Six approaches for social media adoption – 3. reflect

First of all, I’ve been really enthused by the interest so far in this short series of posts. Its always gratifying to see some evidence that people are actually taking notice of what I write. But in this case its particularly helpful – I’m throwing out some ideas and really relying on feedback to improve the model so that it can be of use to others.

So, onto approach three, reflect.

When I was kicking these ideas around eighteen months or so ago there was much less awareness of social media in government than there is now. Consequently there was understandable nervousness about active participation. I was trying to identify low risk options that would demonstrate the value of social media to officials.

Reflect in this particular instance means acknowledgement. A step on from simply listening, it means identifying network(s), activities/conversations or communities of interest, then raising their profile by giving them recognition. I guess a good example would be the number of times that Netmums has been mentioned by and across government in the last year or so.

Its not necessarily about granting legitimacy but simply demonstrating that government is taking notice and listening. Government is able to demonstrate that it is ‘switched on’ to wider public opinion. Hopefully this action can encourage future debate and response from people by the acknowledgement that their views will be recognised.

Of course there are some potential drawbacks to this approach:

  • Its not active engagement in debate
  • Activists may not appreciate being associated with government
  • Can unwittingly give legitimacy to groups that government wouldn’t wish to confer it on

On the other hand it can help to create a positive environment with activists / groups for future engagement and/or collaboration.

Importantly, this approach needs to be careful to give balanced recognition to parties with different or opposing views.

There is no real cost over and above the listening approach but the key here is that acknowledgement requires better embedding of using listening tools with policymakers – those who might advise ministers or draft speaking notes, letters etc. It won’t work if it isn’t close to the people developing the thinking about a particular issue.

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  1. This is where social bookmarking can really help. Tools like Delicious are one of the lesser known tools in the social media toolkit but potentially the ones with the greatest value to policy people.

    For example, NESTA use social bookmarking to share links within the team and then the fortnightly list is the basis for an external newsletter for interested stakeholders – brilliantly simple. Also, of course there’s the example of your own Governance of Britain and our Science and Society site where we’ve used shared bookmarks to signpost people to the online debate. You’re right that the success factor is how closely the policy team take ownership of it – we haven’t got there yet here for both technical and skills reasons.

    • andrewlewin
    • August 20th, 2008

    I prefer ‘acknowledgment’ to ‘reflect’ (which to my mind is an implicit and explicit part of ‘listening’ in any case). Or maybe – if you’re looking at a spectrum of approaches – we’re talking about “offline interaction” or “indirect interaction” for this stage?

    While this approach was a strong one 18 months ago, it may now be the most counter-productive. You can take a definite stand and completely ignore social media, or you can engage with it, but there’s less patience for people half-in, half-out these days I suspect.

    Love that suggestion of social bookmarking -> external newsletter, Steph. That gives me some ideas to try out. Thanks!

  2. Hmm, I think that reflection does involve a great deal more cost over and above simply listening, not in terms of technology or time per se but rather the fundamental shift in mindset required!

  3. @Mark – that’s a great point. It is fundamentally about culture change which is a whole ‘nuther ball game.

  1. August 20th, 2008
  2. August 25th, 2008

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