Archive for the ‘ social media ’ Category

The importance of conversing and knowing when to let go

Its been a busy last week or so, away from my day job and participating in what is effectively a peer review of others’ work.

During that time I have made a couple of observations that I thought would be worth sharing.

First, I was spent a good few hours at Policy Unplugged‘s excellent summer party last week (thanks for the invite Steve!) where I was able to hook up with a few bloggers whose postings I regularly read, some of whom I hadn’t actually met before. The opportunity to speak together rather than correspond via comments or emails was instructive: these are people whose thoughts I follow avidly but, they are individuals who just happen to have built up a following by virtue of the medium they share their thoughts through.

It brought home to me the importance of dialogue. As government begins to come to terms with social media its important we webbies remember, and promote to our superiors, the real benefits – creating and sustaining conversations with real people rather than broadcasting via corporate websites. Whilst there is a place for the latter, it is the former that can create real opportunities.

Second, the programme I was helping to review is creating a new organisation (as the result of legislative change) that will launch at the beginning of October. Both groups of people making it all happen, the team administering the programme and the team managing the new organisation, are excellent, high calibre people who have done a great job.

But as handover approaches it is clear that is difficult for those who have been involved in running the programme over the last few years to let go of ‘their’ baby. Equally, the team running the new organisation resent the interference of their ‘parents’ as they chomp at the bit to get one with making their plans reality.

Its a natural and understandable situation they find themselves in. I’m equally sure it will all work out fine once the handover is complete.

But there are also parallels to my work. It is easy to mistrust others to produce the goods in the way you think they should be done. But that is missing the value that individuals bring to solving problems. Whilst its important to create a framework and set expectations in online communications, control in a user generated environment is pretty much impossible. You have to trust users to produce in the way that they think is best.

Striking the balance between organisational, corporate messaging and meaningful conversational engagement is a tall order for any organisation, not just government. But that is the real challenge.

Do you use social media tools for staff engagement?

Some of the obvious benefits for an organisation deploying social media tools are using them internally – making it easier for co-workers to collaborate, share and communicate.

There are plenty of good examples around. Not least across government where internal wikis and blogs are pretty common place – though there is a lack of consistency in their application. Just like the real world, some organisations get it, and others haven’t quite woken up to the opportunities yet.

The benefits of internal wikis and blogs are obvious. But what about using other social media tools. How about replacing the online staff directory with a Facebook / LinkedIn type application? (maybe MySpace is one example too far in this context).

Our own staff directory is creaking and high maintenance to update – hand coded html pages that can only be searched using the browser find function. Not very user friendly. Our friends in the IT department have been working on a database driven replacement for a while now with some success.

But the raging success of the civil service group on Facebook (13,365 members and counting) makes me wonder, shouldn’t we stop trying to build tools from scratch when users are more than happy using the far more flexible functionality of social networking tools to create profiles, connect with like minded people etc?

The opportunity to join or create groups related to your business area, professional interests, technical specialism, social activities etc is very compelling.

Jeremiah Owyang published a list of social networking platforms that organisations can deploy to create new communities a while back. Has anybody got experience of actually implementing something like this across an intranet? Love to know your experiences. Anyone got thoughts on the viability of this? Is it simply a case of plugging a few boxes into the network and designing a web front end?

Of course, the obvious  answer would be to just give everyone access to Facebookto et al and allow the communities to find themselves. But that’s not feasible at the moment for a host of reason. However a social media platform deployed across the government secure intranet (GSI) that would let all civil servants greater networking opportunities would be nice. The current GSI directory ain’t much cop either…

civil servants love Facebook

It seems you can’t move without falling over media love-ins about Facebook recently. Both user numbers and column inches (what’s the online equivalent – page impressions?) have grown exponentially in very short period of time.

I personally wasn’t too taken with Facebook to begin with, I’m not alone. I joined out of curiosity as when they opened up registration to non-students. But it seems that I am a bit too old to appreciate it – nobody I went to college with is on there. It was a bit of a disappointment for me and I am sure that my (considerably) younger sister in law was only feeling sorry for me when she invited me to be her ‘friend’ after my discovery. Continue reading

Jeremiah Owyang: Why corporate websites are irrelevant

Jeremiah writes a great blog called Web Strategy, its an excellent read and relevant for anyone working in digital media – though the slant is of course around the commercial world rather than egovernment.

Today Jeremiah has written a great piece about why organisations need to think much wider than their own corporate websites. This is something that I have been banging on about in conversations with colleagues for some time – in the context of the government website rationalisation initiative, and my work on how government could use social media to interact better with its customers – this article is straight on the money.

A couple of quick extracts: Continue reading

Online consultation – parliament takes a lead

Back from a few days rest, away from work stuff, to good news from the Hansard Society – parliament has launched an online consultation website to support the work of select committees. This is the result of a great deal of effort from the Hansard Society over a number of years (some of the background can be found here).

Online consultation across government is patchy and this development should set a good example to the rest of us to up our game. But there are a number of problems with this: Continue reading

Digital communication isn’t about websites

Went to an interesting session today, where GCN and the Henley Centre were presenting their second report on media and communication trends. You may remember the first iteration of this research did the rounds around government about 18 months ago.

My recollection of the first report was that it was full of fascinating stuff but there was so much to take in it was almost impossible to know where to start. This time it was different – slicker, more digestible and seemingly more authoritative because it had the baseline from 18 months ago to compare against.

One clear message this time is the rise of social media and the implications of this for government. The audience, who were mainly heads of marketing or similar, were alert to this and there was some lively discussion afterwards about the implications of all this for them.

Some of the points made included: Continue reading

Why don’t civil servants blog?

One of the reasons I started writing here was to talk about some the issues I have been exploring as part of the Cabinet Office’s social media review.

Briefly, the review is examining how government currently makes use of social media, what the opportunities are and what role government should or could play in social media.

Creating an environment of permission in which civil servants can operate is a tricky one for government, there are few examples of Continue reading

The wonderful world of web 2.0

I was lucky enough to hear both Paul Kaplan and Mark McGuinness speak at an event last week (organised by CreateKX – thanks!) about the power of social media generally, and blogging in particular.

Paul spoke on a similar theme recently for GCN and once again his enthusiasm for the possibilities of the medium shone through. He’s also consulted for some government departments and agencies on the subject so you may be familiar with his work.

I hadn’t seen Mark speak before, though I had come across his blog. He gave a positive, but importantly measured, talk about how blogging has built his reputation and business.

They’re both worth listening to if you get the chance.

Mark has posted up a whole page of resources on his blog – slides from his presentation, must read books, on blogging, links to good examples of blogging, link to an article about the legal implications of blogging, and a good explanation of what RSS is all about. Well worth a read if you want to get some background info to all this stuff.

Paul has posted up his slides too together with a podcast of his talk.

Playing the engagement game

I’ve been following David Wilcox‘s work for some time and was lucky enough to be invited along to workshop yesterday where we got to play with the engagement game that David has been developing with Drew Mackie.

The game is designed to help organisations design engagement projects by focusing on objectives / rationale and stakeholder groups and then matching the appropriate communication methods. The game has changed a lot over the last year from early versions I saw on David’s blog – there is now no board which requires a bit more thought from workshop participants and there is a real focus on developing the story of the issue and the proposed (hoped for?) progress of the engagement programme.

I can see how the game would have real application within government, as well as outside, in helping policy teams to understand the importance of designing engagement programmes strategically and considering all possible options before they go diving in.

In particular, the inclusion of many social media methods into the game was instructive – not least because it teaches participants that none of this is an add on and that all activity requires resource, commitment and time.