Finding a voice

I’m not the sort of person who gets teary easily. Sure, I do the thing of crying at films and particularly poignant episodes of Hollyoaks but I tend not to get so emotionally involved with online content. But tonight, for the first time,  I found myself welling up at a  couple of tweets.

@coseleybaths They have boarded me up and removed my mermaid 🙁
@coseleybaths These may be my final tweets

This account is the voice of a swimming baths in the Black Country on which the local council has taken the decision to condemn it to closure and demolition. I don’t know the whys and wherefores of the decision and I am sure the council would defend their viewpoint in the same way supporters of the baths would rally against it.

But the use of social media caught my attention, and yes, my heart too. It seems to have come late in the day but the way campaigners have tried to use Twitter has given real personality to Coseley Baths. In a short space of time they gathered around 300 followers and I guess a proportion (including me) are outside of the borough.It may not have meant the campaign was successful but presumambly garnered as much or more local support than traditional protests as well as making those further afield aware of a local issue.

Humanising the baths and using links to appropriate songs on blip.fm in tweets captured my imagination and made me care about a place I had no connection or previous knowledge of. It wouldn’t work for every campaign and it won’t work forever, especially as this becomes commonplace, but it was a good tactic even if ultimately the decision went against the campaign this time.

Coseley Baths and the campaign group also have a blog and a facebook group. The blog also seems pretty new but the FB group looks to have been running a while and has more than 2,000 members. It’s been used to make people aware of the issue, promote meetings and protests and link to coverage in the local press.

I wonder whether the council has been listening in to this group or their other online activity? As it seems more riotous protests were attempted by other groups on FB only to be stopped by the police it seems someone was listening in. Maybe the council, maybe the local press, maybe someone else altogether!

And, seeing as I seem to be on a wondering streak, I wonder how much more online campaigning would have been done on the blog and Twitter (or other spaces) if the group had more guidance or even more knowledge of how to harness the web?

Social media surgeries and a people generally becoming more comfortable with the online space mean campaigners will really start to grasp the tools the social web is offering them and councils will have to both support this and be ready to respond and act accordingly.

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5 thoughts on “Finding a voice

  1. Interesting post, and sad to hear the demise of Coseley Baths, and the loss of a personality from your TwitterStream. I wonder what else in the public realm would gain more emotional connection if it used a similar personification.

    How about “I’m your bus and I’m sorry I’m a bit late today” as a message to those who regularly catch the same bus.

    Or, “I’m your local park and I’m feeling grubby because some folks have let their dogs foul my borders”

  2. Personally – I would really like that. Although I do think it has to be done right otherwise the tone could be either too twee or too contrived to work.
    Gateshead had some nice stickers on lamp posts which said something along the lines of ‘getting a bit dark? call this number to get me switched on’ which was much friendlier than the standard ‘report this street furniture’ stance.

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