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Getting community conversations going

conversation starters game

Over the last year, one of the toughest but most rewarding areas of work I’ve been doing is training, mainly with central government communications staff, and often through the Government Communications Network. Our team of Simon Booth-Lucking, Dave Briggs and Giles Field, with occasional invited guests such as Dan Slee or Tim Lloyd, run soup-to-nuts courses for people generally fairly new to digital and social media where we talk through the tools, culture and examples of this unfamiliar world. People bring many, many questions, challenges and concerns and we do our best to unpack them and work them through, either in the room or afterwards, online.

Take last week’s course on working with online communities. We started from a discussion about the changing landscape of trust in communications, the shifting trends in media especially at local level, and the diversity of forum-style communities from Mumsnet to Kiva. We talked about the different ways communicators might engage with communities – from listening, through to engagement, customer service and even co-production of resources initiated by those communities. I’ve banged on about examples like the BIS partnership with The Student Room for long enough, but I still think it’s the future. (It’s great to see the crew are still at it, as are Number 10.)

cardsEngaging within an existing forum isn’t always the right approach, so we also look at the pros and cons of community platforms from Ning to GetSatisfaction, via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. As part of our final session looking at what Community Managers do, we played the first outing of the Online Conversation Starters game. If you’re familiar with the Social Media gameor Dave Briggs’ digital engagement version then you’ll get the idea. Participants have a deck of 24 cards, each with a ‘points’ value correlating to the effort required to implement them, and are set a budget to ‘spend’ on the selection of cards that best fit their objectives. I should acknowledge the huge inspiration of Richard Millington’s Feverbee in their development – a man who knows community management inside out.

We had a team trying to get parents to talk about holiday travel plans, another looking at community views on a troublesome bottleneck road, and another getting a segment of drivers to be more considerate at roadworks. They came up with some great ideas, including ‘hotseat Q&A’ sessions, getting community members to share their own tips, and even running photo competitions. I’ve tidied up the artwork for the deck of cards in a ready-to-print format via Moo.com’s business cards service (tip: they look nice in the rounded card format), and released them under a Creative Commons licence for anyone to use. If you’d prefer me to send you a ready-made set, please drop me a line.

Download Online Conversation Starters cards (PDF, 182kb)

Use them as part of your own sessions, make money from them, improve them – please just share your enhanced versions and don’t just pass them off as your own.

Look forward to seeing how they’re used and improved.

 

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