PSFbuzz: Facebook applications

Image credit: Steven Tuck

I had a remarkably fun time up in Manchester last week, chairing the Public Sector Forums event at Old Trafford about local government web 2.0 strategies.

There was a whole lot of Twitter action during the day, which you can take a look at in this Google Spreadsheet. The tweets and other social media bits were all pulled together on the PSFbuzz site.

Also on that site, you’ll find a whole bunch of video interviews which Liz Azyan took. Do have a look through – they are rough and ready in a true social reporter style, but really give a flavour for the day and how delegates responded to the event.

As well as chairing, I was presenting on the subject of Facebook and how Councils are using it, and putting some ideas forward as to how they could do it a bit better.

Effectively, my argument is that applications are a great way for public bodies to engage with people within social networks. The main advantage for me – and one that is particularly pertinent for Facebook – is one of vocabulary, because an application won’t demand that you become its friend, or fan.

I’m currently working up some specifications with a developer of Facebook apps to provide a hosted service for local authorities to have their own Facebook applications at a very reasonable price. If you’re interested in this, then please do get in touch.

4 thoughts on “PSFbuzz: Facebook applications”

  1. A thoroughly enjoyable event, so impressive the ease with which all the speakers got up and did their party pieces. I wasn’t bored once…and I will be attending some more of these as it was an invaluable way to network in an informal environment.

    I do worry that the digital divide in local govt is growing between those that get all of this “stuff” and those that don’t – so if you were there, make it your business to convert a few more when you get “back to the ranch” tomorrow.

  2. Hi Dave,

    I keep an eye on what you are doing in the public sector space, which is generally very good; but I have to speak up and say that I am really not convinced by an argument that LA’s should have pages and fans on Facebook.

    I suppose some Facebook presence is a necessary, probably very small part of an LA’s comms, but it seems very trivial compared to the bigger socialisation challenges they face such as:

    * changing their internal comms to be more responsive, less process driven and to promote more individual accountability and responsibility

    * supporting staff to allow them to have human-scale conversations with citizens, rather than hide behind pseudo-corporate systems

    * opening up data, docs, etc in forms that can make it easier to interact with the council

    * listening across the range of channels and responding where appropriate

    * engaging citizens through blogging, debate and explaining their mission and actions better

    etc

    For many people, FB is becoming a personal space, not a place to interact with corporations or local government. And the people who really hang out on Facebook, rather than just have a presence there, are probably the least badly served by LAs already in terms of access to information.

    Not saying it’s a bad thing to do at all (and well done to Barnet as you say!) but don’t they have bigger fish to fry?

  3. @Mary – pleased you enjoyed the day, I think everyone had a lot of fun. You are right that some might get left behind, but then I guess that has always been true about whatever new thing is scaring the life out of local gov people! It is, as you say, the role of everyone who ‘gets it’ to champion social web stuff in their authority and support others where they can.

    @Lee – thanks for stopping by, and for the faint praise 😉

    I agree there are bigger fish to fry, but also that you have to start *somewhere* and if dipping a toe in Facebook is the start of something bigger at any public body, then it has to be a good thing. One of my last slides says that one benefit of using Facebook apps is that it begins the process of widgitising Council information – I really do think that pages and fans are *not* the way to go!

    I also think there is a role for councils to provide information in the places that already are populated, for those that want it. Again, the apps seem to provide a good platform for this, being non-intrusive and not demanding an emotional commitment from the user.

    Finally, I suppose it is a point worth making that I was talking about Facebook only because PSF had asked me to – I’d personally start elsewhere myself as well!

  4. Where would you start, Dave?

    Like Lee, I’m sceptical of Facebook, but for different reasons. I feel that working to improve Facebook with applications is giving public money to the private sector. This is another type of “New Enclosure” with us all paying to take the commons of the Internet and give it to private owners.

    It’s not even a bit of the private sector which delivers much social benefit. They don’t really care about engagement or inclusion. You don’t have to go far to find a friend who has been banned from Facebook without so much as a by-your-leave. Anyone who has tried using Facebook’s fractured fan groups for community information much has probably had at least a written warning.

    The public sector needs to concentrating on “mining” Facebook and getting the citizens out of there and into the open space.

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