47 things I took away from #commscamp16

commscamp blog (3)

Last week was one of my favourite days of the year – a trip to Birmingham’s Bond Company for the latest edition of commscamp.

For those who aren’t aware, commscamp is a terrific, free-to-attend unconference for a range of communications professionals – local government, central government, HE, emergency services and more. This year was the biggest, and possibly best, yet – and not just because it included free ice cream.

No. Really. Free ice cream!

Anyway, as is always the way at commscamp, I learned so much and came away feeling inspired – below are a few things that really stuck.

47 takeaways from #commscamp16

Why is commscamp such a resounding success every time? Good people, with good ideas and a willingness to share and learn. Oh, and cake, so much cake.

And ice cream – did I mention the free ice cream?

I’ve said this before, but if you’re interested in infographics you really need to talk to Caroline Beavon. She’s great and really knows her stuff – after barely half an hour with her, four fledgling infographics had been produced.

Want good engagement on social media? You need good visuals.

Good visuals can make a campaign – look at what Warwickshire County Council produced for their campaign around child sexual exploitation. It’s very powerful, and shows that cartoons can be serious too.

Want some good tools for producing your own graphics? Try Piktochart or Canva.

However, if you’re working on your annual report, you might want to use something more substantial.

You can actually create infographics in PowerPoint – the tool used to create them isn’t important. What’s important is the order and structure.

Where are infographics going next? Video and motion.

The session on social media algorithms was really interesting – essentially, social media platforms have let us have it pretty good these last few years, but the algorithms will change that.

For your content to be seen in the algorithm it needs to get a reaction. Will people like it, comment on it, share it etc?

Facebook’s EdgeRank is constantly changing – staying on top is a real challenge.

Visuals and infographics help you battle the algorithms, but you need to turn them around quickly so that it’s relevant.

Loathe it or really loathe it, the Lad Bible’s Facebook game has shown that short, snappy copy tends to win out.

You should see Facebook as a party you’ve been invited to, and your page’s content should be the champagne you take to that party for the other guests to enjoy.

If you’re posting a link on social media you now need to think more than ever about the message that goes with it. That line needs to have its own viral appeal, because a huge amount of people will share stories without actually reading them – if it’s got a good headline or hook they’re willing to pass it on. Aim to make it easy for people to share without actually reading.

Is bad comms forcing Facebook and Twitter to change the rules? Quite possibly.

Facebook’s 20% text rule on adverts has gone. However, ads with too much copy on will be punished in the algorithm. Facebook will, of course, still take your money, but your ad won’t do as well.

Managing a local government Facebook page and looking for more engagement? Use it to post about lost dogs. I blogged about this on comms2point0 back in 2013 and it still holds true!

The algorithm talk flowed into taking more risks (and being rewarded for it with good engagement). My favourite was Bath and North East Somerset Council’s creation of the hashtag #bombvoyage earlier this year to bid farewell to a bomb that had been found in the city.

The above tweet worked because it showed that the council felt the same as their residents – they were worried about the bomb and glad to see the back of it.

Comms teams are sometimes guilty of keeping hold of the keys to social media accounts too much – this can stop you getting really good frontline content.

Want to make the most of Twitter? Targets moments rather than markets.

I was flattered to be asked to be the lunchtime DJ – my playlist was full of songs that have all been released in 2016, to try and give you all some new rock stars to fall in love with given how so many of the old guard has died this year. You can hear my selection again on Spotify.

The only band I featured that isn’t on Spotify is Oldernar – hear them at http://oldernar.bandcamp.com/track/infinite-waves


Shameless plug alert – if you liked my playlist, I run a weekly podcast about the rock and metal scene in the West Midlands and it’s full of new music. It’s called Dave’s World and you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

The session after lunch about post-factual politics and being in a fractured society was fascinating – particular the insight that the vast majority of people who sign a government petition actively opt-out of being informed of any outcomes. People sign things for the sake of it rather than because they are passionate about making change.

Messages from comms teams don’t match people’s lives – there’s a big disconnect.

We live in a headline culture and people make decisions based on these headlines.

Here’s a scary thought – are we more influenced by entertainers like Trump and Boris than by credible experts?

There were more people from the HE sector at commscamp than I can ever remember – we even had our own session!

That talented chap Ben Capper is soon to join Liverpool John Moore’s students’ union and he would love to know what could make for better relationships between SUs and central University marketing teams. Got some ideas? Tweet him.

Edge Hill University has its own record label. Not only that, it partners with Liverpool’s Sound City festival, resulting in a whole stage for its label’s act to play on and a massive festival for its PR students to work at.

For those of you in HE who don’t know about CASE – do give them a look. I’m the co-chair of their social media conference and we learned loads at this year’s event.

We ran a session that talked about Snapchat AND LinkedIn. Yeah, it happened. Deal with it.

There’s clearly a desire to get clued up on Snapchat – those in the room with experience of the platform were listened to very attentively!

Want a hack to cut the cost of Snapchat on-demand geofilters when you’re running them over a few days? Specify the exact hours of when you want them, rather than just having them on the whole time.

With the on-demand filters, not only can you see who has used them, but you can also see how many times those uses have been viewed.

In fact, on Snapchat you can see exactly who views your snaps.

I used to hate LinkedIn, now I’m pretty sure I don’t mind it at all – it’s definitely becoming more useful.

Don’t just think of LinkedIn as an online CV – see it as a really useful profile to show off what an awesome professional you are.

A good picture, headline and summary are key to making your profile fly – check this blog I wrote about it all a few weeks ago.

I’ve delivered plenty of training on LinkedIn here at Warwick recently and have created a LinkedIn profile checklist for you to work through – I didn’t get chance to talk through a lot of it at commscamp but feel free to fire any questions my way.

LinkedIn Pulse – the platform’s blogging option – is really good and generally gets you more views and more engagement than something like, say, WordPress. Also, the posts attach to your profile, which gives you a chance to show the world that you can write and that you have something interesting to say. If you blog and you’ve posted anything on Pulse yet, please give it a go.

You can also follow people on LinkedIn Pulse without having to connect with them – wouldn’t it be great to get more senior officers and leaders blogging there?

If you’re interested you can follow me or send me a connection request.

Want to know why unconferencing is so good, all summed up in one tweet? Try this

Thanks so much to everyone involved in making commscamp happen – here’s to next year!

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter and Instagram


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