Here's a couple of ideas one London council tried out to get people talking about them... tweeting in Portuguese and then letting one person take over the council account.
by Karen Jeal
Here at Lambeth Council we recently tried a couple of new ideas to try and get more people in our community talking with us on Twitter. Here’s how they both went.
Our communities in Lambeth are diverse. So what better way to get to the heart of those different communities than to really speak their language and engage with them in a way they will understand.
Here at Lambeth we thought we’d test the water with a bit of tweeting in another language. On June 10 it was National Portugal Day and because Lambeth has got such a high population of Portuguese people we thought where better to start.
We used our Twitter feed that day to only send out things in Portuguese. We lined up some tweets ready to push out and we also got to work telling people what we were doing that day. We got local councillors involved and before we knew it community groups and other community people were getting involved. Even staff were pleased with the innovative way of getting people throughout the community talking with us digitally.
Word of warning though. If we had relied on Google Translate then some of what we were trying to say would have got seriously lost in translation. Google is good but it literally translates word for word so sentences don’t then make sense.
To be able to do this sort of thing effectively you really need someone with you who is fluent in the language. So in steps our friend Rive, who lives in Stockwell but is from Portugal. He helped us get translations accurate and was on hand all day to help answer anything and suggest ideas for things for us to tweet.
During the day we published 14 tweets and got a nice 34 retweets and 4 favourites just between about 9am to 5pm.
It was a learning curve for us, as it’s something we’ve never done before but now we know it had some worth we’re looking to do something similar again in the future.
Something else that we recently tried Twitter for was a takeover. We thought wouldn’t it be great if for a few hours, someone could take over our account and give their perspective on things, people could ask questions, have a chat and have their say. So we thought who better than our Youth Mayor – Jacqueline Gomes-Neves. Jacqueline is just 17 and was really up for the challenge. She had worries about what sort of questions people might ask and if she would be taken seriously but she didn’t need to be nervous. To say it went well is an understatement. She was answering things from her own point of view and able to give a view from a young person and Lambeth’s Youth Council on things like schools, education, voting and the democratic process and how to get more young people into jobs. There were, in fact, so many tweets we couldn’t keep count at the time – so we popped them onto our blog with a piece from Jacqueline direct and Storify to try and sum up the success.
At one point Jacqueline got so into it she went round the Town Hall with her iPad and snapped some colleagues hard at work. I think reason this was such a success was because she was able to give more of an opinion on Twitter as opposed to just being ‘the council’ answering. People were able to respect her more for her honesty and I think that speaks volumes in our community.
We’re now planning some more Twitter Takeovers with others throughout the council. Another great example of Twitter working in a way you wouldn’t normally find in local government.
Karen Jeal is digital officer at Lambeth Council.
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