Epic: What I learned at #commscamp14


I went to Birmingham for the unconference of the year…#commscamp14. I learned some stuff. I ate cake. Here are some takeaways from my day in Digbeth.

But first an apology.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I blogged anything – sorry about that. I blame a combination of being busy (poor excuse I know) and not feeling like I had anything worth writing about…anyway, I’m here now so let’s get on with it!

Last week I headed to the Bond Co in Digbeth for the second commscamp and my first unconference since leaving local government and joining the world of higher education. I even managed to convince not one but TWO of my colleagues from Warwick to come with me. I sold it on the strength of learning in a collaborative and sharing environment…then I told them about the cake and they said yes.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little apprehensive about just how much value I would both be able to add and take away from the day now I’ve abandoned the local government ship, but I was glad to discover that my worries were unfounded; I think I was able to say some things of use and I certainly got plenty from the day – both of the learning and baked variety.

Here’s some of my standouts:

We’re not so different…

There are plenty of crossovers between the worlds of HE and localgov, particularly in comms; we’re all stupidly busy, we’re all watching the purse strings and we’re all seeing our beautifully crafted and well thought-out Facebook posts dwarfed by something as simple as a photo of our place of work in nice/unusual weather. We’re also all awesome and love cake.

…that said, there are some differences

No point in denying this; in my current place of work there are far more resources available to do stuff. This was underlined in the session on videoing, when my colleague had to fess up to us having a video production team and an animator at our disposal. However, they can’t polish a turd and the most important part of any video is the content.

Evaluation – it’s pretty big

Probably the hot topic other than cake this year was evaluation. It’s pretty clear that evaluation when it comes to social media is very important, but also that no-one has absolutely nailed it yet – I think if someone can come up with a solution that cracks it, they will quickly become very rich. For me, evaluation is tough because it will be so different from organisation to organisation. This is why it is crucial you think about what success will look like for you before you embark on any social media activity. Is it newsletter sign ups? Is it people turning up in person at real events? Is it about shifting people to digital channels? Give yourself an evaluation leg-up and set some goals to measure against. Also, use campaign-specific URLs so you can take some sort of control of the evaluation yourself.

Why, why, why?

You should always ask yourself ‘why?’ – this is especially true of newer networks, such as Snapchat and Whatsapp. Yes, no-one is using them corporately, but why should we? Would anyone using those platforms want to interact with a university or a council? Do the messages you would put out on those channels actually help you do your job? I’m not saying you should rule them out, just make sure that if someone else asks you ‘why?’ you can answer.

Rainbow cake with kit kats round the side and M&Ms on top



The Facebook blog and annual report are worth reading

No, really.

There are lot of ‘lurkers’ out there

In any online community about 1% of it will be the creative lot, 9% will do the sharing and the other 90% will be ‘lurkers’ who read, consume but don’t do anything with it (at least not in terms of clicking, sharing, liking, commenting etc). As such, it’s difficult to tell how useful a piece of content you’ve put out there has been to your audience. Equally, it means you shouldn’t lose heart if you don’t get lots of interactions; your content is probably so top-notch that people get exactly what they want it just by reading it 🙂

Fools rush in

If you’re joining a new online community, be sensitive to it, be part of it and be clear about what you can offer them – don’t just rush in and try to cram your message down their throats.

Covering a live event? Sort your own secure wifi out

3G and public wifi can struggle when there’s a crowd – if you’re covering a big event like a festival or graduation, where lots of people will be using mobile technology, sort out your own, secure wifi so you still have access for putting out those important messages.

Covering a live event? Watch real-time Google Analytics

See what people are searching for on your site and tailor your social content to match it. Your followers will thank you (well, they probably won’t explicitly thank you, but, you know, they’ll value your input).

Mmmm cake

Sorry, got distracted by tasty memories there.

Guitar wizardry is great eating music


During lunch we had a teenage guitar duo picking away in the background. They were ace. If comms2point0 wants my band to play next year, I’m sure we can help!

Wikipedia is just a part of something huge

Sure, you’ve heard of Wikipedia (the encyclopaedia bit) and you’ve probably heard of Wikimedia Commons (for pictures and video and stuff)…but what about Wikidata (linked open data), Wikisource (like the Commons but for text), Wikibooks (PDF books compiled from Wikipedia articles), Wikiversity (learning modules – stuff from universities and ‘how to’ articles), Wikiquote (notable quotations with the proper attribution) and Wikivoyage (a travel guide)? Blimey.

Being asked to edit Wikipedia as part of your job? Be careful

Under the terms of the Wikipedia Project policy you must declare if your editing of an article falls under part of your paid employment. It’s better to give editors the information or changes you require (including sources) and let them sort it. You also have to be an individual on Wikipedia, rather than have a corporate account – that said, you can have a corporate account on the commons.

Wikipedia feels like an opportunity

Wikipedia and a University (a University’s content to be precise) seem like a good match. For what, I’m not quite sure yet. But I’d like to find out.

The more I read about Thunderclap, the more I want to try it

I’ve known about Thunderclap for a while now – in fact, I’ve added my social reach to a few campaigns in the last couple of years. I’ve still not created my own yet, but I really want to. The sterling work of the Environment Agency using the platform for its #gofishing  campaign has inspired me further. Is it too late to make a resolution for 2014? If not, I resolve to do my first Thunderclap before the year is out!

Thunderclap is free…sort of

Yes, Thunderclap is free, but the analytics part is not. These are great for finding your supporters so you can get in touch post-campaign to say thanks and they also offer click-through stats. However, you can always get round the latter and do it yourself with a bit of Google Analytics wizardry.

Cake IS the food of the Gods


Well, of comms folk at least.

Enjoy being able to share and collaborate

When I left camp for another year, one big thing struck me. It’s very unlikely that a similar event will happen with a focus on higher education. Sure, we might meet our peers from fellow universities and share stories, but when it comes down it each university is another one’s rival, so we’re not going to help each other too much. I may be wrong, but I imagine most HE-specific events I go to will be about saying ‘look what we did’ rather than ‘let’s put our heads together to work on this common problem’. In local government, authorities are not competing with each other for business (I live in Birmingham therefore my bins are collected by Birmingham, not Solihull) which means the spirit of sharing in an open and honest way is huge at unconferences. So for those of you who are able to be really open and collaborate at events like this – ENJOY IT!


Can I have some cake now please?

Big thanks to Dan, Darren and Emma for all their hard work in making #commscamp14 such a blockbuster – here’s to the next one.

*Picture credits:

Timetable, by Leah Lockhart on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lockhartl/14609224512/in/set-72157645590984635

Rainbow cake, by Ann Kempster on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/annkempster/14422141347/in/set-72157645172301580

Guitarists, by Ann Kempster on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/annkempster/14421975729/in/set-72157645172301580

Food of the Gods, by Leah Lockhart on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lockhartl/14586747596/in/set-72157645590984635

**Blog post title song reference: Epic by Faith No More



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