Digital day on tour

Our first digital day back in May had a completely London presence. But we’re a multi site Department. When advertising that first day, it was clear that the drop-in style meant we wouldn’t really be able to link up over an extended period, so in our intranet ads we offered the possibility of separate events in other sites if there was an appetite

We were approached by a couple of individuals and teams who suggested that we deliver something in Sheffield – this tied in with requests for training that had already been trickling in. Obviously, we couldn’t ship ourselves wholesale there, and as it was only going to be me attending for an afternoon, I decided, in collaboration with learning & development colleagues (itself a useful linkage) to make this event a bit more structured over a four hour period. That way, we reasoned, we’d be be able to maximise my time there.

So this time, I added in two bite-size sessions introducing social media, and why it’s important for us in government. They were bookended by two social media surgeries lasting an hour and a half and an hour. Reps from each directorate based in Sheffield were responsible for sending round the invites – so more direct, and a bit more personalised, than the London version where we advertised on the intranet first. This was backed up by an ad on the weekly department-wide bulletin board sent to everyone’s inbox.

We didn’t involve the digital champion network as overtly as before, but a few did try and help us spread the word a little further.

Our ads stressed the same three themes as the previous event as before. They also asked people to sign up to the four sessions in advance (so more like the traditional GP surgery that most of us are used to as opposed to the walk-in variety).

The day itself saw some good interaction and almost all the people who came along had no previous experience with social media. There were some insightful questions of reliability and validity of evidence gained through social media, right through to perennial issues of how to build its use into existing work. I think I got a much better feel for some of the barriers and preconceptions that need to be addressed before digital can be fully embedded as well. But that’s combined with real enthusiasm to know and understand more. Again that knowledge is useful. As is the evidence that monitoring online conversations seems to be a genuine hook for people – that backed up some of what I’ve written previously about how different attitudinal groupings will approach digital engagement.

As with one of our more successful surgeries in London the most dynamic interaction of the day came when one of our digital champions was able to share his experiences in using Linked In with someone who would benefit more from using that network than any other.

I actually knew some of the people in Sheffield having interacted with them in my policy days, so that added a nice extra dimension.

So what do I take away from this particular experience:

  • Don’t assume that silence necessarily equals lack of interest
  • What seems simple and intuitive to you and your team isn’t to those with no social media experience (I knew this anyway from my experience as an IT tutor while at uni, but this event reinforced that for me)
  • People can be genuinely concerned about giving themselves a higher profile through a tool like Yammer; that has obvious implications beyond organisational boundaries
  • Structure works too
  • I personally need to spend more time out of our London office – or at least deliver more regular distance surgeries
  • Only arrange a digital day when other team members aren’t on leave!


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