Dan Slee talking about sharing the sweets
The LGcomms social media seminar in Nottingham on 30th January 2014 was a chance to catch up with some of the localgov social stalwarts and to meet others for the first time.
The morning was packed full with tips about how we can use social media to achieve outcomes, make connections and improve service delivery.
The afternoon was a series of unconference style sessions for us to discuss some of the issues and share ideas, with just the right amount of gentle encouragement from an almost post-manflu Andy Mabbett. It was an interesting and thought-provoking day.
In the context of developing networks, one of the things that really stood out was Sarah Lay’s comment that the linking of person and content is becoming increasingly important. Sarah explained some of the many things that contribute to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). For example, items appearing in search results that have an author picture (such as blog posts) are more likely to be clicked on, as people relate to people. This sentiment was echoed by Dan Slee, who shared research showing that people are more likely to trust “a person who is like themselves” and much less likely to trust an official spokesperson.
If we think about local networks in this context, it’s easy to see the value and importance of creating content that’s relevant and useful for local people – and encouraging people to share it. To get this right, we need to have trust between local people and local organisations (Darren Caveney also talked about trust in his introduction, as one of three key barriers to developing social media in local government – trust, technology and training). We also need to have content that is engaging and ready to share. Paul Taylor talked about content that is “hashtag ready” and Sarah encouraged us to “think about content assets not just web pages”.
Another thing that we can do to put a face to our content is to build confidence amongst our staff. Paul told us that at Bromford digital skills are seen as a performance objective, led by the chief executive. Staff are therefore encouraged to learn and to participate, to blog, to get involved in conversations online. When I’ve run blogging workshops for staff and community groups, I’ve found that often it’s our own staff who are most nervous about authorship and who feel exposed when asked to write as an individual rather than as a service. Paul suggests that we need to get over this because the corporate tone of voice is ending. His most memorable tip about this was: “look back at what your organisation talked like 12 months ago, cringe, then move on…”
Putting a name to content also cropped up in a different context, as part of David Banks’ presentation about legal issues. This included some clarifications about the Defamation Act 2013, particularly around user generated content. The Act means that organisations have more legal protection if we don’t pre-moderate user content. However, in cases where we do want to pre-moderate, it’s important to ask users to register their name and contact details first. If there is a complaint, this gives us the opportunity to seek permission from the author to share their details with the complainant.
Another useful bit of advice from David was that the ‘any views are my own’ statement doesn’t mean that employers can evade liability. If you use a personal account to regularly mention your employer, then make a defamatory remark using the same account, your employer can be held liable. Murky waters to fathom here.
Dan talked a lot about focusing on outcomes (hurrah). He asked us to think about what keeps the leaders of our organisation awake worrying at night, and to think about the impact of our work on local people. We talked more about this in the unconference session about having a social media map. Tools may change – tools will change – but the importance of focusing our efforts on what matters to the people who live and work here won’t. Richard Clarke also made a good point about how “being nice but failing to resolve the problem doesn’t work” – a polite customer services failure is still a failure.
So what then is our measure of success for using social media in local government? I think it’s about whether we’re really part of useful conversations, whether those conversations help us to build better relationships, whether people trust us enough to talk openly about their aspirations and concerns, and whether together we’re able to do something useful for the people who live and work here. I think we need to do small practical things every day to help make this happen.
Many Trojan mice working together can surely fix anything…
My notes from the day
If you’d like some more details about the issues we discussed at this event, have a look at my notes from the day and see some of the slides from the speakers:
Dan Slee – Walsall Council
Notes: What the future of public sector comms looks like (pdf)
Slides: What the future of public sector comms looks like* (*and what you can do about it.)
Paul Taylor – Bromford
Notes: Using social to progress innovation internally (pdf)
Slides: After the social media wall came down – a case study
Sarah Lay – Nottinghamshire County Council
Notes: Digital Skills – SEO (pdf)
David Banks – Media law consultant
Notes: Staying legal (pdf)
Richard Clarke – 02
Notes: Social Media and Customer Services (pdf)