While the VCSS Camp team were promoting the event on 25 June we got in to a lovely twitter discussion with Eileen at Dudley Volunteer Centre. She has so much enthusiasm and so much to share, that as well as encouraging her to book her place, we invited her to write a guest blog post for us. And here it is!
Hellooooo! My name’s Eileen Fielding and I have been the Development Officer for Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre for 8 years. Time flies and when I came into post Do-It.org was the way to promote your opportunities to the world, but since then social media has really developed and is very much the way to go.
I have to confess that I loathed social media to start with after a brief fracas with Facebook. It was great to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, but then I had to ‘friend’ a selection of in-laws, whose parents used to berate me by text if I didn’t respond to being ‘poked’ or ‘unfriended’ them. Some of the photos they posted were unbelievable and I didn’t want to know what they were up to! So we parted company.
My colleagues at work started tweeting and at the time I thought it was some sort of bizarre new dance craze. [I am so old that I remember Chirpy Chirpy Tweet Tweet!]. When we had events they were ‘tweeting’ and suddenly social media surgeries started popping up. Again, I kept my head down and avoided it, hadn’t got time for all that social media malarkey. It just wasn’t relevant for me.
Then Operation Santa hit me like a small cyclone in September 2011. I had to find some way of sending out updates to organisations and businesses who were supporting our annual toy appeal. I had found a volunteer named Dan, who was helping me update my website and suggested setting up a blog, assuring me it would be free and painless!!! He set it up for me and used to come in weekly to update it. I also emailed him photos and stories, which he added from home. It worked amazingly well and we actually had 50 hits in one day, once I suggested via email that people signed up for it. By January 2012, I was convinced this had helped us reach our amazing total of 3882 children and young people across the borough.
Everything went quietly over the summer and then September came around and cyclone Operation Santa loomed again. I had a couple of lessons in how to blog and started blogging furiously as the appeal progressed. Daily posts were appearing and more people were supporting us and signing up for the blog. We had an amazing 1026 hits in the period October to January and I was hooked. It’s official I had embraced social media and was blogging away. We reached an incredible total of 6082 children this year and I’m convinced the blogging helped.
After discussions with Dan, I gave my website a complete face lift and it’s now blog-based, which means that every time someone visits the home page they get something different, as it updates each time I blog. The site was completed by February and I started regular blogs about volunteering issues, training, events and new volunteering opportunities. My colleague Melissa helped me link it to the existing Volunteer Centre Facebook page and showed me how to set up a Twitter account. Initially I set one up in my own name @Eileenfielding2, then we set up one for the Volunteer Centre @Dudleyvols. This was a much smarter way of working and sharing things, as a single blog post would also send out a Tweet and a post on Facebook. I was suddenly a navigator of social media, although I have to confess I am still not keen on Facebook.
Now I’m a regular blogger, fairly regular Tweeter and very occasional Facebook user. I am gathering followers to the blog, many of whom go there via a Twitter or Facebook link and had 301 hits this week*, when I launched my ‘Wall of Thanks for Volunteers’. I have had over 3600 hits and the average hits per day has grown from 9 per day in February to 60 a day in May, and I haven’t even promoted it yet.
I have learnt how to do galleries on my pages by reading the help section and am really impressed with WordPress. It’s so easy to use, would recommend it to anyone who wants to blog.
The Followers on both my Twitter accounts are growing too and the highlight of my day is a Retweet or better still a Favourite.
I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try it, but have to say I would recommend a friendly, social media literate volunteer to show you the basics, as they’re more interactive than a book and can help if you accidentally delete the whole thing!
* Eileen wrote this post for us on 31 May – she had a lot more visits to her site in Volunteers Week in June