Social media

The ‘wee guys’ at work

Kevin Paterson must be the busiest man in Scotland. An emergency services employee by day, he also volunteers for the Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue Team in Ayrshire and as part of his duties helps to man their social media accounts.

Not content with running just one social media account, two years ago he also decided to create his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, @CoastguardTeam, supplementing the messages put out by the Coastguard using LEGO figures. Follow the adventures of the ‘wee guys’ in the world’s smallest Coastguard Rescue Team – promoting coastal safety all year round – everything is awesome! says the account.

These LEGO figures now have more than 5,100 followers on Twitter and regularly get retweets well into double figures, though their most successful posts have gained far more.

‘[The social media strategy] is constantly developing itself,’ says Paterson. ‘I do it in my free time. I look at trends across social media. The named storms have been good for us in allowing us into conversations and hashtags.

‘We’re on Facebook and Instagram too, but Twitter seems to do the best; it’s geared up by real-time reactions and interactions. I pick specific messages, using social media listening [tools] to put out messages at key times. When Storm Angus hit, we got retweets into the hundreds.’

Indeed, tapping into specific audiences has helped the wee guys reach more people than Paterson could ever have expected.

With the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Paterson incorporated Star Wars LEGO figures into his usual set up, capitalising on the popularity of the Rogue One hashtag to send his message further.

‘Using LEGO puts out messages in a unique way that gets the message across,’ notes Paterson, who also says that he uses Instagram to tap into the LEGO market. LEGO has millions of fans, including adults, across the world and the Paterson has written blog posts about his work with the Coastguard Team for such sites as Brick Fanatics, the UK site for LEGO fans.

Over Christmas, he also participated in LEGO advent, in which LEGO aficionados post pictures of their favourite scenes or pieces in the run up to Christmas.

Using LEGO puts out messages in a unique way that gets the message across

Being part of the Coastguard means that many of the images Paterson creates are specific to the coast, with the beaches of Ayrshire featuring heavily on the wee guys’ Twitter account.

‘Some are pretty quick and simple, and some can take up to an hour,’ says Paterson. ‘It depends on the message. We have some specific messages, such as coastal emergencies and storms, for which we create bespoke images, but we also have some generic safety messages too.

‘It can be quite hit and miss. We post generic messages mid-morning and then ongoing stuff pretty much as soon as they happen. We post specific messages when [an incident] starts affecting people.’

So what have been the biggest lessons for Paterson since undertaking such a successful personal project? ‘There are not enough hours in the day,’ he laughs, but acknowledges happily that feedback from all the rescue agencies has been very positive.

He has even collaborated with the Environment Agency on its #FloodAware campaign, which helped tell the public what steps they should take in the event of a flood. Paterson hopes to do more collaborations like this in the future.

Paterson certainly shows no signs of LEGO fatigue yet. His advice for those who want to do something similar is simple: ‘Just go for it, it’s fun to do. It’s a lot of fun to get out there and meet new people whilst you’re doing it.’

This article first appeared in issue 112