usually this will be to increase sales of a product or service and connecting with potential customers is possible using social networks. To do it you need to understand that social media is just that social, and it is the human touch that really matters. No one wants to suffer the hard sell on social networks.

If that is the case then being able to access average engagement rates and look at which tweets attracted retweets or favourites can tell you a lot both about your activity and also the priorities of your followers. It is really easy now to review the data on a weekly or monthly basis to track whether you are making the most of the opportunities as well as developing your use of social media.

It doesn’t need an expensive analytical survey or report to gather the data which means small businesses can focus on finding some support to improve what they are doing, whether that is through training courses or engaging the services of a PR or marketing specialist.

So, how useful is it to the average individual user of social media? I suppose that depends what you want to do and why you engage through social media.

For me it has made me review and reassess why I use Twitter and what I want to achieve or not by using it. One of the important things was to look at the level of engagement highlighted because if that is a really low figure then I am obviously not making the most of things. It would be like sitting in a room and just talking to myself.  I don’t want to get obsessed with reviewing the figures but every so often it will help me to get a reality check about what I am doing and whether it is making a difference.

If you haven’t checked your Twitter analytics out yet then just search Google for “Twitter Analytics” and then set it up to view. Definitely worth checking it out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A dark day for social media

Earlier this week the horror of the death of James Foley was brought to social media. I was shocked and upset by the way social media was being used. The brutal death was brought into the homes of millions of people. My thoughts are still with his family, friends and colleagues at what is a very difficult time.

The events also brought many aspects of social networking back into the spotlight. I have written before about the responsibility that comes with the power of being able to use social media. This was in the context of organisations and businesses who now have a way to directly connect with people. This was clearly true for everyone using social media this week.

People were shockingly sharing the video of the murder. Some will have been doing it because they can and some will have done it without realising that they have. A very small number may have been doing it to support the terrorist propaganda. It is important to remember that just because we can do things with the digital developments doesn’t mean we should. We have to be clear what we are doing and why we are doing it. This is important for everyone from the individual to businesses.

It is also not enough to say you didn’t understand how a social network worked. So, if you posted or reposted something then you have to take responsibility for that action. There can be no excuse of not knowing. If you are joining a social network then make sure you are clear about the security settings and that you understand what happens when you post something. Be clear about when retweeting will share a link, what it means and who can access it. Remember everything you post or comment on reflects on you.

Every one of us has a great power when we go on social networks. When you post something on Twitter, Facebook or whatever network you act as a publisher. You are the reporter, the commentator and the spectator. If you decide to say something then you have to understand the legal, social and moral issues attached to it. Social networks allow us all to be citizen journalists but with that power comes the responsibility. You would never see such footage on the television news so why did some people feel able to share it with the world?

If you were one of the people who shared the horrific video of James Foley’s death then perhaps you should think again about how you are using social media. Remember with great power comes great responsibility.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stand back and watch

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I am a strong advocate of the benefits of social media. I have written many times about the positive things it brings to modern life when it is used to good effect. I do accept that there are negatives associated with the use of social media and that it can put the spotlight on the worst of human nature. But even I had to sigh when I read a story in the local paper this week.

The article was a relatively low-level issue of a small caravan fire at a house. But the thing that made it much more interesting was that people were spotted taking pictures and posting them on Facebook rather than phoning 999 for emergency help. (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/onlookers-took-pictures-facebook-instead-7609838)

It made me think that if we don’t take care we will be using technology to distance ourselves from what happens every day in our lives. It is great to be able to capture moments using mobiles but when it means we are constantly hiding behind the phone then it starts to become an issue of concern. Some years ago when I was working as a local journalist I often wondered how war correspondents and others could stand back dispassionately when they watch disaster unfold. They stand back and don’t intervene. But this is what we are starting to see if people stand back rather than step in to help.

It is quite a scary thought that in a few years we might find everyone is documenting and photographic what happens without recognising the need to step in and help. Will people just watch criminals at work? Will they photograph those people injured or dying in road accidents? Will they snap people as they wait for an ambulance?

I really hope that we don’t get to this situation. If we do then we have lost the connection to what makes us human – caring and nurturing each other. The technology is great it means we can be in touch with the emergency services much quicker and we can connect with each other. But if we lose the central humanity of people then we ultimately are not making use of the facilities now at our fingertips.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking through a new lens

For more years than I care to remember I have written statements about crime and have always thought I understood the views of victims of crime. That was until I became a victim myself a few days ago. It wasn’t the crime of the century but the impact it has had on my life is significant.

I woke to find my vehicle had a number of parts stripped from it. No-one had seen anything, there was no CCTV, and there were no forensic opportunities because of the heavy rain. Clearly, it had been stolen to order and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

As many would say, it is just property, and they are right. But the cost of replacing the items is so much that it will involve an insurance claim. In turn this will, I am sure, mean an increase cost for my car insurance when it is next due. I am angry that while I work hard to afford things, somebody feels they can help themselves to what is not theirs. It is not this financial cost that has been the impact on me. The biggest issue is the mental stress it has caused. As it happened near home, it is unnerving and has made me unsettled. I am watching for every move and person near home. I feel as though my personal space has been violated.

I suddenly realised that I haven’t really understood a lot of what I have been doing at work. I haven’t understood the mental impact of crime on people. I have probably been dismissive of the huge impact that crime and antisocial behaviour can have on people’s lives. What are we doing to help people when they have become victims? And when I talk about ‘we’ I mean the communication team. We focus a lot on encouraging people to come forward and provide information so that we can find the offenders and bring them to justice. We talk about providing ‘reassurance’ to people and communities when something has happened. But do we ever do anything to help people when they have unfortunately become victims?

It is easy to say that this is, or should be, the responsibility of the Victim Support service of other charities. But working in the police service provides us with a unique opportunity to be able to ensure that victims voices are heard. We can recognise the traumatic experience that people have been through, whatever the nature of the crime is. Above all, we have to be able to treat everyone as an individual.

I am very lucky that I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have been doing all they can to help me through this experience. Many are not so lucky. They may be alone, old or vulnerable. Who is there for them?

I know I will get through this difficult experience but one thing is clear it has given me a new lens to look through every day when dealing with communication about crimes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The survey says….

I have to admit that this is one blog post that might appear to be a bit of a rant. The reason is that I am sick of reading half-baked research and surveys about a whole range of things. But it is the ones that claim various things about social media that are the most frustrating.

There is one today in the tabloid newspapers about problems of low self-esteem and Facebook that used a survey of 300 people. Every day there is some kind of report claiming that social media is bad for us, or in a few rare cases that it is the best thing since sliced bread. I wonder what the purpose is of some of these small-scale inquiries?

My concerns are focused on how many people actually read these surveys and believe them. It is easy to get carried away on a sea of random statistics but we have to look behind the presentation to get to how the survey or research was undertaken. Was it from a particular viewpoint, does it have independence and who seeks to gain from the results? We all need to be a little more critical in our reading around survey reports.

It is increasingly clear that there are so many people now using social media that it will cover a whole range of human emotions, drives and experiences. Taking a small group and trying to define the experiences they have will only cover part of the story. For me, research on social media needs to be broad and deep which means it will take some time to clearly show results.

If we are going to conduct social psychology research on social media then it needs to stand up to scrutiny. It needs to be detailed, thorough and take place over a longer period of time or cover a much more significant number of users. There is still a lot to learn about social media but it is important to avoid the sweeping statements from the many surveys that are being reported.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment