James Gilbert: Does size matter when being social?

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James Gilbert is a Communications Manager at East Lindsey District Council

Social media was massive at this year's Academy in Nottingham and it certainly made me think further about the benefits sites such as Facebook and Twitter can have in helping us to better engage local people and understand and manage issues facing our organisations.

Gone are the days of our residents waiting for the local newspaper office or our Call Centre to open at 8.45am to make a complaint about overflowing bins.  Our residents are now logging straight on to their favourite networking site and writing a blog to broadcast to the world the fact that their Council failed to empty the bin on their street.

Social media is 24/7/365 and accounts for 12% of all web use in the UK

The scale might be scary but it can't be ignored.  Most of us can't afford to employ people to purely monitor our organisation's online footprint but I think a compromise has to be found.  For those who don't do it already, I would strongly recommend to you at least monitoring online issues as a core part of the job. We need to know what's being said about us and this 'from the horse's mouth' approach provides a useful insight into our services from the people we serve.  It's also a new opportunity for us to have conversations about the issues that matter directly with our residents in an arena they are comfortable with.

At the time of writing this blog East Lindsey District Council has 286 Facebook friends and 478 Twitter followers.  We have a population of 140,000, so although the take up isn't significant in terms of numbers for us, we've made a conscious effort to ensure we're linked in with key opinion formers in our community so we know what they're saying about us but also to create an opportunity for them to further broadcast our messages through their own channels.  We can also respond to the issues they're raising and pass the intelligence we pick up back to our services.

A partnership between LGCommunications and CrowdControlHQ has resulted in the first Social Media Guidelines for the Public Sector - a document that I would urge you to read and digest before getting too carried away with the Social Media obsession.  

Not only does it highlight some of the issues you may face and provide examples of best practice, it also includes a matrix to help you decide whether or not to respond online to comments made.

Take a look at these helpful links:

Stephen Barker's whistle stop tour of social media 

Social Media Handbook

Posted on 6th June 2011

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