Coventry played host to an event to celebrate the achievements of the West Midlands and its innovatitive use of social media. It also provided a reminder of the challenges we still face.
You've all seen the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti western from the late 60's 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' If your movie history is a little rusty then I'll remind you. It's a brilliant movie (with one of the all time great film soundtracks) about a bounty hunting scam which joins two men (the good and the ugly) in an uneasy alliance against a third man (the bad) in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
It's an epic 161 minutes of cinematic brilliance. And, incredibly, it's 46-year's old but boy it stands the test of time.
And if you can excuse the slightly tenuous link, at today's social media celebratory event in Coventry - #10by10WM- it struck me that actually it contained all of the elements of our three lead western characters.
Here are my 20 observations...
1. The Local Government Association is to launch a 'social media friendly' mark for use on a range of digital channels and collateral (and it will not be policed in a ham-fisted way)
2. Dan Slee managed to crowbar the phrase 'Victorian Top Hattery' into his presentation.
3. Gareth Lewis from Coventry City Council explained how they broke the news of the popular Godiva festival being cancelled this year on Social Media (and not via a press release) Brave but savvy.
4. When things go wrong on social media - and they do - holding one's nerve and responding in a measured and honest way is always better than jumping in quickly and reacting
5. There is a huge opportunity for communications folk to make more use of infographics as an effective tool to communicate complex data
6. The #WMGrit initiave is a brilliant, free example of how public sector collaboration can and does work. And this simple approach could be rolled out to other services.
7. Wikimedia Commons offers free to use images - over 14million of them
8. There is a huge pool of creative, talented social media champions in the West Midlands delivering best practice social media and providing events like #brewcamp, #hyperwm and, soon to be, #commscamp.
9. Coventry City Council's Chief Executive, Martin Reeves, is a big advocate of social media - and he is about to become President of SOLACE (the society of local government chief executives) This can only be a good thing
10. Martin gave us some huge clues as to the way in which we can get our leaders and senior officers interested in social media - make it real, make it evidence-based, open it up and use it strategically to get at the very heart of the big issues - budget cuts, public health and welfare reforms.
11. We run the risk of using too much social media jargon. We all have to keep it simple.
12. We still run the risk of excluding too many of our residents and customers whilst social media use isn't completely widespread
13. "Justin Beiber could outlive most of our precious earth resources, with the exception of silver" (Caroline Beavon)
14. "We are going to have a really bad winter with snow similar to that of 1963" (Geoff Coleman)
15. We are generally not making best use of Linkedin as a platform to engage (it's not just a channel to update your CV on)
16. Too many of us do not take ownership for our organisational content on Wikipedia
17. We need to work harder to reach our offline residents and customers - and not enough of them attend the plethora of social media events which run up and down the country.
18. We communications people need to make more time available to capturing and presenting case study evidence of the impacts and outcomes of our social media activity.
19. We are generally not evaluating our social media activity well enough - in part this is because there does not appear to be a free, market-leading tool or platform currently delivering what we want and need. And the paid-for options are un-affordable to many and, according to lots of users, unconvincing in terms of offer.
20. Watch out for your event or campaign hashtag being high-jacked with unwanted spam. It happened to the #10by10WM hashtag (so we need to complain to Twitter each time this happens)
As always, there was a truck-full of learning for those who attended and thanks again to all you goof folk who made it happen.
So we may just do this all over again in 2013.
Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and vice chair of LGComms