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Shrewsbury Morris and their 102,000 twitter followers

So just how did Shrewsbury Morris take twitter by storm and grow their audience to over 102,000 followers?  We wanted to find out more, so we invited them to talk to our membership on 21st February. Graydon Radford, their twitter guru, and Ray Langton outlined the journey the Shrewsbury Morris Twitter account had taken; they outlined the rationale, top tips, issues, awards and other things they encountered along with how the use of social media has embedded the presence of Shrewsbury Morris into the town of Shrewsbury and the benefits it has brought to the team.  You can see the video of the Shrewsbury Morris talk about twitter on the MF YouTube channel.

Brian Kelly, a Morris Federation volunteer, reports:

The story Graydon Radford told to an audience of about 40 probably resonated with most of us. He described how over 10 years ago a conversation with his dentist revealed that, although the dentist had lived in Shrewsbury for over 25 years, he’d never heard of Shrewsbury Morris.

“We’ve probably all asked a similar question: “How do we become better known within our community? often followed up with “And how do we recruit more dancers?  But we won’t have been successful as Shrewsbury Morris in engaging with their local community, with their successes in raising sponsorship from local businesses and promoting local charities leading to two local awards. And this was followed by national and international recognition. 

“How did they do this? Initially they experimented with Facebook – and their Facebook page is still maintained. But their success was due to the passion and commitment to – and a fair amount of experimentation with – one particular service: Twitter. 

“And the evidence of the success: the @shrewsmorris Twitter account has over 101K followers – or that is what the publicity said when the Zoom meeting was first announced, but it’s now 102,750 followers! 

“It all began about 10 years ago, when the team was at a bit of a low point. The team had displayed posters around town and submitted articles to the local press but had no joy. And the need for people to recognise the team was highlighted when they received a comment: We saw you dancing on Saturday but it was a different team – Shrewsbury Morris don’t dance in all white: Shrewsbury Morris didn’t appear to have a brand recognition in their home town. 

“How to be recognised? How to recruit new team members? These were topics discussed at an AGM 2011. Use of social media was, of course, suggested and the Shrewsbury Morris Facebook page was createdConcerns expressed initially that a social media account was likely to attract trolls turned out to be massively over-stated (4 incidents over the years), and the account continues to this day, with 1,240 people currently following updates to the page. 

“Shortly afterwards it was decided to explore the potential for Twitter – and what a success that proved to be! The simple secret to the success seems to be be patient; be different; be engaged and be nice!” 

Shrewsbury Morris on twitter“Graydon originally managed both the Facebook and Twitter accounts, but he subsequently focussed on Twitter, with another team member managing Facebook. There were two main goals for the service: 

  • Raise the profile of Shrewsbury Morris 
  • Raise the profile of Morris dancing generally 

“which led to a decision to seek engagement with local community including local businesses and charities. And in an example of the trust which was developed between Shrewsbury Morris and the local community they allow local trusted organisations to manage the Twitter account for a short period. And this has further benefits, as it ensures that the account posts on a diversity of topics and not just “Shrewsbury Morris are dancing out this weekend 

“The Morris Federation’s Day of Dance was held in Shrewsbury in 2012 – and this proved to be another stage in Twitter account’s success – raising sponsorship.  As hosting a Day of Dance can be a costly exercise the side recognised they needed to raise money. And the Twitter account became the focus of the sponsorship drive. 

“After that success the team decided to set themselves a new challenge: “Let’s see if we can attract sponsors for a year! In brief, they did, with a sponsorship income of £1,600 ensuring that travel and meals at festivals are nicely covered! 

“Success breeds success – the team won a Mayor’s award on two occasions; have raised funds to host Zulu Traditions in a number of schools; raised £3,000 for Midland air ambulance and organised a ‘marath-own’a marathon which can be completed in different ways – which, in Shrewsbury Morris’s case, involved 40 dances in which dancers covered an estimated 26 miles! 

Shrewsbury Morris
Shrewsbury Morris

“Graydon concluded by admitting that running the Twitter account is a lot of work – but its enjoyable work. And he admitted that the Twitter account failed to deliver on one if its objectives: it wasn’t successful in recruiting significant numbers of new team members. It seems there will still be a need for conventional approaches to recruitment. 

“It struck me that the success was due to a willingness to experiment, having a passion for the work and using an authentic ‘voice’, with the support from team’s squire and rest of the team being essential 

“It also made me think that I should revive my tweeting; I was an early adopter of Twitter in 2006 but stopped using it after finishing work. But it does seem to me that Twitter might be particularly relevant for my local team (Wyld Morris) as it’s our 10th anniversary and will be looking to strengthen links with the local community.  

by Brian Kelly of Wyld Morris, fron near Monkton Wyld, near Bridport, Dorset and Haymarket Rapper of no fixed abode, and former member of Newcastle Kingsmen

Donations from participants raised money for Graydon’s chosen charity – Cuan Wildlife Rescue:

A video recording of the “Shrewsbury Morris on Twitter” talk (58 mins) is available on The Morris Federation’s YouTube channel.

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