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.



  1. Jon

    Great post (and not because I get a mention). I spend a lot of time with clients ensuring that their internal communications and values/vision etc are on track before launching into social media otherwise you’re right, social media can serve as a megaphone for those areas that aren;t working well internally.

    The fact that you even recognise it means you’re way ahead of the curve!

  2. Hi Jon

    Exciting isn’t it? I’m sure what you say is true for local authorities but it’s also true for lots of other organisations. Digital technology is disruptive because it is effectively a power distribution mechanism. Organisations that currently hold power through capital, state authority or force will neccessarily find this challenging. It is administratively inconvenient. It is messy. But it is a morally desirable outcome.

    And it invites a reframing of how those organisations think of themselves. Local authorities are governed by elected officials. Does that make them legitimate and accountable institutions? Or is this just a work in progress towards properly accountable institutions?

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