Social Media – our journey so far…

In some ways I am surprised by the amount of support and enthusiasm my colleagues  and peers in my council have shown in relation to social media and social networking, but at the same time i’m not surprised as i spent the best part of 8 months last year working and promoting the benefits to anyone who would listen and to many more who wouldn’t. But the hard work and determination has allowed other people’s creativity to flourish and i am starting to see lots of great ideas and innovative opportunities crop up within my council now and i am now looking forward to a year in which we will hopefully see some real change and transformation.

So i thought i would take stock and summarise the work and the areas my council has done or has started to work on in the areas of social media.

Corporate stuff

Policy review

Corporately we have taken a significant step forward by reviewing our internal internet usage policy and i have pulled together a draft policy for “social media and online participation”. This will facilitate staff to engage more with these tools and to understand their role and the responsibility whilst online.

Social Media Forum

To enable me to facilitate use of social media and to keep up to date with what was happening it was essential for me to set up an internal forum to share best practice, discuss new opportunities and to learn how to engage with the tools on a practical basis. We have a private facebook group with 18 members and the first meeting was focused on purpose, networking and promotion, the next meeting which will be the 3rd February will have practical demonstrations and how to use – twitter, rss and the IDeA’s Communities of Practice (slides and information provided by Steve Dale) and best practice examples from colleagues on current use. We have over 25 people due to attend the session in February and i am hoping this group will grow throughout the year.

Corporate Twitter Account

I set up a Devon County Council twitter account for the council which is fed by the rss feeds on our website. This is a simple step to take and one which easily demonstrates the publish once, use many concept. This has proved quite popular and as i write this we have 87 followers.

Staff Twitter accounts

To my current knowledge there are 14 staff in the council who have twitter accounts (listed below)I am in the process in researching if there are more, if i found out i will post them here.

DCC Twitterers (not all are constantly active)

  • Me
  • Sue Tylcoat – Solutions Development Manager @suety
  • Pete Morton – Enterprise Architect @podra
  • Sue Bicks – Enterprise Architect @subix
  • Russell Taylor – eComms @russ_t_uk
  • Martin Howitt – Enterprise Architect @mhowitt
  • Emma Jarvis ICT Programmes @emjarvis
  • Pip Tucker – Head of Strategic Intelligence @piptucker (private)
  • Richard Carter – Head of Business Transformation @rcarter (private)
  • Anna Matthews – National Management Trainee @localgovgrad
  • Lynda Bowler – Libraries Web Manager @lmbowler
  • Sarah Evans – Improvement Officer @sarahevans7
  • Katie Bacon – Youth Participation @katie_bacon
  • Shaun Carter  – Strategic Intelligence @Shaun32

In engaging with people either through presentations or just networking, i have promoted twitter, this is a tool which for a while i took a long time to get used to and didn’t really wonder how it could help, but after i started gaining followers and then followed more and more people, it started to prove its value and the networking and contacts i have gained through twitter and my blog are priceless and i look forward to meeting many of them at UKGovBarcamp09 in London and the end of January

Blue Kiwi Pilot

Last year we received a presentation from a company called blue kiwi who offer enterprise wide social software (there are of course others products available a google search will often provide many results). Anyway, once i saw the demo, i was hooked on the potential and was really keen to support a pilot. Fortunately my line manager (Sue Tylcoat – Solutions Development Manager @suety) was also keen and supported the idea. I contributed to a business case developed by a colleague (Sue Bicks – Enterprise Architect @subix) who also made the initial contact with Blue Kiwi and organised the demo, so i am grateful to them both in enabling this to come to the point where we are now in discussions to determine and agree the outcomes and deliverables of the pilot.

The potential of such a product is huge and is very difficult to measure and quantify making a business case difficult for all the things you know you want to see happen. However it does have real potential to reduce if not eliminate the need for internal email (over time that is) and really connect staff in ways they have never been able to with traditional intranet sites. The opportunity to see the knowledge grow and develop in front of your eyes in very exciting and i will be blogging on our experiences and lessons throughout the year

Youth Service – Youth Participation

This was really the starting point for all of the worek that has happened and will happen and recognition has to go to Katie Bacon – Youth Participation @katie_bacon for her tireless energy and enthusisam to get the social networking pilot off the ground. We had critical support from Tim Davies (who you must know by now). The work we have done in this area has led to us speaking at 2 conferences and i am involved in the LGIU Children’s Services Network – Action Learning Set.

We have also had visible and practical support from our Chief Executive (Phil Norrey) who did a 2 minute video about the importance of new technology in our engagement with young people.

Library Service

I blogged recently about our library service and how much they want to do, and if they achieve only half of what they are planning they will be leading the way in council in terms of innovative use of social media approaches and tools. I gave a presentation to their management team last year and there is now a half day session planned with about 15 key staff in libraries to develop a plan of action. Some of the areas of work i include below, but will blog more after the session.

  1. using Facebook or another Social Networking site to encourage and facilitate people getting folk involved with Exeter’s new library
  2. making better use of Flickr to share images in the Local Studies collection.
  3. subscribing to The Reading Agency’s GroupThing – Social Networking based creative writing/reading site for young people
  4. further developing People’s Network Enquire – by exploring real-time ‘Virtual Libarians’

All of the above has been incredible and the staff who are involved in these projects deserve huge credit themselves.


Increasing my lessons learned

This is actually my first post of 2009 and this is partly due to being on leave up to the 12th January which was great and enabled me to get some additional rest.

I went through my blog whilst i was on leave as part of my first 6 month review and looked at how it had evolved and how i have developed my learning and understanding.

Personal learning and reflection was one of my initial motivations for this blog. So with that in mind i am intending on posting more experiences on what i have learnt and how i will use the learning in the following 4 areas:

  1. Customers
  2. Colleagues
  3. Organisation
  4. Personal development

So for my first post on this i offer a simple experience , i recently applied for a job (closing date was last Friday) and as you usually do, i wrote a supporting statement, which as a line manager who recruited staff i was keen to ensure that my statement actually demonstrated that i met the essential and desirable criteria.  This i found was something people didn’t do well and it often frustrated me as a manager because you were looking too hard for evidence that someone actually had that skills or competence.

My final supporting statement was 12 pages (The job description and person spec was 24 pages, so i was happy with the 12). What i learnt from the experience as i haven’t actually applied for a job in over 5 years now was that we should always keep our CV’s up to date and the process of going through a supporting statement is something we should do at least once a year.

In fact i think the appraisal process should focus on the original person specification and job description and at once a year you should go through and build up a list of examples where you have demonstrated delivering your job. This can also lead to the identification of personal development opportunities which you may not have thought of during a normal appraisal process.

I have already identified a number of personal development opportunities and behaviour changes that i am now going to start working on because of that process.

Changing the subject now….

I am in the process of arranging the 2nd internal social media forum session, and this time it is going to be more practical as the first one was introductions, purpose and networking. I’d thought i would share the agenda for information purposes

The agenda

  • Twitter demonstration and discussion around business applications
  • What is RSS and how can it help you (Listening)
  • Good practice for setting up any online account (pictures, username, links to other sites etc)
  • IDEA’s Communities of Practice – how it can help collaboration

The group has a private facebook group to collaborate and discuss issues and post interesting links etc, which is useful and for most is popular, some are still struggling with facebook i think…

We are also in the process of finalising the outcomes and approach for a pilot implementaion of blue kiwi social software. I am very excited about this and will blog more on the over the next few weeks and months.

Enterprise Social Networks….does “social” put people off

Yesterday i attended a very interesting demo of some enterprise social networking software, the company who provided the demo is called blue kiwi. It was very slick, offered some very simple but effective functionality and works well with Sharepoint which is useful as we are going to be moving in that direction in the very near future.  BUT and i don’t like “buts”, it does create a problem for itself, by using the word “social”. I believe that there is a huge task ahead in terms of culture change to get the view that social networking is not something that was invented, it has been around since man/woman first grouped together, we are simply making it easier with technology.

(disclaimer – There are other companies who also provide these functions, if interested you could try google or wikipedia.)

I came to a conclusion that fundamentally corporate intranets should be exactly that – corporate social networks.   After all how much work gets done through social interaction, if you can provide a better, simpler and clearer mechanism to enable this to happen across a whole organisation then you (i believe) can increase productivity.

A few years ago my council created a programme document for the development of our corporate intranet, which was only taken to the first implementation phase (move into a Content Management System). It also contained some great context information about the non cash-able savings around reducing time staff spend searching for and asking questions which are common or repeat questions.

There are tools which do support this kind of function, knowledge bases, FAQ’s etc, but none of them offer or provide the social conversations that support them.  BUT this document was created only a little while after social networks were created on the wider Internet so no real attention was paid to them as offering business benefits or business functionality. There is still some debate about how social networking sites can really support business and in particular local government but for me the web has changed so much and so quickly that the wealth of information itself makes people want to share, create more and engage in conversations with people they were never able to speak to before the social web existed.

It does seem to me that social networking in a corporate environment makes so much sense that it in fact scares poeple to accept that it is a critical business tool.

I believe would could learn so much, just by dipping our toes in and piloting some tools. I believe that by connecting people in this kind of way, innovation, ideas and progress happens faster and more fluid.

I shall continue to raise awareness in this area within my council and will support any moves to pilot such approaches.  I can try and influence further by including this explicit functionality as part of a intranet strategy as well as linking to the devon online concept which enables us to start conversations with the public. That i believe will truely spark real business transformation.