A message to the secret council officer

I just came across a great piece in the Guardian from an anonymous council officer who talks about how overly cautious social media policies do more harm than good for local government. Here are extracts but it’s worth reading it in full over at the Guardian website.

When it comes to communications, local government knows how to talk the talk … But when it comes to social media – an essential communication tool, and the medium of choice for so many younger people – local government is still in the dark ages.

In my experience, many of those making the decisions about social media have never used it. They have stereotypically negative views about online debate, focusing on the perceived dangers and obscuring the benefits.

Today many of us carry the internet in our jacket pocket. We expect to be able to contact friends, send a text, or passively scan Facebook or Twitter updates or post our own – actions which take only fractions of seconds but can have a huge impact.

Social media is not just an online “hangout”. It is a way of life for a generation, yet its use in local government is so often controlled by those who underestimate its power.

For local government to use social media effectively, officers at all levels need to have their own personal experience of using it as part of their job. They should embrace the challenge to be able to explain their role using just 140 characters.

There are so many good points here. I’m lucky enough to work in an authority that has an approach of curiosity and excitement at the potential of what social media can do for the people we serve. I totally agree that policy-makers and professionals would do well to start using social media, if only because it informs their decisions but mainly because it offers them an amazing network of professional interest and inspiration.

In Monmouthshire, where I work, we opened access to social media to all our staff in January 2011 and – yes, we’ve made mistakes and no, we’re not using it for maximum effect yet. But we see social media as an important business tool and we’re enjoying finding our way.

I hope that the culture in all councils will sway towards the more curious attitude – to the secret council officer: with people like you fighting the corner I think it’ll be sooner rather than later.

by elvis_payne

[Photo by elvis_payne]

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