Recently the Local Government Association produced a sort of kite mark for councils wishing to proclaim themselves social media friendly. My first reaction was “That’s good. This is big stuff. Glad to see they’re taking this seriously.”
But my second reaction was “What does that even mean?”
My third reaction was to read the guidance and then to be even more puzzled still.
- Any local authority can use the mark.
- It is being implemented via a trust system that expects local authorities using the mark to believe in its ethos; ie are committed to the use of social media.
and from the press release:
The mark can be affixed to websites, meeting agendas and the other publications, letters and pamphlets councils send to residents, to advise people of their local authority’s commitment to social media reporting. It can also indicate the availability of wi-fi in public buildings for live tweeting, blogging and taking and uploading photos.
This feels dreadfully gimmicky. I’ve got nothing against a good gimmick; it’s eye-catching and a powerful communication tool. But I suspect that no ‘social media friendly’ mark on a website is nearly as powerful as having these far more familiar marks on your webpage or literature.
And frankly – anyone who’s digital savvy at all doesn’t really need permission to Tweet or take pictures in a public space.
Perhaps more importantly, a social media friendly mark should be a sign that a council really is social media friendly.
Here’s how you’d know:
From the outside:
- Social media is used in a friendly and engaging way. It’s not just a broadcast from the Town Hall, but a space for communication between council and citizen.
- The council takes all digital interaction seriously. From paying council tax to reporting complaints to finding out about local events and resources, there are easy low-friction ways to engage with the council online.
- There’s some actual evidence that the council wants to hear from citizens through social platforms. Maybe they’re using a cool deliberation tool for real policy co-production or maybe they’re using local digital images for citizens
- There isn’t just one way to access the council through social platforms. But you can engage directly with the services you use and each has a different and suitable feel.
- Paper literature, posters, etc have URLs and social accounts where you can follow up or get more information.
From the inside:
- Social media sites aren’t blocked for employees or at least there is a generally permissive approach with clear guidelines about who can and can’t access social sites from work for work as part of clear, simple social media policy.
- There is a federated approach to communications. It isn’t solely owned by a Comms team, but the Comms team supports and oversees social media communications.
- Social tools are used for internal communications. The intranet isn’t simply some software but an approach to sharing knowledge and information between teams and individuals.
- Managerial and political leaders demonstrate that they hear and respond to what staff and the public communicate to them through social media.
- There’s a clear digital communications strategy and services and staff know where they fit in it.
But well done LGA for encouraging councils to think about what it means to be social media friendly and encouraging the debate. Recent campaigns like #ourday encouraging people who work in councils to share their day through Twitter gives me some hope that this may be more than a gimmick.