Social Media Response Units

I was listening to the radio (sorry I can’t remember whether the item was on Radio 4 or Radio 5 Live) this morning, and, during a discussion about the implications of the Trump Presidency for business, one of the contributors revealed that American businesses were establishing Social Media Response Units in preparation for the new President attacking them on Twitter as he already has with a number of companies.

In the UK, and probably elsewhere too, there are still countless senior leaders of public and voluntary organisations who have yet to understand how the social media revolution has transformed the world. Surely we are now reaching the point where it can no longer be acceptable for managers to say that social media is not relevant to them, when the most powerful man in the world makes snap decisions via Twitter and hugely powerful global corporations have no choice but to respond via the same channels.

What’s your excuse for not using social media?

Get in touch if I can help you with your journey –

A Manifesto for Social Tech in later life

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Yesterday I ran a second Connected Christmas event at Lower Edge Day Centre in Rastrick, Calderdale. There was a mixed group of some who were there for a second time, and some new participants. I hope I was able to open their eyes to some new possibilities. I know we all had a good time again, which is what it is really about. One lady told me she was really disappointed that there had been no carol services on the television over Christmas. Even though she has her own laptop at home, it had not occurred to her to go online to find any she could watch. I was able to help her find carol services on YouTube. One gentleman was an ex-chef. We chatted about his favourite dish, roast goose, and found a video of one of Jamie Oliver’s assistants cooking one. He put up a robust argument that her methodology was wrong.

As ever with these kinds of events I learn as much as the participants. One of the lessons was about degrees of digital exclusion. The lady with her own laptop is a retired accountant. She uses her machine for two main purposes, one is creating and modifying spreadsheets, which is a particular interest of hers, the other is for talking to her grandchildren in Australia via Skype. She sees her laptop as being for those purposes and has to be coaxed to explore its other possible uses. She is unlikely to appear on any official statistics about digital exclusion, she will be counted by the statisticians as being online, and it is great that she is able to see her grandchildren on the other side of the world while she talks to them, but, she is not exploiting the technology to anything like its full extent to improve her life.

The retired chef was an interesting case. I asked him if he used the internet at all. He replied “No. There’s just my wife and I, when we’re at home we don’t have any use for that kind of thing”. I asked if he had friends and family who used the internet. He said that he did, but they lived busy lives and would be too busy to talk to him. But, for me, that’s exactly the point. It use to be difficult to talk to people in distant locations; the internet has changed all that. But many have still not caught up with this fact. These means that a lot of older people are living lives remote from their families and support networks when they could be closely connected with them online.

It was recently announced that there will be free wifi in all NHS premises. This is a massive step forward in helping people who need healthcare to stay in touch with their networks and access information. But it really must not stop there. Huge numbers of socially isolated people spend time in social care settings, whether these be Day Centres, Care Homes, or other facilities. In the case of Care Homes, they probably spend a lot more time in such facilities than they do in NHS premises. Ask yourself how you would feel if you had no wifi or tech in your house. And then consider that 50% of older people currently spend at least some of their time in Care Homes. That could be you. What would you do if cut off from the ability to use online networks and services?

There is a dangerous assumption that social tech has passed older people by, and that they therefore have no interest in it. These assumptions are made by professionals, relatives, and by older people themselves. But my work, and that of others, has proved that the right approach can result in older people being persuaded that social tech both has benefits for them and can be mastered. This approach is about careful and patient exploration of people’s interests and how their lives can be enhanced; it is emphatically not about putting people in classrooms, on courses, or chasing numbers rather than wellbeing. And social technology can open up so many opportunities for older people including:

  • reducing social isolation
  • allowing people to tell stories about their lives, and about treatment and recovery
  • building confidence for the adoption of telehealth and telecare.

So, here is my manifesto for a social technology revolution to transform how technology supports health, wellbeing, and social inclusion among older citizens.

  1. Health and social care professionals need digital skills training themselves, and to understand how social technologies can improve the lives of the people they work with. The most enthusiastic of them need to become digital champions (example DigiWards);
  2. The commitment to free wifi in NHS premises needs to be extended to Social Care settings, including Day Centres and Care Homes (example Ashton Park Care Home);
  3. Events such as Digital Tea Parties and Connected Christmas need to be adopted as the approach to interest older citizens in social technologies;
  4. Recognition needs to be given that digital inclusion of older citizens is a long term process, not a one-off event;
  5. Schemes to recycle tablets to ensure older people can access social technologies at reasonable prices need to be developed;
  6. Research and development of online social networks for older people needs to be further explored;
  7. The benefits of social technologies for older citizens needs to be promoted to their relatives and families.

Please get in touch ( if you can help with any of these objectives.

Channel You

Thanks for the kind reference, Jon

Jon King

"What's my motivation?" “What’s my motivation?”

When I pitched for my present job, I majored on capturing the stories of positive people so as to inspire other people to act positively.

A lot of my work centres around Public Health messaging and I made the point that the public is bombarded by warnings and entreaties; to do something-or-other less or more…or not at all. Yet, withal, some people simply won’t act. Is it because they aren’t listening or do they think themselves immune?

I suspect it’s because they’ve convinced themselves that the message doesn’t apply to them. In which case, no amount of top-down hectoring is going to change their behaviour or their minds.

“What if” I asked “we were able to provide a first hand account of someone who did act?”

We would ask them a little about their circumstances, ask them what prompted them to act and, most significantly, ask them how they feel now. Could that…

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Using Technology to reconnect older people with their communities

These are some more thoughts on using technology to benefit older people based on my Connected Christmas experience.

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I’ve been struck by meeting a number of older people who are actually quite fit and healthy, but who seem to have slipped into a way of behaviour that is almost “expected” of them by society. Like the gentleman I met in Urmston who told me that his confidence has gone, and that means he rarely goes out or socialises in the lounge of the sheltered accommodation complex where he lives. I firmly believe that we can use new technologies to re-engage people like this with their communities, and to allow those who are not so mobile to have some degree of contact with what goes on around them. Instead of people sitting at home, or in a care home, a day centre, or sheltered accommodation lounge, depressing themselves by absorbing the latest bit of back-biting or family-feuding from the TV soap operas, why not engage with something local which has the potential to contribute positively to their lives?

I think these are compelling reasons for increased efforts to to get local community organisations to use social media, live video streaming, podcasting and other methods to cover local events. At Urmston, the video pub crawl proved particularly engaging, suggesting that even simple video tours of the neighbourhood could help to re-acquaint people with their surroundings and increase their sense of engagement with their communities and their former lives. And what could be achieve using gadgets such as Oculus Rift to immerse people in the lives of communities they formerly had strong ties with?

As I often argue, I think we can use technology to “re-humanise” society, rather than going along with the dystopian predictions of everyone forgetting the personal connections while they stare at screens. This is something I think we need to work on, urgently.


Our Politicians still inhabit the 19th Century

So, Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, is calling for a weekly public questioning of the Prime Minister. I’m not going to debate the merits and demerits of this suggestion. But I am going to question the proposed format; which is that people turn up at the Palace of Westminster and deliver their questions in person.  So, you only get to question the Prime Minister if you live in London or can afford the time and money to travel there from wherever else in the UK you might live.

Once again our politicians demonstrate their nineteenth century thinking. Just as they believe that faster trains are the answer to our modern communications needs, they maintain that politics has to be done in London, in person.

Well, I’ve got news for them. The internet has given everybody the tools to make their opinions known. If politicians ignore that and continue using vastly outdated methods of communication they don’t have much of a future.

The Top 50 Digital #PowerPlayers14 in #ukhousing

Very honoured to be listed at Number 2 alongside some people I really admire

Paul Taylor


You want to get to the list don’t you? 

Hold on. It’s coming.  

Before you look at the Top 50 influencers please read this guest post from Shirley Ayres who kindly agreed to collaborate with me on #powerplayers14.

For me…it sums up perfectly what it’s all about….

When the first Power Players 50 list was published I was surprised and complimented to be included.The list was intended as light hearted fun but the interest generated in who was included and why sparked a very lively debate.

I was delighted to be invited by Paul to collaborate on the #powerplayers14 list and we agreed that we needed to widen the criteria. We accept that Klout is an imperfect algorithm so added in scores from PeerIndex. We also invited public nominations. You can read the criteria we used here.

We wanted to create a different kind of list celebrating the diversity of…

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Social Media: We’re all advertisers now

I was asked to go on BBC Radio Sheffield this week to talk about how people are using social media to make public complaints about products and services. You can listen to the section from the programme below.

The item was stimulated by the story of a woman from Chesterfield who, frustrated at the lack of response to a complaint against Talk Talk, had resorted to contacting them via her dog’s Facebook account. This ensured that the company woke up and started listening to her.

I think this illustrates how social media and new technologies are now putting power in the hands of ordinary people which previously would only have been available to those with money and / or political power. All this person was doing was deploying tactics which had formerly been deployed by big companies. Remember the adverts featuring a dog tangled in toilet roll? Yes, you remember it because the company involved spent a lot of money creating those images. Now, ordinary people can disseminate images like that using social media.


The perils of not looking where you are going

This is a rare post from me which is probably not going to relate much to what I do for a living. Well, it might not, any way.

Do you remember how you spent Millennium Night? I do. I spent it in front of the television with my left leg up on a stool in front of me. The leg was in plaster. 6 weeks earlier, I broke it in three places when, not looking where I was going, I stepped off two steps from the bottom of my home staircase. When the paramedics arrived, one of them asked me what I had done. When I told him, he expressed disbelief that such an action would cause much damage and proceeded to lift my leg off the ground to investigate further. My screaming convinced him that he might have underestimated the problem. He and his female colleague then proceeded to manoeuvre me into one of those sit-up stretchers, and nearly dropped me out of it into the street as they lifted me into the ambulance.

At the hospital, the Orthopaedic Surgeon asked if I wanted my leg set naturally in plaster, which would take longer and might not work, or operated on and pins inserted, which would result in that leg being half an inch shorter than the other one, and carried a risk of infection. I chose the first option and went through a painful process of having plaster applied on the whole of my leg, followed by 2 days in a hospital bed.

A week later I was back in the hospital for X-Rays to check on progress, and was told that the breaks were not healing and, therefore, option 2 would have to be implemented.

Following the operation, I awoke in a hospital bed in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life, worse than the pain of actually breaking the leg, which, at least, subsided relatively quickly. This was a constant feeling like my leg was being sawn off, which persisted for about 24 hours, no matter how many painkillers I was given. But, eventually, the pain subsided, and, after 4 days in hospital, and lessons in using crutches, I was allowed home. Beyond the pain and the boredom, one of the issues about lying in a hospital bed at this time was the embarrassment. I was in a ward populated by men with broken bones. Of the 4 beds in my section of the ward, all the other 3 were guys who had had motorbike accidents. When they were swapping their stories, I pretended to be asleep; I just couldn’t compete.

I was in plaster for a total of 13 weeks, the latter part of which was a bit more bearable as the plaster of paris was replaced with fibre glass, which was a lot lighter and more manoeuvrable.  But on Millennium night I was still in the heavy plaster, and struggling to get around.

One of the things I hadn’t realised was that, after 13 weeks on crutches, you have to learn to walk again. So, a programme of physiotherapy followed. But, something that drew my attention when I went back to the hospital was the room at the end of the physiotherapy department filled with specialist equipment. This was where the professional footballers and rugby players went for their rehabilitation. This was not for us ordinary mortals. So, the physio programme came to an end, but, to be honest, it was a very long time before I felt that I was walking normally again. It was a long time before I could walk, or even stand, for long periods without my leg swelling up and becoming painful. And, it was years, probably 7 or 8 years, before my leg stopped being hyper-sensitive to the slightest touch. A year after the break I had to go back into hospital to have the pins removed from the leg, which entailed more pain.

And I still have two long scars down my leg where the surgeons opened up it to insert and remove the pins. When I was having the plaster removed I spotted two big circular scars on opposite sides of my leg. I asked what those were, and was told that was where they had inserted an iron bar through my leg to hold on to while they performed the operation. And, nearly fifteen years later, I still get sporadic periods of pain in the leg, and the occasional swelling.

I suppose what I am saying is that, although I love the NHS and am extremely grateful for the support it has given me, in this and other matters, because I am not a professional sports person; what happened to me was that I was patched up and sent on my way. Unless something like this happens to you, you don’t realise the longterm implications of injuries. If anything like that happens to you, fight hard to get a proper rehabilitation.

Why switch social media off when you leave the office?

This week has been that time when the part-time users of social media have “turned it back on” after their Christmas break. I find this quite annoying, mainly because it means that those of us who don’t turn it off get inundated with stuff which is new to the part-timers, but is pretty old-hat to the rest of us.

It’s annoying, but I also think it misses the point. Social Media is changing the world. It’s changing the way we communicate, and it is changing the world of work. For me, it is changing the world of work much for the better. Gradually, more people are seeing the benefits of expressing their real personalities at work, and those who have public faces which are different to their personal attitudes can now be found out and dismissed as the fakes they are. Switching social media on and off when you enter and leave work, shows that you still haven’t woken up to this reality. You are a real person, why not show it? If you can’t trust yourself to use social media when you are away from your desk, you need a long hard think about yourself.