TUC Social Media Seminar – speaking notes

I spoke at a TUC seminar last night. There were a few other really good speakers including one of my favourite political bloggers, Tom P, and high-traffic campaigner Richard Murphy , Nigel Stanley – TUC head of comms and manager of the ToUChstone blog. Here are my speaking notes. John Gray wrote about it on his blog and has a fetching picture of a few of us here.

Here’s what I said (roughly):I’ve already added one post here today about the ‘cornerstone’ technologies for membership organistions. But the main thing I spoke about was….

Crowdsourcing evidence: The one area where unions could have a huge influence is in providing the tools to people in work to offer evidence about their lives. Have a look at http://www.accesscity.co.uk/ – showing how hard it is to get around London with a buggy or in a wheelchair. Unions could be facilitating and co-ordinating projects whereby people are encourged to load up their own evidence about workplace issues.

It doesn’t all need to be grievances either – get people to load up data about their working lives. Single mothers daily routine, people moving from benefit into work talking about their taxation and benefits and their negative pay rates. It would be worth considering getting activists out interviewing people and generating content – add to the noise.

Getting value out of content:
Unions have researchers, and they have the ability to generate a bit of data, and access a lot more. Most of it resides in silos and isn’t being shared properly. It is all controlled by people. This has often been seen as a bad thing that needs to be fixed with a clever document management system. Document management sysems are – in my view – over-rated. They are usually clunky, inconsistantly maintained and they don’t always improve the flow of information around an organisation that much.

I’d argue that having information controlled by people is a good thing – as long as those people are behaving in an interactive way.

If those people make their information available easily, then others can blog it. It is worth encouraging Union researchers, subject-area specialists and campaigns / comms people to go to some lengths to make sure that they are in the peripheral vision of as wide a group as possible. By making it easier for people to find other people with relevant information, the value of that information multiplies. Unions could run a pro-active programme to encourage their research and campaigns people to use social media energetically.

Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are must-haves at the moment. You can follow my own Twitter feed – here.

  • Interactive individuals multiply the value of their work.
  • The best search engine is still a carbon-based life-form.

Unions could run a Twitter-feed from their key people on their website homepage – simply by using RSS. If you are unfamiliar with RSS, have a look at this video:

And here’s a quick guide to Twitter:

Recruit unpaid campaigners: If Unions can make their evidence and their evidence-holders easily available, thousands of volunteers will pick up their evidence, mash it around and use it.

The Norwegian government did a report on Web2.0 and it’s potential. Translated into English, it’s title was ‘the ordinary citizen as a supplier of public sector information.‘ Similarly, the research and the campaigning messages of trade unions – pushed out properly – could be being distributed and adapted to thousands of different causes.

Treat bloggers with the courtesy that you would treat journalists: The logic of the long-tail means that bloggers collectively have influence that is – in some ways – comparable to large media organisations.

Crowdsource criticism of journalists and anti-union pressure groups: Anti-union pressure groups do this very effectively in return. Target journalists that are persistently anti-union. Fisk them. Develop free-to-use tools: Show marginal tax rates – build a site that will calculate when everyone’s tax-freedom day is. They have the potential to go viral. Don’t try to own them. Find good geeks and pay them to do this for you – see Clifford Singer’s ‘Other Taxpayers Alliance’.

Ignore politics and politicians: Focus on policy. Share it. Aim to get more people within your union talking about policy and less time talking about politics. I have a scheme to help with this – let me know if you’d be interested in getting involved?

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