Closing the Social Media Gap

In a previous post about social media and councillors, @Annemcx picked up on the issue I highlighted which was about the increasing gap that is emerging between those people who are actively using social media platforms and those who have yet to dip their toe in the water so to speak.

Anne’s comment states:

The one thing that’s striking me more and more, and which you hint at in your opening sentence, is just how large the gap between those that have adopted social media, and those that haven’t yet, is getting.

I’ve faced the same conundrum you have, i.e. how to begin to cover the breadth and depth of knowledge that’s accumulating and keep it digestible to those who haven’t yet accessed and begun to find their way around social media.

Even with a basic familiarity of the tools, the finding of one’s social voice isn’t something that happens overnight. These are previously untaught skills and people need safe sandboxes in which to fully experiment, especially perhaps within the public sector.

I feel that in the public sector (and anywhere actually) anyone who is actively using social media has a “duty” to ensure that you do not move too far ahead of your own culture but in fact are part of changing your culture or you risk becoming so isolated that I suspect you would end up leaving feeling frustrated and actually do the organisation more harm than good.

My personal view is that if you are using social media and you personally get value from it then you don’t have an obligation to do anything. However if like me you are using social media for professional purposes then it is your obligation and your “duty” to ensure that your organisation and the people in it are at least on the same journey or moving in the same direction…

I’ve been using social media pro-actively for work purpose since 2008 and have gained huge value and I believe I can demonstrate value to the organisation as well through the development of the social media policy, web strategy, personal learning and development (i.e. training and development), access to learning materials, good practice from other councils and organisations, the list can go on….

One thing I’ve constantly done in that time is not to “over sell or even over state” the tools that I use, but to try to demonstrate practically what value it can provide for people and the organisation itself….I always come back to my first rule  “Don’t focus on the technology”.

I believe this is an individual journey and one which can involve battling issues of self-confidence to express yourself in digital ways, not everyone is comfortable with this in a global platform.

This whole issue came home to me at the session for councillors when I had to create a session which focused on the opportunity, challenge, whilst also allowing people to accept this new communications and engagement environment – believe it or not, this is NEW to so many people…

Sometimes however it is about reminding them of the things they do which don’t involve technology and allowing them the space to understand the similarities and – time-saving not time-wasting – opportunities.




A Social Media Session with Councillors

Last week I facilitated a short workshop for Councillors here in Devon on Social Media – It was pre-introductory, in that if I tried to provide any less detail I wouldn’t have actually said anything 🙂

Out of the 62 councillors we have 20 attended which I was very pleased with, I’m not sure if it was my session or that it was scheduled at a convenient time or that tea/coffee was provided – whatever the reason, people came and stayed until the very end of the session, for which i’m grateful.

I was scheduled for 30 minutes, I used 20 minutes for a presentation, which included a 5 minute video and then left about 10 minutes for questions or discussion. However I was very surprised in that the questions went on for 40 minutes and the whole session went on for an hour – plus all councillors stayed for the entire time  (the whole 1 hour) and were engaged in discussion and asking good “practical” questions.

The session went down well according to the councillors who came up to me afterwards and gave some feedback, although for some it was still too techy in places….not sure what else I could have done differently to ensure I accommodated for all but we live and learn.

The general attitude was that they were all very curious but also very cautious about the whole thing – questions around “how do you find the time”, “how do you set this up”, “what tech do I need to get started” meant that the discussions and questions were varied and focused on the real practical aspects of using social media…No one asked “So why should we do this? which was great, the overall selling job wasn’t needed for the 20 who attended….now for the other 42 🙂

I’ve offered to facilitate some more specific sessions around “how to set up a Facebook page”,  “how to set up a twitter account”  and “how to set up a blog” as this was the level they really focused on….

Some felt that there was a barrier in actually setting these things up and once you did you were suddenly bombarded with requests for information or dialogue which they felt would be hard to manage – I suggested that they simply state the amount of time they can dedicate in the platform, for example in Facebook, say that you will proactively check 3-4 times a week and if appropriate hold a weekly “topic” for discussion…in twitter use the bio to say will respond to tweet within x hours or days whatever they feel is manageable, that way they are open, honest and managing expectations whilst they learn how to use the platform.

This maybe isn’t the best way to use the platforms, but it can be daunting using them and I’d personally rather seem them take baby steps which are supported by those that connect with them then they receive negative feedback because they aren’t responding in 30 minutes…

A few questions, thoughts and observations from the session which I’d value comments on  from other….

  • How have other councils and councillors dealt with the “perceived” conflict with a press office function?
  • There is actually a huge amount of awareness raising still to do not just with members but with the variety staff who support them in allowing them to understand the implications and opportunities social media can provide.
  • This is obvious but the existing culture is so polar opposite to allowing social media to just be embraced, we need to find productive and constructive ways to challenge the culture and foster new ways of working and operating.
  • Getting people to focus on risks and highlighting where stuff has gone badly wrong is not always healthy, but people must understand that managing and mitigating risks is critical to achieving success.
  • You can’t support members without at least a plan around training and development for staff at the same time.
  • We need to develop a “Digital Passport” training programme which supports members and staff to feel confident to use these tools and feel supported by the organisational frameworks and guidance that exists or needs to be developed.
  • Sometimes people just want to feel reassured that this is possible and that simple steps actually work and can open doors to new things.
  • Never ever assume that someone knows what you are talking about, even if you say things like “smart phone” or “mobile device”….you will need to show things to people – I shows the councillors – iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, all capable of social media…
  • Understand your regions connectivity challenges, questions were asked about which mobile phone network was best in Devon..
  • All things said and done, the session was an excellent first step on a long journey, I’m just grateful to other councils who have pioneered this work as it gives me something to show and experiences to share. Thank you

I’ve included the presentation below, the video doesn’t play as I’m not sure how you actually get a video which is embedded to play within Slideshare (any tips on this welcome).

Its always been about collaboration

A collection of thoughts went through my mind when I scanned this presentation on slideshare…

My first set of thoughts focused on a set of products and or tools, two  in particular popped into my mind:

NB: There are other tools and products available, but these were two which were on my mind at the time of thinking.

Both tools clearly have a primary focus, but in the context of progressing towards Collaborative Enterprises, which is moving beyond Social Business. They have a common purpose – provide tools which equip the organisation with components to progress towards being a Collaborative Enterprise.

My second set of thoughts were about how the skills of collaboration are fostered in society.  My children who are aged 6 and 4 and both in school are always talking about how they worked with their friends or other classes (or even other schools) to deliver a class project.

So collaboration is an essential part of education and learning – that isn’t really news, but it is interesting because when you arrive in work, in most cases, your collaboration opportunities are reduced and you are restricted to poor channels of collaboration and are even forced into particular processes which do not resemble anything you have previously encountered.

My third set of thoughts were about how the progress made on all things social is merely a short-term distraction on our way toward Collaborative Enterprises.

In my experience within Local Government, the word “Social” is often counter productive and I have always preferred the term Business networking instead of social networking – semantics, I know, but it is important. However what we really need to get right is how the collaborative processes of the organisation are either supporting of hindering progress with social tools, that will be the best place to start if you wish to change your organisation.

The word “social” is over used in a lot of terms now and I’m not personally convinced that everyone using it, understands what the implications and impact is – it is also complicated by terms like social business, as this could sound similar to social enterprise, in terms of meaning but this is a completely different context.

My final set of thoughts were about how the presentation misses one key component that I believe any collaborative enterprise will possess and understand and that is Gamification. There are huge opportunities to bring together the skills and approaches of games into the design and architectures of organisations to create truly Collaborative Enterprises.  This is still a new area of thinking for me, but it is something I want to explore more of in the coming months and years.


I’m worried about the Social Media Folk in Localgov

A tweet from @psfnick earlier today…!/psfnick/status/55562018400382976

…got me thinking about people across the public sector and beyond who are really passionate about exploring social media in their organisations but don’t seem to have much support in terms of access to relevant sites or support from management in general.

Well, I’m worried for the social media folk in Local government and beyond, I’d like to briefly explain why and offer some generic tips.

If as an employee you are keen to explore how social media can help your council or organisation and you currently struggle with access in work or access is simply blocked , then I’d like to suggest some do’s and don’ts and words of support:


  • Do be clear about why you want access and what you want access to and find out why access is not allowed?
  • Do talk to your ICT and Information Security colleague(s) (they maybe the same person) and explain what you are trying to achieve and how enabling access can help your organisation.
  • Do manage expectations at all levels – if your manager has asked you to do this – be clear about what you can and can’t do in the current situation and explain as best possible what you could do differently with open access. If access is limited to particular times of day – ensure that you are communicating this in your profile or bio to manage expectations.
  • Do try to build your own personal understanding of the opportunities by using your own time and personal equipment to “listen” to the conversations and then periodically report back the types of issues the organisation is missing out on.
  • Do use the time you do have to build a stronger business case.
  • Do be clear about who is actually sponsoring the work or task and report regularly to that person on some basic measures and metrics.
  • Do take other people with you on the journey.
  • Do connect with others (online and offline) and share learning.


  • Don’t demand access as  a critical part of your role, this will simply create additional friction and is likely to reduce your chances of getting access over time.
  • Don’t start using your own time and personal equipment to “respond” to enquiries and issues in social media – if your organisation isn’t supporting you  – you are putting yourself at risk.
  • Don’t assume that there isn’t any risk to your organisations network, unless you are clear about the impact of allowing access on other business systems then it could be a legitimate reason (for now). Some sites do pose additional risks.
  • Don’t get disheartened that your neighbouring council or organisation is embracing social media. Your journey is unique to your own organisation.
  • Don’t think this is easy to solve.

There are lots more I could say, but these are the more generic things I would say, each situation is unique. But i am more than happy to chat.

Hope this is helpful