70 posts and onwards: WMRO’s social media journey

Students at Aston University with laptopThis Observations site was started at the end of July 2008. The main reason for the site, as the tagline at the top suggests, is to highlight, comment on and signpost to data and intelligence relating to the West Midlands.

After three months and 70 posts, it seems like a good time to quickly review what has happened and gather some ideas on going forward.

It”d be great to learn if the posts written so far on Observations are interesting to you? Are we writing about the right topics? Are there specific topics that we’re not covering that you think should be discussed? Please do add your comments.

The three most popular posts so far are:

Visits have been satisfactory and, on the 29th September, the home page got its Google PageRank. This has recently started paying real dividends in terms of the search traffic into Observations and, as a result, the referrals through to our main site www.wmro.org. All very nice.

One aspect that hasn’t kicked off yet is commenting from visitors. Comments are few and far between.

This is a long-standing issue I’ve been trying to figure out. Ayelet Noff has written an informative introduction on why people participate in online communities while Clay Shirky‘s book Here Comes Everybody crosses over into this sphere with some eye-opening case studies. I’m looking to try and learn from some of their ideas and apply them into the web communications work here at the Observatory.

Trying out this blog format for Observations is partly driven by a need to experiment with other social tools that can provide a platform for debate between researchers, policy people, decision makers and other users of data and intelligence in the West Midlands. Our discussion forums on www.wmro.org were not used at all and any alternative is worth trying.

In March 2008, we carried out a survey of visitors to our website try and learn why noone used the discussion forums.

  1. Respondents felt that they didn’t have enough time to actively take part in discussion forums. This applied to forums in general, as well the Observatory’s forums.
  2. Relevancy of content: visitors want more specific topics that are directly related to their area of work or interest.
  3. As the forums aren’t currently busy, there is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation where interested visitors are not posting messages because there is a low expectation of a reply.

While the first point is down to individuals and sector culture, we can do something about the second and third points.

Are the posts written so far on Observations interesting to you? Are we writing about the right topics? Are there specific topics that we’re not covering that you think should be discussed?

Please do add your comments below.

2 Responses

  1. Pretty good summary, and encouraging. in my experience, comments were a long time coming and then suddenly sprang out at a rate of knots. This was partly because I organised an offline event and many of my readers came along. Maybe it would work for you?

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jeremy; much appreciated. As part of experimenting, it’s easy to get really excited about all the online tools available and the possibilities they offer (I’m currently encouraging Twitter, Slideshare and Delicious).

    The flipside is that it may be too easy to get absorbed in the online side and neglect the offline: simply talking to people face-to-face!

    There’s a series of themed ‘topic groups’ meetings coming up in November so a good chance to spread the word about Observations face-to-face.

    I enoyed your series on approaches social media adoption, btw. Really useful.

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