How #HousingDay took Twitter by storm

This week #HousingDay took place on Twitter to provide a glimpse into the world of housing and communicate the inside stories.

Rae Watson is Marketing and Communications Manager at TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) and she answered my Tweet calling for comms pros to share their experience of Wednesday’s event by writing a guest post. My thanks to her, and I’ll hand you over…

What it’s all about
A few months ago at a conference I got chatting to Adrian Capon, comms manager at Yorkshire Housing about doing a ‘tweetahon’ to expose the diversity of the #ukhousing sector – all staff and tenants in it together. Tweetathons are an online event on Twitter where Tweeters focus all of their tweets on a particular issue or topic.

This isn’t a new idea, Greater Manchester Police started it all off by tweeting every 999 call over 24 hours. Since then councils across the country have regularly encouraged staff to report on their Twitter accounts ‘a day in the life of’ to expose all the different ways council resources are used.

Adrian’s blog has raised awareness of the campaign to such a point now that many organisations in the housing industry signed up to participate. The chosen day was 13 November using the hashtag #housingday.

How I prepared
Management Buy In: I briefed the management team at TPAS and secured instant support.

This wasn’t difficult as the chief exec and head of corporate services are on Twitter and understand the power of being social. They’re only concern was their availability on the day as they had a board meeting.

TPAS staff and board members briefing: Next it was about explaining the concept to staff and board members.

By this point Adrian Capon had been approached to write about his vision of the purpose of the day for Inside Housing, so I could reference this to our staff and board members which added credibility to the whole idea and explained the concept of the day really well.

For me it wasn’t about standing out from the crowd (though that would have been nice), it was about how we could say at the end of the event that we stuck with our values and purpose and helped to showcase landlords and tenants working together to improve their communities.

What I did to prepare:

  • Created the strapline to associate our organisation with the tweetathon. I went with ‘Today might be #housinday but to us everyday is #tenantinvolvement’ day
  • Set up a generic #housingday hashtag watch on Tweetdeck so I could get a feel for what other organisations were planning to do on the day and make sure we could stand out from the crowd
  • Set up a search stream using Tweetdeck using key terms relating to tenant involvement so I could easily share relevant stories back out through our corporate account.
  • Gave examples to  staff that were on twitter on how they could participate with the day about their activities with tenants and landlords.
  • Delayed our regular TPAS@12 e-newsletter by one day to go out on 13 November to drive our audience to engage with the tweetathon and offered our mailing list the chance for them to email us, call us or Facebook us to let their story be heard as part of the tweetathon
  • Created fun tongue in cheek Tweet postcards (pictured) with staff not on Twitter to show some of the more typical tasks TPAS staff were up to.
  • Created a Vine that included our tweet postcards and our strapline. Posted towards the end of the day
  • Created a TPAS storify full of other organisations tweets from the day – tenant involvement photos only

Key lessons
Tweetathons pass very very quickly. Significant moments, announcements, quotes, reports, you name it, can be lost due to the sheer volume of relevant traffic using the same hashtag.

If you are planning on ‘launching’ something it needs to be announced early in the day and have something about it that causes debate or conversation. Otherwise there is serious danger your message is lost.

Top tips:

  • Prepare as many messages as you can before the actual day.
  • Support as many staff members as possible to participate. Volume is key to participating in a tweetathon, so get everyone watching and tweeting.
  • Clear as much of your diary as possible so you have time to watch, engage, reply and respond.

housing2Keep it real: Early on some organisations were criticised for being too corporate and full of jargon. I agree and tried to make sure that although our messages were relevant to what we do, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Don’t self promote: Again I saw many Tweet attempts to self promote their organisation, company or services. These didn’t connect with the vision of the day and for me it was important for us to share stories from other organisations rather than lots of self promotion messages.

Have conversations: This is something if we’d do it again I’d like to do more of, it was hard to have real conversations as there was so much going on but it’s important not to keep sharing and start talking!

The big questions:

How to engage with the disengaged?
Being a national tenant empowerment organisation we have a large audience and a diverse one. The day placed a huge spotlight on the challenge of including those that don’t have access to one particular communication channel.

How could we cross-feed such a volume of messages to our other channels? We tackled this on the day by sharing key #housingday moments through our Facebook account and by producing a Storify which we’ll share back out on email.

Another issue to ponder was those that did get in touch with our other channels like our ebulletin system were frontline workers whose organisations hadn’t been given the tools or the permission to participate with the event on Twitter– which is a shame and something for TPAS to think about.

What’s the business case to get involved with a tweetathon?
Outcome wise we successfully raised our profile – evidenced by the level of interest, new followers and direct messages from new individuals and organisations to TPAS.

A tweetreach report indicates our tweets were shared by 37 different organisations and individuals giving us a reach of over 30,000 in a single day.

We had fun and our ‘Tenant involvement in pictures’ Storify is a real lasting legacy for us to look back on and understand and appreciate what the day was all about and of course a way for our audience who aren’t on Twitter to be part of the day too.

Post author: Rae Watson.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts from #HousingDay Rae. From reading through the various articles and reports I’ve found it interesting to get insight into what housing associations do and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Further reading
If you want to read more about housing comms, I’ve featured a number of Bromford Group employees on my blog recently including:

How to communicate the DNA of an organisation – by Andy Johnson
Share This: Social media conference success – by Jarrod Williams
Using video to inspire employees – by Alex Bird

Got a story to share?
See my guest article guidelines and archive featuring the stories of 80+ comms pros over the years. If you have an idea for a story you’d like to write, do get in touch and let me know and you too could see your name here.

Congratulations to all the comms pros involved with #HousingDay this week and to Ade Capon and Rae Watson for all their hard work.

Happy weekend all,


Published November 2013.


  1. @adecapon says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Good blog. Thanks for the opportunty to share this.
    Please can you amend to Yorkshire Housing, not Coast.

    And be great if you cld fllw me on Twitter.



  2. Thanks Adrian. Corrected, apologies. I’ve just sent you a request via Twitter too.

    Congratulations again on such a successful event,


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