“If the government does social media but no one cares, did it really happen?”

This morning I read a blog post by Mark Drapeau that neatly said in a very eloquent way lots of things I have been thinking but failing to express very well for a long time.

Please go and read the original article entitled Government Social Media: Five Questions for 2011. I couldn’t resist reproducing a few of my favourite quotes here (including the title of this blog post) to discuss further.

If the government does social media but no one cares, did it really happen? If you’re in government and interested in social media, ask: could a citizen with and interest in your agency’s work name a single employee from the agency? If not, your agency has failed at social media usage at some level. It is no longer useful to merely have stood up a Twitter account and a YouTube channel, published a moderate amount of medium-quality content, and checked off the social media box on the annual scorecard. People want to talk to people about interesting and useful things…. everything else is noise.

The bold in the quote is mine for emphasis. Actually I don’t entirely agree with Mark’s focus on naming individuals. There are good reasons for anonymity which I have talked about on this blog ad nausea, but the key point about social media needing to present a human face and needing to engage people about useful and interesting stuff is really critical. I wonder how many agencies actually start a comms strategy by considering what people are actually interested in rather than what messages they want to get out there?

Virtually all government social media channels and online sites, from Twitter accounts to YouTube channels to mobile apps to data sets to contest websites, are organized around agencies and not topics.

True! When I go online to talk about issues with the train system I don’t care if I’m talking to the NSW Government, the ARTC or the Federal Government – I want them all to listen and I only want to say it once. We have some way to go on this front though this idea gets my head buzzing with possibilities.

…….it is hard to point to how this ties back to average citizens and what they care about…………Ultimately, that is how social media in government, Gov 2.0, open government and related topics will provide value. Or they will fade away as an elite fad.

This is so so true of Australia at the moment. The Gov 2.0 advocates (and I am one of them) are at real risk of applauding initiatives just for being Gov 2.0. We think it’s great and want to encourage it. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone stand up and say ‘but why is that interesting?’ ‘why aren’t you asking people about the real questions’ ‘why do we always have to talk about what the bureaucracy wants to talk about’. You get the idea. We should get more critical about this otherwise best practice will not emerge. This trend – Gov 2.0 (and what a dreadfully elitist bit of jargon that is) – is being driven by an educated and policy engaged group who are very far from representative of the wider population. The trend will stop being a trend and start being part of our social fabric when things that are interesting (which often means tangible and local) are discussed on sites that are easy to use (not the latest fandangled widget) and where policy makers are listening and engaging.

I’m glad to get that off my chest!

Social Media For Community Engagement

Photo Credit: opensource.com

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