I’ve read with interest the articles/blog posts (listed at the bottom of this post) about the interesting move by Takeo City in Japan, who have made the bold decision to move their entire council website to facebook.
On face value it would be easy to argue that this is a very bold move and one which will signal a new revolution in how councils around the world decide the future fate of their corporate websites…..
You could argue that they have taken the easier and slightly more riskier approach and put faith in Mark Zuckerberg who is now in some strange way their website provider? What service level do they have with him, what happens when facebook change their terms and conditions and it becomes somewhere people avoid…what about google plus…twitter, linkedin….amazon even…
You could argue that they lack ambition, strategy and execution to resolve the issues that they state are the reasons behind the move…
Takeo officials said move to Facebook is due to the difficulties to share information in the existing website while the city page on Facebook provides citizens with engagement options through it’s “like” buttons, comments, messaging and chat.
”For this reason, there was some opposition as it would limit access to city information for some citizens. But since we were considering the shift, Facebook changed its rules to make pages viewable to anybody, and from that point on it was a go.”
Now I’m not a huge fan of big corporate Content Management Platforms, but I am aware that with very little money and some good tactical choices you could easily build in engagement directly into a corporate platform….after all the UK Government is doing this in some of its sites already…..AlphaGov, Number 10 etc
Another reason cited was that the Mayor wasn’t keen on receiving comments on the main website from people who use anonymous names and handles. This is an interesting point of view and one for which i do sympathise but you could consider facebook connect, open ID, which could achieve similar outcomes. Is this reason enough to move your entire website across to facebook….
An interesting side benefit which I’ve yet to read is that I’m sure it is far easier for the council to manage a facebook page than a traditional council website…the cost is free, the platform is social, it is easy to publish, the residents are “likely” to be online and they don’t have to deal with ICT colleagues (just kidding ), they can avoid the “press release” home page, they have a mobile version as well as apps etc which present there data….I can see that the decision for some people was probably easier than it should have been.
But what about transactions, what about insight and analytic’s, what about customer experience and brand reputation…after all every page is still under the Facebook logo…but maybe that doesn’t matter anymore…
One of the interesting aspects of this move is that Takeo have started a discussion about why council websites need to exist and what role they should serve…Andrea Di Maio of Gartner states:
…..The point is that it is possible to get rid of the web site, and even more of those government portals that aim at providing a life event view of services and information to citizens and enterprises and almost inevitably fail to model access the way people do expect or need it.
Think about it.
- Citizens who are occasional, infrequent users of a government website or portal, will most likely search for what they need: whether on an external search engine (more likely) or on the web site itself, they are not looking for a fancy, consistent interface that takes them through the “logical” steps, but just for effective search results.
- Citizens who are more regular users, as they have periodic administrative obligations or have the right to periodic benefits, may either use intermediaries or expect those interactions to be modeled around what they see as the “logical” steps (e.g. integrated with their on-line banking access as well as their social networking connections) rather than what government believes are the logical steps.
- Small business are likely to behave like the citizens above, while larger businesses want to run applications that do integrate with web services provided by the relevant authorities they interact with, so they are not likely to be interested in the web sites either.
- Last but not least, anything that smells “participation” or “engagement” needs to take place on a mainstream social media platform, possibly on the citizens’ own virtual turf (i.e. their groups, their blogs, their Facebook pages) rather than on the governments’ one.
Now in part I kind of agree with the spirit of what Andrea says but the Takeo example for me is not the answer and nor is removing local government websites altogether….
We do need to rethink what local government websites do and how they are built from the bottom up to allow for much more interaction, openness and transparency.
I’d like to think that the data and content can sit anywhere but is managed from a single place….moving to facebook should not be a permanent option but “renting” or simply “having an enhanced presence” certainly seems sensible.