On May 21-22 I attended the Social Media in the Public Sector Conference in Melbourne. Here are 20 things I learnt.

  1. Only around 10% of delegates were on Twitter – at a social media conference. If this is the take-up among communications and social media professionals, Twitter needs to do some serious PR in Australia.
  2. The role of chief digital officer will be a very important position in organisations in the years to come. Are you learning the right skills to fill that role?
  3.  Nessy Hill from the CSIRO gave a great talk. One of the key messages was relate what your organisation does to people’s everyday lives, giving a reminder that the CSIRO invented both wifi and our polymer banknotes here in Australia. She spoke about how a blog or tweet from @CSIROnews often turns into an interesting conversation with stakeholders. She also talked through the brilliant blog post that went viral in January 2014: Accelerating our Dragon R&D program.
  4. “Don’t treat it as advertising, treat it as entertainment.” Great quote from Danish Chan from McCann describing “Dumb ways to die” – the most viewed public service announcement in history with over 80 million YouTube views. He also beautifully summed up the reason why there has been dozens of parodies. “Create things people want to engage with. They will make it their own.”
  5.  Cartoons work well on social media, especially across linguistic divides. Timo Greenwood and Rebecca English from The Department of Immigration and Border Protection did a great presentation on their campaign to tempt skilled migrants: If you have the skills, Australia has the lifestyle
  6. Catchy tunes work too. As do flash mobs. #TownsvilleShines built a short-term campaign for a V8 car race into a long-term strategy, handing the reins of the city’s marketing back to the people.
  7. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Organisations really need to put mobile first now in everything they do.
  8. Accessibility: Dr Scott Hollier spoke about creating inclusive social media strategies and how people with disabilities can overcome accessibility issues. The Media Access Australia report Sociability is my favourite discovered resource from the conference.
  9. I really need to create a conference bingo card next time to distribute, just for fun. Words would include “paradigm shift”, engaging, conversations, as well as mispronunciations of Pinterest. And let’s throw in my use of trojan mice for good measure!
  10. Measuring behaviour change after a social media campaign is very important, but can be costly. How can we do this in cost-effective ways?
  11. Competitions: Great advice from Cairin Conway from Sun Smart Victoria. Make them simple to enter, especially for young people. Integrate them with an offline campaign and have short timeframes.
  12. Social hubs were mentioned in both my presentation and Townsville’s, but many people still are unaware of what they are. I must confess we haven’t used ours to its full potential – yet.
  13. I loved several aspects of what Gina Ciancio said the Department of Human Services are doing with social media. Having staff look through established forums to correct misinformation and offer advice is fantastic. The live Facebook questions and answers is also a fab idea.
  14. Rebecca Riley from Melbourne’s Fed Square gave an interesting talk about how they released exclusive content to a small list of influencers, great stuff. She also spoke about how to handle the haters: acknowledge feedback, don’t be defensive, try and take conversations offline, end with a positive statement.
  15. Seniors find libraries non-threatening place to learn about digital said Christine Mackenzie, CEO of Yarra Plenty Regional Library. With a typical Facebook demographic now being women in their 40s to 60s, libraries will continue to play a key part in digital uptake and upskilling.
  16. Marco Bass and Iona Slater from Moreland City Council gave a great talk about customer service in Australian localgov. Many councils could learn from the great work they are doing. Iona gave three reasons why people turn to social media 1) Lack of satisfaction with traditional channels 2) Immediacy – people prefer fast answers rather than helpful ones 3) To deliberately force transparency.
  17. The wifi situation: seriously, who goes to a conference and downloads 2GB of stuff from iTunes? Very disappointing. Could a download limit work next time so we can continue tweeting?
  18. Archiving social media records: what’s the best way? Screenshots of conversations may be the best and most cost-effective method for now.
  19. There needs to be easy access for device-charging at conferences. And there totally needs to be a prize for the person with the most devices.
  20. I think I’m the only person who spoke at length about using social media for disaster management at the conference. Local government plays a key role during emergencies and many councils will need to be ready for this challenge in the future.


I curated a Storify of top tweets from the conference: http://commsr.us/1nsvopp

My presentations

If you’d like to check out my presentations from the #sm4ps conference, here they are on Haiku Deck:

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