Thursday, 3 October 2013

Is Social Media an appropriate tool for Local Councils?

Vision ICT Blog 10/13

Welcome to the Vision ICT Blog.

Every month we will have a topic or issue that we will discuss, either to do with the company, related business or technology issues that affect YOU.

This month’s topic: Is Social Media an appropriate tool for Local Councils? written by Technical Director Daniel.
 Social Media is a powerful tool, there is no question, however, wherever there is power, there is also danger. As much as social media platforms can be used for good, they can instantly turn bad as well, which is why councils tend to be more hesitant towards embracing them.
The trouble is, there is no right or wrong decision, and there is no right or wrong way to use social media, the underlining rule is; there must be the resource behind it, if you choose to use it. If you decide to embrace social media, whether you are a council or a small private company, there is no point having it if you don’t respond and interact with it.
If councils do decide to use social media it is important to ensure there is time built in to go behind it to keep it ‘active’, then there are a few things they need to look out for.
Many councils are worried about losing levels of integrity and authority by joining platforms such as Twitter and Facebook due to the fun loving and joking nature behind them. However you could spin this problem it on it’s head and show more integrity by showing support of the younger generations and promoting it as a platform that they can come to and communicate their thoughts and ideas.
As beneficial as engaging with a younger audience can be, this is also where councils need to be most on the ball. With engagement and interaction, there is bound to be hostility, you must be prepared to accept the good with the bad. If you ignore the bad and only communicate with the good, the bad will only get worse, and this goes back to our first point about having the resource to manage the platforms. Your team need to be briefed on what is expected of them and how to manage angry or abusive comments, which unfortunately are quite inevitable.
Social media can be used to ask questions and gauge opinion. Surveys and questionnaires are quickly and easily filled out online, and by advertising them via social media could help increase levels of completion and therefore improve the validity of any studies that are conducted. Council team meetings can also be filmed and uploaded to these platforms to help generate a true sense of transparency and help your local residents feel more involved with the decisions you are making.
Overall, social media can be an effective tool for local councils, but you must be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly. People are more confident to share controversial opinions and ideas behind a computer screen than they are face to face, however if you actively show an interest in such opinions and try and respond to these people, you may in the long term, develop a greater sense of respect and understanding from your local residents. This is not textbook matter; sometimes you need to go with your instinct when it comes to what you share, but whatever your instinct is, you must believe in it, as you can’t go back on yourself once it’s been shared with the world wide web!
We hope you enjoyed this special edition of the Vision ICT blog.

Until next time, stay well!

Next month – Browsers and Issues