For me, the most fascinating moment of the 2014 World Cup was when Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands’ manager, made a last minute goalkeeping substitution during extra time in their quarter final match against Costa Rica.

If you haven’t been following the World Cup, it was like this: van Gaal knew his side would be facing penalties against Costa Rica in a few minutes and believed the best person for the job was second keeper Tim Krul. As Krul was not currently on the field, he substituted his first choice goalkeeper and brought Krul on. It was inspired thinking: the Netherlands went on to win the penalty shoot-out 4-3.

We talked about this substitution in the office after the match and there was a little bit of a feeling like the Dutch had done something against the spirit of the game. But what was wrong with it? The coach was confident that the super sub would come on and do one thing really well. He was right. Brilliant stuff.

It also got me thinking of the social media tools we use and how we’ve also “done a Louis van Gaal” in the past, bringing on a social media tool at short notice to fulfil a specific need. To be able to do this, you need a social media reserve team. Here’s how to do it:

Creating your reserve team: play and learn

I’m a big fan of trying out new apps and technologies. I create accounts with different apps and social tools, play around with them, learn from that experience. How can my organisation use them?

Until you try them out, how can you really know how they work or how they will be useful to you? Look at what other government organisations are using, look at what the media are using, look at what brands are using: take inspiration from that.

This is exactly what we did with Bambuser 12 months ago after seeing it being used brilliantly by the West Midlands Fire Service reporting live from a factory fire. Here’s a run down of how I got Bambuser on the reserve team:

  1. I saw how the West Midlands Fire Service used the app.
  2. I started brainstorming ideas on how we could use it, the obvious one being disaster and emergency management.
  3. I created a Bambuser account.
  4. I recorded some live video using the app in the office.
  5. I played around with the quality settings and other features.
  6. I worked out how to embed it on our WordPress news site.
  7. I talked about using Bambuser with my manager, our Head of Communications.
  8. I talked about using Bambuser with our Disaster Management Team.
  9. I showed them all how the West Midlands Fire Service had used it.
  10. I answered questions about it.
  11. Everyone was happy with what it could do, it was on the reserves bench!
  12. Then it just sat there for 6 months doing nothing. Yep, absolutely nothing.

Then one day, we were in need of a super sub. During the North Stradbroke Island bushfires in January 2014 we brought super sub Bambuser on, live broadcasting interviews with emergency services workers and councillors after our community bushfire information sessions.



We also live streamed interviews with the CEO of the traditional owners of North Stradbroke, the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, as well as a council conservation officer who explained how wildlife was coping during the bushfires.

The super sub was on the pitch, embedded into our WordPress rolling blog and linked to from Facebook and Twitter. It produced results too: over 3000 views of the videos within a few days.

So who’s in our social media first and reserve teams? And who is on loan? Here’s a run down:

First team

  • Facebook (7265 followers)
  • Twitter (2500 followers)
  • WordPress news site (about 4000 unique visitors a month just for our news items)

Reserve team

Like subs in a football team, these social tools are brought on when we need them to deliver something alongside our first team social media.

  • YouTube: YouTube could be a first team player, but we don’t produce enough video content at the moment.
  • Bambuser: live streaming videos used during emergency situations. 
  • SoundCloud: recorded audio clips used during emergency situations, though we are thinking about other uses.
  • Vine: used on Twitter and Facebook a handful of times.
  • Viddy: used once by our team to shoot a video on mobile. It was published on the front page of the travel sections of News Limited newspapers around Australia.

On loan

“On loan” is what happens to players when they need a bit more experience before coming back to the first team.

  • Instagram: This player should be in the first team. We’ve had tremendous success with crowdsourcing images by encouraging people to tag their photos of the Redlands for us to repost on social media with over 1150 #RedlandLocal images and over 400 #redlandsanyday images. However, we haven’t been consistent with our use of Instagram as yet, we need to pull our socks up and get this player back in the first team.
  • Pinterest: We created a pretty Pinterest account with beautiful professionally shot images of the Redlands. Although it hasn’t set Pinterest on fire, it was a worthwhile exercise though. It only took a few hours of officer time but was a good case study in upskiling staff (image editing /social media) which can now be used for other digital projects.

Transfer targets

As manager of your team, there’s always new players to look out for – or older players you might snap up.

Here’s my transfer targets:

  • Flickr: oldie but a goldie, thinking of snapping this player up into the first team for a whole host of reasons.
  • Google+: keeping an eye on this one, but no firm plans as yet.

But… but… but…

In keeping with the football theme, “But… but… but…” is not only a way to introduce objections people may have to this approach, it’s also French for goal.

But we don’t have enough content or resources for this channel

No, you probably don’t. Most government or non-profit organisations don’t have the content or resources to be maintaining lots of different corporate social media profiles. But that shouldn’t stop you using these tools for discrete purposes if they will add value in certain situations.

But what do we do with this channel after we’ve used it?

Put it back on the reserves bench, waiting for the next opportunity to use it.

But if we don’t update it, it will embarrass us

No it won’t. Keep an eye on it. If there’s any comments on there, reply to them. Make it clear what the channel is for and when it’s used.

But we haven’t written a business case

So what? Throw the rule book out the window. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Especially if you’ve researched what you’re doing, know the risks and are confident it will work.

Who’s in your first and reserve social media teams?

As I write this, the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final has just been scored by German super sub Mario Götze.

Who’s in your social media first and reserve teams? Tell me below.

Photo credit: Red Team by John Cooper

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