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Sheffield Twitter Movement Going National
by Startacus Admin
Phil Vintin is our favourite kind of self starter.
Of course we love self starters in general, but when someone goes above and beyond expectations in the service of their community, we are particularly impressed.
HelpMyCity (which started life as HelpSheffield) is a set of Twitteraccounts, established by Phil as a kind of local information service. The idea is a simple one. People who can’t find the information that they need elsewhere tweet the relevant Twitter account, @HelpSheffield and they respond with the answer. If the answer is something they don’t know or cannot find quickly online then they retweet the question to their followers and (hopefully) they provide the answers…like a lovely local information crowdsourcing service!
With great success thus far in the Sheffield city area, HelpMyCity is is in the process of enlisting the help of folks in other UK cities, to bring the service to them!
As it’s our Sheffield startup month, we thought it the perfect time to have a chat with Phil about his HelpMyCity journey and what the plans are for the future.
Hi there Phil, so first off I think you had better tell us how @HelpSheffeld came about?
"HelpSheffield began when a photographer posted on Twitter that he was at a wedding and the harpist that had been booked could not attend as he could not get there due to snow. I duly retweeted this using my personal account but 15 minutes later nothing had happened. I thought I'd ask my other friends on Facebook if any of them could help. Lo and behold a friend of mine, who does amateur dramatics, knows a cellist. Not the same but near enough to save the day and he got paid into the bargain. I relayed this story to some mates in the pub and @HelpSheffield seemed to fill a gap in the market and was born."
What drove you to begin the account in the first place?
"Because I wanted to be helpful and nothing similar, for a localised question, seemed to exist on Twitter. Twitter is the best platform for it, due to the speed of reply, especially now we have a few followers."
In light of the fact that this is not a money making venture, what sustains you providing the service?
"It is quite good fun. It helps me learn about events in my local area without having to trawl through numerous, different websites. It has also introduced me to numerous nice and useful people via a number of spin off events."
Tell us about Sheffield… or rather tell us about Sheffield as you see it… is there anything special about it?
"Sheffield is known as "Sheffield Village" by many of its long term residents, as everyone knows everyone or of them by 3 degrees of separation. This displays itself in a rather welcoming and friendly community of people and allows the "helping" to flourish. The city is largely ignored by mainstream media (see national weather maps or watch the our local news programme for evidence. Many Sheffielders call the news programme "Look Leeds" despite it being advertised as "Look North", as the bias is so incredibly bad. A man opening a bag of crisps in Leeds would get more coverage than a bomb blast here. This means that we pull together against the rest of the world."
You have managed to amass a good number of followers now, do you have any advice for anyone (startups particularly) looking to increase their twitter following?
"Follow as many relevant accounts as possible as they will give you relevant ideas of how to Tweet. It will also be the best way to ensure those people know you exist and give them the best impetus to follow you back. Join in with conversations, don't just sell, sell, sell. Join in the "hours" that are relevant to your business. Make contacts in the real world as well as nothing promotes your Twitter as well as being an affable individual."
What other cities have you expanded the network to ?
"I can't access the spreadsheet right now but there are about 30 accounts including Lincoln, Rotherham, Chesterfield, Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge, Harlow and soon to be expanding further."
So you have clearly demonstrated that ‘Help My City’ has appeal, have you got any plans to turn the idea into a business?
"I do not plan to make money from the city based Help accounts but we have moved into other types of accounts i.e. @HelpMyBookClub which may make money in the long run but that is not the main intention."
Thanks for the chat Phil!
Why not take a look at some of the other things we have been looking at during this Sheffield startup month.