Big Local Thurnscoe: the benefits of using social media
For Big Local Thurnscoe, focusing on communications is an important part of their plan, with the aim of getting more people involved. As part of this focus, the Big Local partnership decided to develop their use of social media so that they could effectively share positive messages about what they are doing through Big Local. Derek Bramham who is chair of Big Local Thurnscoe says:
"We’re trying to get our name out there and what’s happening in the area, making sure people know the good things we’re doing."
At the time of writing their plan, the Big Local partnership had limited skills in setting up or using social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately, a volunteer called Mike came on board who offered to help with social media and develop these skills for Big Local. Derek adds:
"We’d really only got a very basic knowledge of the communications side of things so it was brilliant that Mike came along and we got someone that knew all of that."
Big Local Thurnscoe now has experience of using their social media in a number of ways, including to:
- advertise their development worker post
- invite people to the community cinema
- promote their small grants programme
- highlight other local activities
- share positive news in the area.
Tapping into volunteer’s expertise
Mike Sheppard works for BT and as an employee has access to BT’s corporate volunteering scheme. Mike was able to use the scheme to find out about local volunteering opportunities. Through this he found out about Big Local in his area and was invited to a Big Local meeting, where he offered to share his knowledge of digital communications and help the partnership set-up an online presence for Thurnscoe using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a designated Big Local email address. Mike became involved in July 2014 and has now fully established the Big Local Thurnscoe website and social media channels.
Although Mike works full-time for BT, he still volunteers his time on Big Local communications whenever he can. Mike says:
"The thing that attracted me was that it’s local to the area I live in, and before Big Local came along Thurnscoe had a bad name locally. Hopefully all the work we do with Big Local will help but it will take a long time."
Extending networks through social media
Through using Twitter, Big Local Thurnscoe has made links with a number of important local organisations and people, including local councillors. Mike’s knowledge and input has been a huge boost and the Big Local partnership is now using a range of approaches to get the word out about what they’re doing. They feel that using a number of different types of communication will help to make sure that their messages will reach more residents. Derek says:
"I think it’s having a greater effect not just on Facebook but in the wider community because people are actually seeing what’s going on and the progress that we are making in the area."
Keeping it simple
Sometimes important Big Local developments need to be shared at short notice, such as advertising a job post, and this can be challenging when balanced with other commitments. Fortunately, Mike knows how to simplify communication updates for the area. He explains:
"The main thing I’ve found recently is linking Facebook, Twitter and the website altogether. So it’s all going out at the same time for everybody. It’s good to link them together and have a consistent message."
Tips for other Big Local areas
Derek feels that Mike’s expertise has moved them forwards much more quickly than they would have managed otherwise and recommends that other Big Local areas could try to find communications expertise outside of their Big Local partnership.
The benefits of developing a social media presence
Setting up social media channels has helped Thurnscoe to achieve their aim of sharing what they are doing more effectively. As they have been laying the foundations of their Big Local plan and sometimes working behind the scenes, communicating through social media has allowed Big Local Thurnscoe to let people know that things are happening and progressing.
Connecting with other people and groups through social media also opens up opportunities for networking and learning. Mike’s experience has been that using social media has been a good way to connect to other Big Local areas and learn more about what they are doing. Mike describes what he likes about Twitter:
"It’s all about using the hashtag #BigLocal so other areas can see what you’re doing. If you click on #BigLocal then every recent post with this hashtag is displayed so you can see what the other areas are up to and what they’re thinking about."
Plans for the future
While Big Local has made big improvements since last Summer to their communications in Thurnscoe, the group feels that there is more they would like to do. One plan for the future is to use social media to engage further in conversations with residents. Going forward they would like to use it much more for listening to the community and as a space for discussion, as well as for sharing their own messages.