We held a workshop on "Using social media and the internet effectively" at our Citizens' Rail conference. We all agreed that we'd like to post the ideas from the workshop on the Cafe so that they can be shared with a wider audience.
If you attended, please add your top tips and remarks below. And if you didn't, it would be great to hear from you too - the more ideas the better. Thanks all!
A couple of points from my quick kick-off presentation about community rail websites:
Background stats - A whopping 84% of UK households now have the internet at home (Office of National Statistics). Three quarters of people say they use the web every day.
Decide what you want your online presence to achieve - think hard about who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do. Prioritise three or four key aims for your website or social media presence. Then think about the "calls to action" that you'll ask your audience to complete, and how to measure success (this could include everything from on-train surveys to monitoring visits to particular pages of your website).
Write for the web - People are impatient on the web. Get to the point fast, craft your headings and your lead sentences carefully, and use bullet points, images, infographics, diagrams or videos.
Test it out - One of the quickest and best things you can do to improve your website is to do some user testing. This can be as simple as sitting down with a friend or relative and asking them to complete some basic tasks on your site. Ask them to speak their thought processes out loud. You'll be amazed at the little misconceptions and problems on your site that are causing confusion to users - but that are often easily fixed by a change of phrasing or layout.
Hear from the experts - I've posted a short item on the Citizens' Rail website with links to some blog posts and podcasts that provide much more detail about the above topics.
In the main discussion, it was really interesting to hear how people from a wide range of job roles are now faced with an expectation that social media should be part of their remit. A big challenge, but also a great chance to make new contacts and connect with both public and professionals.
Another good point was how the independence of Community Rail Partnerships can mean that it easier for them to be nimble and post frequently on the web, without being too tied down in red tape or protocol.
Interested to hear from others too.
If anyone's looking to build an attractive website for your community rail project, I just came across a new super-simple platform called Cindr. Looks really good and no techie knowledge needed. Watch a video of how it works, or visit their website: http://cindr.com.
(Other popular competitors are Wordpress and Squarespace which are definitely both worth looking at too).
Social Media Tips from Citizens' Rail conference workshop - please post what works for you
Shortcuts - to avoid spending too much time Simon Clarke posts onto his Country Railman blog which automatically appears on Twitter. You can also use Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to post to all social media accounts at once
Time of day you post is crucial - lunchtime is good time, when people are on lunch break etc
Keep posts short to make sure people read to end
Shorteners like https://bitly.com/shorten help maximise 140 word tweets
Photos are great way to catch attention - including Facebook photo albums
Sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter are cost-effective eg DCRP paid £100 for 30,000 reach on Twitter for launch of http://greatscenicrailways.co.uk Cllr Mark King used sponsored posts for election.
Students can help to get posts out to large number of people
Friends groups can use Facebook page when new eg Friends of Dawlish Station http://on.fb.me/1KUwIeA
Celia Minoughan used social media to recruit to new Friends of Exeter St Thomas Station group and keeps in touch between meetings on social media eg http://on.fb.me/1FWrejy
Please post your top social media tips!
I manage facebook pages for two community rail partnerships and I find it is helpful to join all the community news type groups of all the towns and villages on the railway line, or like all their pages as your page. Then regularly post and comment in these groups as your page and share relevant information in them. This raises the profile of your own page and generates interest.
This week I set up a new Twitter account for the Avocet Line from Exeter - Exmouth Line @AvocetLine. I'm pleased with first week: 71 followers and retweets to 60,000. This is the first DCRP Twitter account for an individual line. I'm promoting Christmas shopping, dining and walking trips by train. What are you promoting on Twitter this week?