The aim of the Get Togethers is to widen the pool of people who get involved, by holding the events in the evening, moving them around the city, and giving tenants more casual, 'fun' opportunities to tell us what they think. But there are still lots of tenants who can't (or don't want to) attend.
I wanted to give those tenants a chance to share their opinion. I decided to live tweet one of the Get Togethers, using the hashtag #whgt. The subject was 'who should be given Council housing?' - a very emotive subject and one which had previously generated a lot of comments online. (See this facebook conversation.) This is what I've learnt:
- Check your internet access first - we were using a dongle and a mobile phone and at our first Get Together, the Wednesfield one, they wouldn't work - cue much embarassment! I should have taken the dongle and phone to the community centre to check they would have reception before the big day. Fortunately, there was another Get Together the following day at St Joseph's Church Hall, in Merry Hill. Our fab IT team brought along their dongle and booster and we had access.
- Be prepared for a lot of tweeting - I didn't tweet literally everything but most of the key questions. I wanted to give our Twitter followers an experience as close to actually being there as possible, so there was a lot of typing!
- Tweet pics - I tweeted one, of the outside of the venue, but I think more would have been good and made our stream more engaging. It would be good if there was two people tweeting: one could tweet pictures and the other could do the words.
- Make people aware you might not be able to chat while doing it - my colleagues are a lovely, sociable bunch and they kept coming up to me to ask how it's going. It was a bit tricky to respond without being rude, while trying to respond to what people were saying on Twitter.
- Publicise your hashtag first - we promoted it on Twitter, facebook, at the venue, through our news stories and on our website. I think for the next Get Togethers we'll stick to the same hashtag so it starts to get known.
We had some really useful comments in response - including some from a tenant which suggested different ways we could advertise properties to reduce refusals. That is just the kind of valuable feedback that we are looking for from the Get Togethers. We had five people respond to us in total - not a great amount admittedly - but the quality of the conversation definitely made it worthwhile. As with all our social media, we take an experimental approach and on this occasion, I'd say it was a success.