A Cautionary Note

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

After a useful day in the company of social media and business consultant Jan Minihane I spent the evening pondering on the pitfalls of social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan and it’s my job to convince colleagues that social media will rock their world. Here’s the thing, some public sector institutions don’t seem to understand the need to have a business head. Commercial practices like gathering customer intelligence, tracking devices in promotional material and making behavioural change the primary motive of business seem a little alien. And let’s not get started on listening to customers. With all that, my concern is that social media are adopted with our bad habits still intact and that Facebook pages and Twitter accounts become channels through which to magnify worst practice. Before sailing into the brave new world of social media it’s important to understand that it isn’t about the technology. Social media channels aren’t simply a tool, they represent a fundemental change in our culture.  They should force you to embrace the principles of social marketing and deploy crowdsourcing . Social media should challenge your organisation to take a long hard look at how it operates and the relationship it has with its customers. Because if they don’t do that then you aint doin’ it right.

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Talking About Facebook

If you use Facebook in your local authority you need to pay attention. Things are changing all the time and often without warning. The latest development is a real game changer if you see social media as a means of starting a conversation with customers that leads to genuine engagement and meaningful consultation. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at the left hand side of any of your Facebook pages. Just below the number of likes that you’re so proud of is a new stat. It’s called ‘People are talking about this’.

Likes are akin to hits on your web page, nice to see but if they don’t result in an action, they’re meaningless. Social media channels are intended for two-way conversation and talking about is the clearest indication that it’s working or more worryingly, that it isn’t. Like many authorities, we’ve prepared our social media strategies and policies but we’re moving on from that. We’re now working on digital engagement and digital marketing strategies. Every service should have one, seriously. Because if anyone finding your Facebook page sees 200 likes  of your page but only 3 people talking about it, the conversation is clearly happening somewhere else. There’s lots of good advice around to help get the conversation going and I’ll be posting a link to our approach soon. But I just thought I’d give you the heads up.