Thoughts on – Why local authorities should be on facebook

At the recent PSF Web 2.0 event in Manchester Dave Briggs gave a great presentation on why local authorities should be on facebook.

Since then i have been thinking about about some of the points that Dave highlighted and i’d like to share my thoughts here.

First here is the presentation Dave gave at the event.

What struck me was the how Dave illustrated a very simple concept and it didn’t really click until he spoke about the language used in Facebook.

  • Profiles have friends
  • Groups have members
  • Pages have fans

This simple distinction is the most important thing to understand if you want to start looking at how facebook can support your organisation.

My view here has been to encourage as many people as possible to join “personally” and to start to build their own networks and reconnect or connect to friends.  That way they will start to understand what it means to be in facebook and what it feels like to look at status updates and receive messages from friends or add friends as well as managing their privacy setting etc.

The next two are where we could make mistakes and fall down or we could offer value.

I would suggest that in most cases (in my humble opinion) we should be creating “groups” for more proactive connections with people and “pages” for soft promotion and signposting.

I would suggest this approach for the simple reason that if we want to engage with people to to encourage people to engage with us, we need to do this in the context of a group (common interest or campaign) and this needs to recognise that groups need to be facilitated and managed to some degree in order to keep focus and to clearly communicate what the purpose of the group is and feedback when things have happened.

The advantages of “pages”, although i wouldn’t personally expect too many friends of “councils” as this would in Dave’s words “kill your street cred” is that you can use it as a signposting for the groups that you do have in these spaces.

This maybe a pointless exercise for some, but i firmly believe that a page which provides good signposting, reuses existing content, reaches an audience previously unreached and enables them to get in touch via a group or issue they doc are about is worth the investment of time. You may not get many friends but the few who do link through may realise you can offer some form of new engagement opportunity.

HOWEVER, the trick and this is where we need to think hard, how do we manage the “page” to provide a good effective signposting function. That is something we need to try and we also need to have groups that we have helped support or have decided to create and manage to provide opportunities for participation.

One last thought is, we should all try this and share what works more, as social networking spaces are valuable places, but we are not all (in the public sector) convinced about how, why and when we should do it.

Personally i will be encouraging colleagues along the path outlined above and will share any lessons learned along teh way.


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on – Why local authorities should be on facebook

  1. I found this post helpful through its tripartite distinctions:
    * Profiles have friends
    * Groups have members
    * Pages have fans

    As a small town manager I see FB as my first ripest opportunity to help get my council connected. It’s where a lot of town folk hang out.

    Thanks for the tips!


  2. Hi Carl,

    Interesting thoughts – esp like your distinction about how to use groups vs pages – think that’s a good valid concept.

    And I definitely agree with the need to share best practice and experience – as I seem to say most days at the moment, there’s no textbook approach to this, and social media’s changing fast – which are probably two of the reasons why local government can find it a challenging place to be!


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