Where is your Social Media party?

Social Media Party

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I love a good party. I’d spent much of my late-teenage and early 20 years in many a concert, or festival, or nightclub dance-floors – I’d just love the coming together of like-minded party-goers, united under various guises but with a primary intention – to have a good time. But I would always say then, and stand by it now, that some of the best times I’ve had were the parties in peoples’ houses. Why? Because I’m a social person; I like to talk to and meet new people. I like to hear a few funny stories, learn a few things and get into some healthy debates! And I believe these parties are quite possibly the best place to do just this.

Social Media is no different. I see it as the digital equivalent. According to this report around 67 million of us in the UK are active on Facebook and Twitter. We like to be social online! We like to meet, greet, chat, laugh, learn, share – it’s the make-up of our digital communities. These comparisons got me thinking about the similarity of those house parties I used to attend and the different conversations that took place. So, I’ve decided to take you through a few of the rooms:

Hello

The Front Door

You’ve just arrived to the party so it’s most likely that you’re looking your best right now. This is your first opportunity to wow people and make that lasting first impression. I see similar tones that we apply to our LinkedIn profiles. We spend a great deal of time building our online résumé because our appearance is so important (think about that professional picture you have, the reputable job title and your catchy bio) knowing that people may, and will, judge you by this. (I’m still amazed that some people don’t place a face to their name on LinkedIn). So, get yourself comfortable with those initial first steps and once you start building a rapport with a few of your new connections and the compliments (recommendations) start flying around, you’ll soon be circulating within new groups and sharing some of your great stories!

The Living Room

“I’ve got this amazing story to tell you, pull up a pew”. This is the place where people give up the time to sit down and really listen to what others have got to say, to share in a few stories and chip in with a few thoughts of their own. It reminds me of blogging. Everyone has a story to tell but not all of us choose to share to a wider audience, some of us prefer to sit back and listen while others are happy to speak up. If you like what you hear you may want to join in on the conversation, similarly you may want to voice your opinion if you don’t like what you hear, but the great thing about story-telling is the tacit license you give people to share your message with others.

Facebook

Stairway & Bathrooms

I’m on Facebook, and I like to dabble in and out of my account a couple of times a day, occasionally passing comment – but I don’t pour my heart and soul out on there! But, much like those moments at a party when someone feels the need to cry on someone’s shoulder and just ‘let it all out’, I can’t help but think about those people who feel the need to do that in Social Media – and more often that not Facebook seems the place that people choose to do just that! They share family photos (“ahh, how sweet”); tell you about their latest crush (“uhh, OK”); post pictures of their dinner (“Hmm”); what they’ve had to drink (“did you have too many?”); who annoyed them that day (“tell me more!”); what they’re wearing (“where’s that from?”); and what they’re not (“did I really need to know that!!!”); where they’re going (“I’m jealous”); where they’ve been (“ooh, me too!”); where they shouldn’t have been (”naughty!”); and what they got up too (“you did what!?!”). I do enjoy Facebook. I like to share updates of great places I’ve visited, something I’ve listened to and share the occasional picture of my family, but when people choose to share some of those personal stories with their 100’s and 1000’s of ‘friends’, I’d say to keep those to a more private space – like we do at these parties!

The Kitchen

This is predominantly my favourite room of any party, not so much for my love of food but for the fact this is where the drink is! No seriously, I do find that most parties I go to get the biggest congregation in and around the kitchen – no real idea why but they do. So it may come as no surprise that this is the room that I see most closely connected to Twitter. This is the hub of my online activity. (Today is my 1st year twitter anniversary) It’s the easiest place to flit from one person to the next, the simplest way to strike up a conversation (without the need to waffle – 140 characters to be precise) and if you stick to just 2 simple rules you’ll soon have a growing number of followers who will show a genuine interest in what you’ve got to say. Like I said earlier; I’m a social person.

Social cocktail

I think it’s fair to say that, like a good party, if you really want to embrace Social Media you need to get involved. You’ll only ever truly get out of it what you put in. So make yourself known and be true to whom you are, move around the rooms, strike up conversation and take the time to listen to others.

This week I started my new post as Learning Communities Manager in our Colleague Development Team so I’d be really interested to hear if you share in the similarities that I have. Are there any other social sites that you use? Which one is your favourite and why? And in which room do you see them at your Social Media party? I’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave me a comment…

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Tech out the future of Housing!

Future house

Technology is constantly evolving, and at a phenomenal pace. SMS messaging recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary yet it is no longer the primary form of communication through a mobile handset – not now social media has nestled its way into our everyday lives. The television set has been commercially available for almost 90 years but despite our appetite for soaps, films and live sport we are watching less on a traditional set and opting for other devices such as desktop PC’s, mobiles and tablets.

This story on the BBC tells how “Local Authorities had been required by law to provide council housing since 1919” and whilst there is still very much a demand for Social Housing – is the traditional service we once knew evolving into a service that offers more than just ‘Bricks & Mortar’? Here are some of my thoughts:

 

Social Media

Whether you prefer to tweet, like, post, pin, video or get linked in; chances are you are on Social Media and if you are it’s highly likely that people who reside in social housing are too – it’s just what people do these days. Social Media is happening, regardless of your viewpoint, but if you choose not to take part it will still continue to happen – without you! If customers are choosing to express their feelings about your business, positive or otherwise, isn’t it best to have a presence yourself and engage in that conversation? You might just learn a few things along the way too – for me personally, I find a wealth of information through my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

 

Self-service

Having the option to self-serve isn’t a new thing. Supermarkets and petrol stations have offered this facility for years and now with touch screens and smartphones in the hands of almost everyone, this drive will naturally gather more momentum over time. But will this catch on in Housing? At Bromford we firmly believe in helping our customers be as self-reliant as they can be which is why we launched our new Deal last year. But when will Housing reach the point that customers can do more for themselves digitally? Customers being able to pay their rent through a mobile device, accessing their statements, obtaining financial advice and support, booking a fuel service and diagnosing their own repairs, I’m sure these are all possible but will we ever truly go mobile with them?

 

Mobile Technology

Mobile technology continues to redefine how people and businesses are interacting with one another. According to this survey, at least 72% of mobile device owners use their devices for browsing or making purchases online. These people are online whilst they are waiting for appointments, watching TV and working yet what surprises me is that some organizations are choosing not to give mobile access to their services. However, there are some companies who are well and truly embracing what mobile technology can offer, like this fantastic project; Shared Walk (which you can read about in this post from Shirley Ayres). And mobile technology is not just for the benefit of the customer. There’s an opportunity here to introduce mobile learning and training for your employees, enhanced system integration so that users can access their desktop whilst they’re visiting customers’ homes, and at some point in the future we could see Google Glass in the workplace – now that would be something!

 

Reward Schemes

Reward schemes could be a great way to increase loyalty and incentivize engagement. Here at Bromford we trialed the government’s Tenant Cashback initiative last year, Sainsbury’s and BP have been connected with Nectar for years, Boots introduced Treat Street recently and Amazon now has Amazon Local. I think we’ve all heard of Groupon and Living Social and have a fair idea of how that works, this is what Groupon’s ‘about’ page says:

Groupon

How good would Social Housing be to offer that kind of experience to its customers in their communities?! Could this be that product that truly enriches the landlord/customer relationship?

 

3D Printing

Printing has, for a long time now, been a taboo in our offices. Many of us even carried taglines such as: “Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to” in our email signatures. But 3D Printing would no doubt be a welcomed addition to our work. Although we are still some way off from making this phenomenon both a timely and cost-effective tool, imagine a world of Social Housing where we are able to instantly print those boiler parts we need rather than having to wait for that 7 day turnaround from suppliers? Imagine if we could design and then print that new home your customer is longing for! What if we could print that new body part for that accident prone….OK, you get where I’m going with this!

 

Like I say, these are just a few of my observations and I’m sure many of you have some of your own. Social housing is so much more than just homes that people live in. At Bromford we’re about supporting people, inspiring, and creating opportunities. We’re about changing peoples’ lives for the better!

So where do you see the future of Housing? Where do you see technology playing a part in your workplace? Are there any technological advancement’s that you think would enhance the customer experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Let’s share facts about the Bedroom Tax

Bedroom Tax 1

In less than 3 weeks time there will be some big changes across the UK that will shake-up 1000’s upon 1000’s of people. Sadly I’m not talking about the long-awaited Glastonbury Festival line-up, nor am I talking about One Direction’s 23,000 capacity sell out gig at the O2 Arena in London. It’s of a serious matter that will see the launch of the Bedroom Tax, the first wave of changes brought about by the coalition government’s Welfare Reform.

Tickets for that One Direction gig I mention are selling for around £125 each on eBay. For somebody whose weekly rent is £100, that ticket price is equivalent to an average shortfall of under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms, in a 5-week calendar month!

I’m no expert on these changes but I was asked recently to deliver a session on Welfare Reform as part of my Leadership journey. It was decided that we would use the time to open this up as part of a wider-discussion, to realise the impact these changes would have on our business, on our teams and most important of all; on our customers.

We could have spent forever discussing all the reasons why these changes are wrong, how sorry we feel for one another and asking the how’s and why’s. But we didn’t. Instead we had a small moment for reflection and spent a large sum of time digesting these changes, checking in with one another’s understanding and looking at the bigger picture implications of all this and what we need to do as a business, as leaders and as individuals to get us through this.

Goal posts

There is so much to absorb in all that is Welfare Reform, the goalposts are forever moving. Only yesterday Inside Housing reported of yet more amends to the Bedroom Tax which has led to planned protests being axed today. But my best guess is that yet more changes will come about as more pressure mounts on Iain Duncan Smith. This piece in the Telegraph included an online poll where over 83% of people felt that the changes were not fair.

So here at Bromford we’re doing our upmost to keep abreast of the changes; we’re forever updating our website; sharing our stories through Social Media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer; and we’re continually checking in with our customers to gauge their understanding of the changes and the impacts these will have upon their lives.

And I’d like to urge you and your organisation to do the same. The changes are going to happen regardless, we can’t do a lot about that, but we must ensure that our customers and colleagues are kept well informed and supported throughout this. I heard somebody say the other day that they felt there had been more publicity about the Digital TV Switchover than there has for Welfare Reform – and I agree. But could we, as a society, be doing more to change that? With the world going more and more digital and with social media becoming further acceptable in the workplace – do we have good reason not to share in our knowledge? The power of communication is in our hands.