Digital · Google · housing · Social Media

Crowdsourcing Ideas

Have you ever heard of this? I have used this quite a few times in the past and have had successful results pretty much every time.

The premise is simple. Instead of the traditional method of having a specific question you want a view on and just searching on something like Google, you post the query on one or more social media platforms and wait for the responses. The responses are much more current and you are often able to query them further.

Here’s a quick example. I decided recently to post the following query on Twitter and LinkedIn:


And within a short time, these are just some of the responses I received:


And from LinkedIn:


If you have a decent network who interacts and comments, I can’t recommend crowdsourcing information enough!


Digital · Google+ · housing · Social Media

Relaunching the Google+ Housing Community


I am the first to admit that this has been a tough ride. In 2014 I pushed the rise of Google+ as the next big thing to hit #ukhousing on several occasions and blogged about it quite a few times, including my post titled ‘Banging the Google+ Drum‘.

I had evidence to back it up as well. A few years ago, Google+ was well and truly on the rise. Google+ had one of the highest sign-up rates for any social media platform, as well as a very healthy active user %. Up-to-date statistics are hard to find, but Google claim to have 300 million monthly active Google+ users.

Within a matter of weeks of launching the new G+ Housing Community page, Google announced that the person who had helped create and drive Google+ was leaving to work on something else. Almost overnight Google+ lost that feeling that it was going forwards and developing. It had the effect of stopping Google+ in its tracks overnight.

It was a real shame. With launching the #ukhousing Google+ page, it had quickly risen to over 50 members of the group, with a core group of users who were regularly contributing. It really did feel like it was going to happen.



But after Google deciding to make Google+ a pre-requisute for using YouTube (the move had fans for and against this move), they subsequently decided to drop the link. Another nail in the Google+ coffin. Even me, with my glass half-full, optimistic viewpoint had to conceded that Google+ was in decline (it was quoted in the tech news constantly) and I stopped doing much on the Google+ Housing Community page.

So it was with some surprise that I read last month that Google were relaunching Google+ by making some new changes to the platform. This was big news. At first I was dubious – do I really believe that this is happening? Then, after reading various articles on this over a number of days I thought – hey, this really is happening!

So, the upshot is that I have decided to give Google+, and more importantly the Google+ Housing Community, another go. This blog is another step towards this relaunch. Of course, I realise that the power of the community is only as good as its members and its content, but I am hoping #ukhousing will get behind this.

So here is my plea:

  • If you are already a member of the G+Housing Community, then please do revisit it again and become an active member.
  • If you are not already a member, then please do sign up to G+ and become a community member.

I have blogged previously on the virtues of using Google+ and these still hold true today.


Digital · housing · Social Media

8 months in – is our Digital First Project a success (so far)?

digital_vortexI’ve blogged a number of times about the Digital First journey we have been on as an organisation. Posts have included ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’, ‘The Digital (and Social) Journey’, ‘Digital First Wave’ and ‘A One-page Strategy…..Impossible! Or is it?’.

In this post I’m attempting to draw some of these together by writing about where we have got to with our Digital First Project so far, some of the projects successes to date and some of the learning.

First things first, I think it’s fair to say that I am really pleased with how the Digital First Project has come along in its first 8 months. I can’t quite believe its only been 8 months that the project has been running for!

We have four tenants as part of our 12 strong Project Team and they have been key to giving the tenant point of view along the way. I can honestly say that the Project journey so far would not have been the same without the four tenants being involved. The Project Team also includes 8 staff (including me) made up of a representative from each of the main department in the association. These representatives were all staff that showed an interest in being part of the project team, meaning they had some vested interest in being involved and its overall success. We have now held several Project Team meetings and managed to build up quite a head of steam behind the project.

But we haven’t just been talking about things. We’ve been producing things, like the Digital First Strategy (below).

The Digital First Strategy
The Digital First Strategy
The Digital First Project key achievements to-date include:
  • Drafting a one-page Digital First Strategy (which has recently been agreed by our Senior Management Team);
  • Starting discussions on what new services we could offer digitally;
  • Reviewing our current tenant’s portal offer;
  • Making some key changes to further improve the tenant’s portal functionality.

We have also had lots of positive plaudits along the way about the way the project has developed.

It’s also fair to say we have learnt a few key things as well.

One thing we quickly learnt as a Project Team is that our website was key to the success of the Digital First Project and although this has held up some aspects of the project, I’m pleased to say that a new website is now a ‘work in progress’.

Our Marketing and Communications Manager is also currently looking at our approach to Social Media, which although not a key part of the Digital First Project, does have some real implications for its success.

So what next for the Digital First project?

One key area is the continued focus on offering services digitally and ensuring that as an organisation we continue to look at improving our digital offer to our tenants. At the same time we also need to ensure that our digital offer to staff is not left behind as well! Ensuring that key staff are able to use tablets where suitable will only help with this further. We’re also planning some further work to improve our approach to digital inclusion – some 30% of our tenants have told us that they do not have access to the internet currently, so if we are looking to offer more services digitally, we need to make sure our tenants are able to access the internet.

If I had to sum the first 8 months of the Digital First Project is one line, it would be:

‘ A challenging but rewarding project that is showing some real progress and results for the organisation and its tenants’

I can only hope that the next 8 months of the project are as successful!

housing · Social Media

Social Media 2015


In early 2013 I wrote a blog post titled ‘Has Twitter Seen its Best Days’. OK, so the title wasn’t the best I’ve ever come up with, but funnily enough I have been asking myself the same question again – is Twitter on the decline?

Now I warn anyone reading this post that I haven’t got any real statistical basis for raising this question, but I have got some evidence of sorts:

  • Over the course of this year I’ve found less and less engagement on Twitter;
  • With the introduction of Twitter adverts in anyone’s timeline, regardless of whether you want them, it’s watered down the essence of Twitter;
  • Competition from the other plethora of social media platforms out there – too many choices?
  • I often feel like I am posting to the virtual world on the hope that someone (anyone?) will comment on my tweet;
  • Often the best tweets go unanswered and, seemingly at random, some of the worst get the most traffic.

Alright, so they are hardly damning, but I can honestly say that recently has been the first time in over two years I’ve really questioned the use of Twitter in my daily work life. Before that I was a several tweets a day kind-of-guy. I was pretty active on Twitter, being recognised as a digital engager and even featuring in the top 50 Digital Power Players for 2014 (and to answer your question, yes, it has gone on my CV).

As far as forecasting goes, my track record is patchy at best. I forecast that in 2014 Google+ would rise to the top in the world of Housing and although it started out OK, the announcement that Google were going to drop it from their development programme pretty much knocked this on the head. Don’t get me wrong, Google+ still has an awful lot to offer, but I’m not sure I can stretch to saying that 2014 was the year of Google+.

That said, I for one will be watching closely in 2015 to see what happens with Twitter, along with other social media platforms.

So what are everyone else’s Social Media predictions for 2015? Twitter up or down? Facebook up or down? Another social media platform (as yet relatively unknown) to make it big in 2015? Or maybe 2015 is the year that social media slows down as a whole? Leave your thoughts below……..

Digital · housing · Social Media

Google+ – The Forgotten Social Layer?

G+Anyone who has followed my blog for some time will know that I’ve been championing the use of Google+ (or G+ for short). It has some great features that out-do some of the more limited features of other social networks.

One example is the 140 character word limit on Twitter. G+ posts have a limit of 10,000 words (apparently), although that would be a might large post!

One of the best features in G+ is the use of circles. This enables a user to group people together into like-minded people. I have used this to some degree. I’ve put a screen grab of my circles below:


What this means is that I can target my G+ posts to the people that will be interested in seeing that content. This is a completely different feature to Twitter for example, where you just tweet out to ‘the world’ and hope for a response. Granted through Twitter you can target it by adding in some Twitter Handles (@) but you can also do the same through G+ (+).

Another great feature is G+ Comunities, where like-minded people can join with others to comment, post and debate whatever interests them. These work much like the LinkedIn Groups, although my experience has been that you get a lot more interaction and reaction on G+ Communities compared to LinkedIn Groups.

Another great feature (and arguable the best feature for Housing) is the use of G+ Hangouts. They are remarkably easy to use. You just click on the option and invite who you want to join. It is that simple. For me, the real opportunity is using this option as part of customer services, for customers to contact an organisation to query something. Or better still, organisations can hold G+ Hangouts for tenants to join and interact with staff by asking questions.

G+HangoutsOther organisations on G+ have been quick to jump on the G+ Hangout bandwagon. A popular option is to ‘broadcast’ to people through a G+ Hangout, much like a YouTube channel, but instead of this being pre-recorded, it’s a live conversation between 2 or more people. This can also be recorded for anyone to watch at a later date.

I’ve also heard of people using G+ Hangouts for talking to remote staff, for things like supervision. I know that you can use Skype for the same kind of thing, but G+ Hangouts allow you to integrate this into a much wider network of staff and customers.

But one of the best things I have heard about G+ is it being described as a ‘social layer’ rather than a ‘social network’. I hadn’t really appreciated this at first, comparing it to Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks available, but it really doesn’t quite fit into that bracket. You can do so much more with it.

So, I hope I’ve convinced some of you to join G+, have a play with it and find out what it can offer. Go on, you know you want to….

**If you are interested, I also run my own Google+ Community called ‘G+ Housing Community’ where like minded people can post, query and comment about the use of Google+. Just click on the below image.**


Digital · housing · Social Media

The Digital (and Social) Journey


As some of you will know, I have an interest in digital ‘techy’ things, but I can also clearly see the benefits to our wider customers and staff for being connected and part of the digital revolution. I’ve also seen first-hand the benefits of using social media and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about how organisations communicate both internally and externally.

By way of sharing my learning, I thought I’d put some thoughts down:

Digital Inclusion: In a recent post I bemoaned the difficulty in tackling digital inclusion. The pace of technological change makes writing a digital inclusion strategy (and actually achieving something) almost impossible. To tackle this, I decided to submit the ‘draft’ DI strategy to our Senior Management Team for some discussion, so that I could at least show some progress. It’s now been approved so I’m moving on to the heady heights of thinking about implementation.

Digital First: As an organisation we’ve also made a recent pledge to move towards being a Digital First organisation. To coincide with the DI Strategy going to our Senior Management Team for discussion, I submitted a Project Initiation Document for our Digital First Project, which was subsequently approved. We’ve now moved on to holding our first Project Team meeting. We’ve got a long way to go in this, but the project is moving from strength to strength.

Social Media: Another area that I’ve been keen to push for some time now is our use of social media. It’s not just that I’ve seen the benefit of using it for work, but I can again see the benefits of staff and our customers using it. But opening the social media gates for staff will not be without its challenges. Some see social media as good fun with little or no place during work, whilst others just don’t like the idea of opening up access for staff to tweet about their lunch (for the record, if put in place correctly, it’s unlikely this would happen).

Communications: Another area I’ve been pushing is for us to improve our communications, both internal and external and we’ve recently appointed our very first Communications and Marketing Manager. This is a massive step forwards for our organisation and although the list of things to do for our new postholder is every increasing, I’m really excited about the difference this will make.

So overall I’d say things are moving in the right direction. All of the above areas have a massive amount of overlap, so progress in all four means real progress for the organisation.

One of the interesting things I’ve found is that an awful lot of people have at least some interest in one of the areas, and some in all of them, and are more than happy to be involved in discussions and work to move these forwards. It goes back to needing to give everyone the chance to be involved in the change process, from the ones who are on board to the ones who aren’t. It’s a much stronger message to change someone’s thinking who was previously a sceptic than someone you could always rely on to get on board.

As with a lot of things I seem to get involved in nowadays, I’m under no illusion that these will be easy areas to improve and move forwards on. But I’m a glass half full kind of guy, so I’ll finish with a favourite quote: ‘progress is progress’………………

Digital · housing · Social Media

HouseParty14 – innovate or stagnate?


Should #ukhousing or other sectors prioritise and push innovation or risk stagnating as a sector?

This is the question that sprung to mind when thinking about HouseParty. As a first day attendee of #hseparty14, the unofficial fringe event in Manchester, I thought I’d have a go at answering this.

First things first, I obviously heard about HouseParty via Twitter. This is like a lot of things nowadays, with Twitter being my ‘finger on the pulse newsfeed’. After looking into it, I thought I’d better book on to attend as it looked like something different, which I’m always attracted to it seems. The fact that it was co-created and organised by HACT and The Social Change Agency was an added appeal – if it had been organised by an organisation I’d never heard of before, I might not have been so keen, but I really wanted to see what this would be about and to be part of it in some way.

It goes without saying that from the outset the event had a very different feel to it. You were given ticket options to purchase via Eventbright – either a full paying ticket, a donation towards a ticket or a free version; the first of many differences. Leading up to the day via the dedicated twitter account and hashtag there were regular updates and new sessions announced. It felt exciting to be attending – almost secretive and special!

On the first day of HouseParty, I got off the same train as I would to attend the main CIH Conference – Oxford Rd. Although I’d been mulling over for some weeks whether to flit between the HouseParty event and the main CIH Conference, I decided that as I was only going to be there for the first day, that I’d dedicate my attendance to just HouseParty. On arriving at the HouseParty venue there was a sign outside announcing I’d got to the right place:


I was given a HouseParty lanyard and shown where the tea and coffee was. So far, just like every other conference I’ve attended.

I made my way downstairs to the main hallway to where various social enterprises had set up to show their wares. This felt a bit different. Everyone (apart from those who jumped over from the main CIH Conference) were casually dressed and the feel of the event was very relaxed – not very Housing like. I managed to attend various sessions throughout the day including a ‘Fireside chat with Anne McCrossan’ and a session showcasing new apps developed by social enterprises. All of the sessions I attended were informative, within fairly small groups and the chance to ask questions and get involved.

On reflection, three things struck me about the event.

1)      Although some Housing Associations got involved in HouseParty by either sponsoring or attending the event, the vast majority of showcases were by organisations that would not have had the same platform or opportunities at the main CIH Conference.

2)      As the event was organised through Twitter, there was a distinct Social Media flavour to attendees. Quite a few of the Social Media #powerplayers14 attended over the few days and gave talks of some form or another – a great chance for people to meet in the flesh they’ve connected with and followed on Twitter. I’m sure some people would have paid more for the chance they had to hear from some of the speakers.

3)      The event felt quite unstructured and chaotic at times. I personally thought this was a good thing and only added to the sense that the event was meant to be different!

I had the chance to talk with one of the HouseParty organiser’s Matt Leach (CEO of HACT) about the event and the reason for organising it. In essence, it was a chance to offer something different to the usual CIH Conference. Quite how the CIH will deal with the event remains to be seen, as I’m sure a lot of the HouseParty attendees would have agreed that the more relaxed, disruptive feel to the event was a pleasant change. Whether Matt Leach, Esther and their teams will ultimately want to organise another event next year (I bet they were tired at the end of the two days) also remains to be seen.

So, overall I thought HouseParty was a fantastic event that can only get better as time goes by. The people I spoke to on the day also seemed to be enjoying attending. The chance to fine tune the agendas and timings would make it even better. There were certainly some elements that the main CIH Conference should consider taking on board (like the cost of attending and who was attending) but again that remains to be seen.

I managed to have some great conversations with lots of amazing people over the day and made some great new contacts for the future.

It seems that the rise of alternative/fringe events like #hseparty14 and #commshero are here to stay. Long may the disruption revolution continue!