I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts about how local government can start to embrace Social Media.
Rule Number One:
Don’t focus on the technology, technology itself doesn’t do anything, their is a saying that we use in my council “there is no such thing as an IT project, their are only business projects”. The key message here is YOU need to focus on business problems and issues and if social media tools are part of the solution then great. But don’t force social media where it isn’t needed or wanted. To put it another way, try using a social media tool that offers you no value for me something like friendfeed is that tool, i don’t get it or understand it, so i don’t use it, at this point in time it doesn’t solve any problem i have.
Step One: Listen:
A simple but yet fundamental concept in social media terms and one which is often overlooked, but in my opinion should be the first thing on any ones list of social media steps.
There are many tools you can use for this, Twitter, Google Alerts, RSS etc, find one that fits your need and use it and start listening to the conversations that are happening about your organisation right now.
Step Two: Identify:
In my opinion why try to reinvent communities online that already exist. One of the benefits of listening is that you can start to identify communities which exist that are related or talking about your organisation.
It is important to try and ascertain what the group or communities purpose is and why your role might be, if any at all..The main benefit is that you have now identified a new or multiple communities of interest.
Step Three: Participate:
Starting to participate to one step that requires some thought and should not be approached without have a clear purpose as to why you would want to participate in a community. What value will you add and or will your approach just be to understand how you can develop a relationship with the new community.
Step Four: Empower:
This is something that local government needs to understand and appreciate that this requires letting go, relinquishing control to communities to create or co-create content with you as an organisation. It is also about allowing staff across organisations to manage the relationships with the communities they link with. After all they understand what the issues are and how the organisation might be able to help solve those problems
Step Five: Engage:
It my view this is the the step most people focus on and this is the step that disengages people in the organisation as it is scary. This requires real thought and a clear focus on what you want to achieve and how the online approach will fit into the existing channels of engagement. Again look at Rule One – focus on the problem and understand what people need to do, then you’ll understand locally how these tools can support your approach.
Step Six: Nurture:
This is less about social media and more about culture and leadership, but is in my opinion the most important step. As local authorities we need to be able support, encourage, recognise and acknowledge that communities will come together on their own, but we can do more to support this. We can nurture communities to use tools (resources of all kinds) to support the development of their own relationships and we can provide recognition that these communities are valued and acknowledged in our business planning processes.
We want to avoid online town councils and nurture online community cafe’s where people discuss local issues.
We need to be able to allow our communities to gain a true sense of ownership, after all they pay for us.