Social Media points the way for Corporate Website Development

I have had a draft web strategy written for some time now as i need to finish off a few extra bits which will hopefully complete the picture. One of these areas is the technical architecture required to deliver the desired outcomes.

In looking into this and speaking to several of my more knowledgeable ICT colleagues on this topic it occurred to me that what we really want to do is to follow the social media approach. I’ll try to explain what i mean and include some pictures to help me.

Firstly, it is worth trying to explain what i believe the future is for local government websites and online service delivery. I must stress this is my view and does not reflect the views of my employer.

Social media is allowing us to see how people prefer to use the Internet and what features, functions and opportunities they prefer to have available to them, as well as the seamless use across multiple platforms and browsers for example, PC, notebook, PDA, Mobile, iPhone etc and this will in my view increase.

What is also interesting when seeing what social media offers is that most if not all of what it does is allow people to select and dictate the relevance of the content and services delivered to a given browser.  It is also coupled with the fact that people are also at the same time connecting with other people and allowing information to flow through their networks.

So social media is providing choice, relevance and connections, if you throw in the trend of local and hyper local and in a local government sense the drive toward Total Place. I see a model where corporate websites are essentially delivering packages of “information and services” into the wider Internet community or even social networks. This would essentially allow people to participate in particular topics, based on their preferred community.

So a “package” could be a specific service on its own or a collection of other services based on a geographic or specific community (see end of post for community types).

For example I live in Exeter, so there could be a “Exeter” package which would contain a set of services (Not just local government services) but a set of relevant location focused services. Part of the personalisation of that package could be my specific postcode and therefore a more local neighbourhood context (hyper-local). Or i may just be interested in service such as transport, which would allow me to access the travel to work information based on my preferences (think of the google maps (from here to there scenario) and the information would be displayed based on those parameters.

As a user i would simply select the services within that package which were relevant to me at any given time. For example i would select the following and then have the opportunity to display a combination of or all of the sub services within the package:

Service based packages

  • Schools (location, for admissions, term times, governor info, school news and access to my child’s school performance data etc)
  • Transport (location, for public transport info, roadworks, travel information, car tax,)
  • Environment (location, planning, waste collection, recycling, graffiti, fly tipping etc)
  • Health (location, local dentist, GP’s, pharmacies,  NHS direct etc)

Alternatively you could deliver geographic based packages

  • Exeter
  • Newton Abbot
  • Barnstaple

These might be presented in the style of widgets or gadgets, an example of how this might work on a website or even within a social network application is on the BBC website – The key thing is to allow and facilitate a deeper level of customisation within that widget itself – the only thing the BBC widget doesn’t facilitate which would be essential is mapping function which would allow you specify your geography (travel to work, school run etc)

BBC News Widget
BBC News Widget

This essentially combines local and national information within a single package. This would require everyone to develop in such a way that allowed mashups and web services with information related to the following community types.

The types of communities that we need to understand in terms of matching services and information to are in my opinion the following:

  • Community of place are people who are bound together because of where they reside, work, visit or otherwise spend a continuous portion of their time.
  • Community of interest are people who share a common interest, pastime or passion.
  • Community of circumstance – is driven by position, circumstance or life experiences rather than a shared interest. An example could be a Cancer sufferers support group.
  • Community of position – is distinguished from a community of practice community in that it tends to be more personally focused. This community is built around life stages (such as teenage years, university/college student years, marriage, or parenthood) provide individuals with the opportunity to build relationships with others during that particular phase of their lives.
  • Community of practice – refers to the process of social learning that occurs and shared sociocultural practices that emerge and evolve when people who have common goals interact as they strive towards those goals.
  • Community of purpose – people who are going through the same process or are trying to achieve a similar objective. Such communities serve a functional purpose, smoothing the path of the member for a limited period surrounding a given activity. For example community’s purpose revolves around allowing people to accomplish something they want or need to do whether it’s buying something, selling something, fixing something, dating, or the like.

What i believe is that the increasing complexity of people’s lives is being amplified with social media in such as way that the most important things we as information and service providers need to think about is how we manage and classify our content in such as way that whatever the situation, whatever the search, the right content appears and is delivered to a user. If that means it is joined together with another organisations to give context or to give it additional purpose then we need to facilitate that.

This will no doubt require a change in architecture for some councils towards a more flexible Internet service delivery framework.  This type of framework essentially provides the opportunity to allow a councils content and its services to be delivered to a presentation layer (combination of html, mobile and ditv) as well as to other platforms such as facebook, twitter, iphone app store.

This isn’t rocket science and it certainly isn’t new but in the context of social media it allows us to provide relevant content and services not through pages and groups or friends but through applications which allow a greater deal of interaction directly with us as a service provider.

Internet Service Delivery Framework
Internet Service Delivery Framework

The future looks very exciting from a user perspective and very scary from a local government web team perspective, however it certainly looks like it going to be a lot of fun getting there.

Social Media – A Framework for Business Usage

I have started work on developing a framework for business usage of social media which follows on from the policy and strategy work i have been looking at.

This is a FIRST DRAFT and should be treated as such and is an attempt to tackle some of the issue relating to business usage. I would welcome any comments or observations and you are also welcome to adapt it yourself (please reference and link back)

This post should ideally be read as one of a package of posts relating to social media strategy and policy in local government (although not restricted to local government).

Introduction

Over the past few years, social media has cemented its place in many people’s daily lives, at home, in the office or on the move. The opportunity now exists for the council to expand its online reach and presence beyond its own corporate website and into online social spaces and networks and utilise the flexibility and scalability of the sites and tools that exist.

However an unco-ordinated and unstructured approach to our communications, marketing and engagement in these spaces will increase frustration from users and customers and could if left unmanaged potentially damage the authorities reputation.

This framework is intended to guide services and staff and to facilitate a co-ordinated approach.

The Framework

The framework is divided into 4 layers of usage and each layer has a specific set of requirements that services and staff must adhere to if they wish to use these sites for official business.

Rules of usage

  • the corporate identity and branding of the organisation must be followed at all times.
  • use of additional logos/marketing materials must be approved.
  • all staff must adhere to the social media and online participation policy and guidelines.

Level 1 – Broadcast

Definition – To re-use existing content via RSS, or to provide simple conversational updates.

Requirement – Complete the “Social Media Business Usage” form (to be designed), specifying which level of the framework, the social media site used, type of information broadcast, business contact.

Notes – This will allow [corporate communications/marketing/corporate webteam] to collect, co-ordinate and monitor the wider social media presence of the authority.  In turn this will then be promoted via the corporate website on the relevant [social media] webpage.

Level 2 – Consult

Definition – To facilitate structured feedback using appropriate tools such as surveys, blogs, video and podcasts etc.

Requirement – Complete the “Social Media Business Usage” form, specifying which level of the framework, the social media site used, topic/theme of consultation, business contact. In addition information must be passed to [Corporate Consultation] to be collected and input into Consultation Finder.

Notes – This will maintain the existing role of [Corporate Consultation] to co-ordinate and maintain a single view of all consultations/surveys across the authority.

Level 3 – Participate

Definition – Where the officer role already specifies direct contact or participation with members of the public or service users (example Youth Worker/Youth Participation Worker) (a full list of accepted job roles would need to be developed).

Requirement – Complete the “Social Media Business Usage” form, specifying which level of the framework, the social media site used, business area, business contact. In addition to this the officer/line manager must complete a [Risk Assessment] and seek approval from their line manager (who also needs to sign the risk assessment). Following the risk assessment appropriate officer details must be published on the corporate website and be linked via the chosen social media site to provide validation and security around the identify of that officer.

Notes – This would provide additional validation for services users and will allow staff the added flexibility of maintaining contact across a wide rural area without the need to constantly travel. This will also enable service users to communicate at time which are convenient to them.

Level 4 – Engage

Definition – Where the council requires a formal discussion and debate with individuals/communities/groups on one or more topics.

Requirement – Complete the “Social Media Business Usage” form, specifying which level of the framework, the social media site used, business area, topic of discussion, business contact. In addition to this and if appropriate which County Councillor is involved, the Senior Officer responsible for the subject area, whether the press or media are invited/involved.

Notes – It will be important to reuse existing protocols for offline engagement, specifically which officers/members have the authority to speak on behalf of the council on the given subject.