This week I had the opportunity to present to senior managers in my organisation (a local authority) to explain what social media is, how it is affecting us and why we need to develop a social media strategy. The key message of the presentation was:
“People are having conversations about us online, but we are not part of those conversations.”
For me this was a great opportunity to get buy-in from the very top of the organisation to the development of a social media strategy. We already have a project underway to develop a social media framework (strategy, policy, guidelines and tools) which has arisen as a result of demand from services and growing awareness of the usage of social media tools by citizens.
My presentation included a definition of social media and some statistics about social media growth and usage, to show it is not just a fad. I pulled together statistics from Mashable, E-consultancy and Socialnomics.
To demonstrate the popularity of social media, as compared to traditional printed media, I included a pie chart similar to this one:
The chart compares the readership of our main local newspaper (sourced from JICREG), registered users of a popular local discussion forum (sourced from the site’s own published statistics) and people with a Facebook account within 25 miles of two major local towns. This is clearly not an exact science, as I have no idea how many registered site users are actively reading or contributing. The Facebook statistics were identified by creating an advert on Facebook (but not actually putting it live) as explained by Carl Haggerty.
I defined the type of conversations that were going on as broadly related to:
The presentation then included various screenshots of different ‘conversations’ about the Council from local online communities and forums, social networking sites like Facebook and niche online communities like Mumsnet. I also introduced some of MySociety’s e-democracy tools like Fix My Street, What Do They Know and Number 10 Petitions and some creative examples of user generated content about Council services on Google Maps and Wikipedia.
I anticipated some of the questions I might be asked, so pre-prepared a ‘crib sheet’ of questions and answers. I did quite a bit of research beforehand and pilfered plenty of useful tips from Social by Social (check out my recent review). The section I found most useful was the initial chapter and a link to a collection of tips on selling social media to your organisation. I also had some helpful tips from my Twitter friends.
Inevitably there were some unexpected questions from the floor, which I have also included below. Please feel free to re-use any of this if it’s useful.
Why should we be bothered?
How do we control what people say? How we will govern social media?
What if people criticise us, or behave in a way they wouldn’t offline?
When and how should we get involved?
How are we going to resource this?
How will we cope with the volume of service requests which might be generated via social media in the current financial situation?
Is it safe? What about vulnerable groups (e.g. children, young people, vulnerable adults)?
Will some people be digitally excluded?
Will it cost the earth to train and develop our staff? How do we manage the culture change?
How does online activity transfer to offline?
How do we ensure our staff all speak with the same corporate voice?
In case you were wondering, the presentation was well received, despite the fact I revealed some uncomfortable truths about the shift in emphasis from broadcast to user generated media, and potential impact on local government. The big question was “how exactly do we get involved?”. I’ll be working on this thorny issue with colleagues over the next few months, so will keep you updated.
This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.