Gavin Wray

Social media surgery for voluntary organisations in Birmingham

The second free social media surgery for voluntary and community groups in Birmingham was held at the BVSC in Digbeth, 26 November 2008.

The idea behind the surgeries is to help people working in voluntary and community projects in Birmingham to use the web and social media to benefit their work.

Help and support is provided by ‘surgeons’ – bloggers, social media and webby types who provide free advice. They’re a lovely, generous and inspiring bunch with a home on Paradise Circus.

Birmingham Social Media Surgery 26 November 2008

Photo by Julia Gilbert

After tentatively toe-dipping into this world at Brum Bloggers meetups, with friendly encouragement from Jon Bounds, Julia Gilbert and Nick Booth, I went as a first-time surgeon to see if I could, well, try to pass on some knowledge and learn something new too.

In tandem with fellow first-time surgeon Ben Whitehouse, we talked with Mark and Michael from the Birmingham City University Students’ Union. Mark and Michael were interested in equipping group organisers in the Students’ Union – students working on community projects and fundraising, for example – with the social media tools and skills to run their own online groups.

We talked about free web tools, building and linking between networks. We also discussed the importance of a personal blogging ‘voice’ to help individuals get started with their own blogs on specific community issues, and developing their own networks around these blogs.

I sketched a spider-like diagram of individual blog authors connecting through Twitter and how the linkages between networks on Twitter can occur. Looking at the sketch now, it’s a mass of scrawled spider death but I hope it proved useful.

We also talked about:

  • getting your own blog quickly through
  • keeping your network informed and building wider connections using Twitter
  • starting small by targeting receptive enthusiasts first and encouraging them to blog
  • speaking with your own personal voice on your blog
  • how Google Analytics can help you monitor your website traffic and understand your visitors’ behaviour, and how it can used to measure the impact of promotions when you attempt to attract more traffic
  • aggregating several RSS feeds into one custom feed for your own community using Yahoo Pipes

Other groups at the social media surgery included:

I hope those who came to the surgery received the advice and encouragement they needed to go and try out some of these tools and ideas. I certainly learned about the great work these voluntary groups are doing in Birmingham and the depth of incredible digital talent in this city.

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