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Samaritans launches Twitter web app as it preps six-year strategy to digitise communications


By Natalie Mortimer, N/A

October 29, 2014 | 4 min read

Suicide charity Samaritans has launched a Twitter web app to notify users if their friends are using language that indicates they are feeling depressed, as the charity looks to ramp up its digital communications.

The Samaritans Radar, created by Jam using Twitter’s API, uses a specially designed algorithm that looks for specific keywords and phrases within a Tweet. It then sends an email alert to the user with a link to the Tweet it has detected, and offers guidance on the best way of reaching out and providing support.

It works by monitoring the language of the accounts that the user follows and flagging up any language that may be a cause for concern.

Speaking to The Drum, Joe Ferns, executive director of policy research and development at Samaritans, said the activity, which includes a campaign video to be seeded online, marked a change in the way the charity will promote its services going forward.

“I think we’ve known for a while that we need to think more about how we use the digital world,” Ferns admitted. “Both in terms of promoting the charity to supporters but also in terms of reaching people. The most important thing for us is about access to our services, so what we want to be able to do is to make sure we’re there physically and also in time when people need us.”

Samaritans has launched the Radar app in conjunction with Twitter as part of its global Twitter Ads for Good programme to help the charity understand how it can get involved in a digital world “which is quite complicated and difficult” and not one Samaritans is used to operating in.

The app is predominately aimed at millennials, who typically spend around three hours a day online, and it is hoped Radar, along with the short film created by Irresistible Films, will help a younger audience identify and support those who need help in their networks.

The app is free and activated in two steps from the website. All alerts are sent to the subscriber’s email address directly – never to their Twitter followers - and Radar doesn’t post to Twitter on the subscriber’s behalf.

Richard Costa Dsa, managing director of Jam, told the Drum that the premise behind Radar was to help Samaritans work with partners like Twitter to help it move into the digital world.

“We find with a lot of brands they are worried about that first step in [to social media]. They want that first step into social technology to be the right one, when actually, the future of how they’re going to change as a brand is to start to make with rather than for.

“And that’s the principle that we’ve built Radar on; it’s not Samaritans who are supporting people, they’ve created the platform for people to do that and so we took them on that journey.”

The app will be developed and extended to other social platforms as more people use the service, and it is hoped Radar will be tailored to different problems, such as bullying and eating disorders, to provide a wider audience with the help they may need.

Ferns also revealed that the charity is preparing to enter a six-year strategy, which will see it employ digital streams to better communicate with supporters and users, and boost awareness of the work the charity does through one coherent message.

“We are widely dispersed… so where those branches can speak as one voice it is much more powerful," he said, "So we’ll be looking at how we can make our messaging more coherent. We have a huge brand awareness – it’s in the mid 90 percent - but the understanding of what we do is not quite up there.”

Ferns hinted that the charity is exploring new channels of communication, such as instant messaging and SMS, and that Samaritans will be looking at different ways of reaching people and new ways of providing support through these channels.

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