With Google estimating 40% of Welsh businesses are not online, social media surgeries provide a low-key, laid-back setting for individuals and not-for-profit organisations to seek help with their social media queries.
The Social Media Surgeries were originally established as a partnership between individuals from GuardianCardiff and WalesOnline. After initial success, volunteers were sought to establish new surgeries in different areas of Cardiff.
Juliette Llewellyn was one of those who came forward and found herself as the sole volunteer for Canton. The Canton surgery has been running since June last year and has expanded to include a regular set of volunteers.
Talking about the surgery, she initially volunteered as she wanted a chance to share her skills with people and organisations who were less familiar with an ever changing area. When no one else stepped forward to run the Canton surgery, she took it upon herself and approached Chapter for a space to host the event.
She said: “There is a gap between people who are comfortable with social media and people who may not have as much experience. Surgeries are about bridging that gap. Volunteers enjoy sharing their knowledge and helping people with their problems.”
Attendees are divided into two categories. Patients, who are seeking to learn new skills for themselves or their organisation or looking for help with specific problems, and Surgeons, who volunteer to help out. Each patient is given a half hour one-on-one slot with a surgeon who will walk them through whatever they want to know.
Surgeons volunteer for a variety of reasons. One of them, Megan Price, who works for Chapter Arts Centre’s marketing department, says volunteering at the Surgery is a natural extension of her job and gives her a chance to share her expertise with people who need a nudge in the right direction.
One such patient is Marjorie Llewellyn who was attending her second surgery. She freely admits to being a complete novice, who turned up to the first surgery and was immediately told she would need to set up an email account before she could get going with anything else. Back for a second time, she is looking at ways to communicate with her daughter in Dubai after conventional phone calls became too expensive for her. She is now turning to Skype as an inexpensive alternative.
Ms Llewellyn said: “My daughter uses Skype and Facebook to communicate. If I want to talk to her then I need to use the same methods.”
Another patient, Jenny Bradley, is there on behalf of her employers, the South Wales Intercultural Community Arts group. A self-confessed social media sceptic, Jenny turned up to learn more about ways to use Twitter and Facebook to promote the group and in particular the Carnival they run in Cardiff every summer.
Other patients come with the more general aim of keeping abreast with the latest developments in social media and the wider internet.
Hywel Wiliam, Director of AIM Group and a broadcast consultant, is a regular patient at the Canton surgeries. He attended Wednesday’s surgery with the specific aim of learning about the changes to Facebook pages and how he could make use of the new features in his personal and professional life - particularly the introduction of Timelines to display old content.
At present, there are no plans to expand the Canton surgery any further as this would require an injection of funds and staff which doesn't currently exist.