…But what do you do when your dragon grows up?
Some of you might know where the title of this blogpost. For those that don’t:
I learnt this number when I was about … seven years old? I was at primary school – the one where I’ve since returned to as a governor.
Puffles is over three years old
And at the time of posting, is hovering around the 6,000 followers mark. Given that I cull spambots that try to follow, those 6,000 followers are not just ‘anyone’ but rather followers who I’ve judged are likely to be interested in the things I post through Puffles’ Twitterhandle.
But something’s not working for me – or for increasing numbers of you too. I discussed some of the issues recently with some of you, and also mentioned them in a blogpost when Puffles reached 5,000 followers. (See Feeding the five-thousand). The chatty, interactive nature of Puffles’ early days has morphed into a more distant ‘curate and cascade’ relationship. While something clearly works for thousands of you, I can’t help but feel that the very things that made Puffles interesting are the very things that are being lost in the curate and cascade mindset.
I’ve changed and you’ve changed too
It’s stating the bleedin’ obvious, but it’s worth remembering that in those early days, Puffles was flying around the offices of Whitehall and was very much inside the system, though not of it. It’s been two-and-a-half years since I was in the civil service, and much has changed – not least the size of it. The pattern of my blogging has also changed – less of a focus in Whitehall, and more of a focus of what’s going on in and around Cambridge. Understandable as that’s where I spend most of my time these days.
For those of you that have been following for a long time, you’ve changed too – and it’s been fascinating and also sometimes heartbreaking to observe some of those changes. For some of you that will have been finishing school and going onto college or university. For others it will have been making the jump from university to your first career – or as several of you have testified to, facing the nightmare of the current jobs market and the job centre. Some of you have left old jobs for new ones, while some of you have left the world of full time work altogether, retiring or embarking on new personal projects. Some of you have joined political parties and movements, while others have left. Some have stood for public office and have even been elected.
So…what next for Puffles the Dragon Fairy?
There are a number of options, which I’ve discussed with a few of you of late. What was striking was that some of you were already asking the same questions that I was. “Has ‘brand Puffles’ gone past its sell-by date?”
That depends on what you see as the purpose of Puffles I guess. Remember at the start, there was no real ‘purpose’ other than to allow me to use Twitter without attracting too much attention given my day job. Remember in those days, some of the conventions we take for granted today were not really in place back in 2010. But what are the options?
Shut the account and the blog down and sulk/start again from scratch
I’ve seen others do the same – where they have ended up with more followers than they can cope with and decided it was too much. I don’t blame them. There have been times where I have seriously considered doing the same. The reason why I’ve not gone through with it is because it feels like it would be a rash decision on the back of temporary setbacks or mood swings.
Carry on as normal
It might simply be the case that this is what the watching public want from Puffles and that I don’t really have much choice. But with what feels like a low level of interaction in relation to the number of followers, I don’t really know what the vast majority of followers want. Hence…
Doing some proper research and analysis on followers
I could follow a technocratic route, but part of my fear with this is that you run the risk of mechanising and depersonalising the whole thing. In that sense, Puffles would become the very opposite of what developed in the early days – ie this unpredictable, anarchic and fun creature. There is also the tension of whether Puffles grows and changes as a result of interaction vs as a result of the profiles of people that follow.
Separating the ‘curate and cascade’ persona from a ‘chatty interactive’ persona
This is the one that I’ve been thinking of – and it would mean running two separate accounts. Beyond that, I’ve no idea how it would work. Would the curate and cascade be in my name or Puffles’ name? Or the more interactive one? How would the two accounts relate to each other?
Putting the social back into social media
I’ve got a big problem in and with Cambridge in this field. While there are a number of very good social media users, we don’t have a critical mass of people using it in a manner that I feel would make my home town a much more exciting and vibrant place to live and work. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been leaning on institutions to step up their efforts – because I can’t do this alone. As I’ve mentioned before, despite the efforts of a number of people, Cambridge is a place with an international brand but the infrastructure of a market town. How do you persuade Cambridge University to look to those that live beyond its walls rather than those that are part of its academic collective?
Beyond Cambridge, many of the people that I interact with simply don’t live locally. Many of the events put on that I would love to go to I simply cannot afford to because of the travel costs.
For me, social media works better when it is complementing/adding to things that happen offline. This perhaps highlights the risk of the London policy and media bubble becoming even more exclusive and hard to break into: You’ve got to be online and at the events to count.
Over to you – what are your ideas and suggestions?
And don’t pull your punches either.
What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? What would be a better model to work with? One account or two? In whose name? More opinions/analysis and fewer RTs?