Yarlington Chat

Yarlington Chat, a group set up for Yarlington Housing Group (housing association) to engage with residents. The group was launched in March 2013 and has over 2,500 members and has won a national award for being a Social Media Pioneer 2013.
At first the group was used as a sounding board for anyone wanting to declare their living conditions worse than everyone else’s. Yarlington could not have been more lambasted, had they actually stolen the Crown Jewels. From every corner, came story after story of bad treatment, appalling repair works and general discontent. Very few of these had any real merit, but the band wagon had been boarded.
Over the months that followed, public perception started to change. After the initial out pouring of vitriol, came calm and a readiness to listen. The Yarlington staff, that made themselves available to the group, worked hard to engage with the members on a level that was akin to friendship. Never engaging in any hostile situation and leaving that to the administrator of the group to resolve. By doing this, the tide started to turn.
The online community that Yarlington had hoped to create was born. There were significantly less antagonistic threads being posted and members began to help and advise each other.  Residents started to appreciate and thank Yarlington for good service.  Live web chats were provided by staff in various topics.   Training and employment opportunities were becoming available to those, who did not know they existed.  More company news was being conveyed to residents that would otherwise not know.
The people being targeted for Yarlington Chat were not the kind to engage themselves voluntarily with their housing provider. The target base were those living on the edge of society, whether through mental health issues, lack of confidence or social standing. These people would not read the resident magazine, attend open days or involve themselves with the community around them. Yarlington wanted to break down the barriers and reach out to them.
The group was made open to all, as Yarlington accepted that nearly everyone in the Somerset area knew a resident, lived among them or could potentially become a tenant at some stage. It was hoped that by making an eclectic group, that a wealth of knowledge and support could be created. This was achieved, with the local Police force showing a desire to have a presence on site, to be able to assist the members where applicable. Local councillors from various political parties joined to answer questions around town council issues that did not fall under Yarlington’s remit. Even a midwife joined the group to advise the many mothers. Already, in a few short months, a social media online community had formed, with Yarlington at the helm.
Yarlington took a huge step in attempting to achieve true resident involvement using social media. It could have easily blown up and inflamed an already precarious perception the residents had. Through patience, hard work and a strong community spirit, Yarlington have achieved the first Face Book forum for a company to talk with their consumer base at a very informal ‘real’ platform.


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