I do a fair bit of training on digital engagement to public sector bodies up and down the country and most of the time it means very different things to very different people.
To some, it means running a corporate Twitter account or Facebook page – which, of course, it does.
To others it means teams delivering services making use of digital tools to engage with service users, to improve the quality of the service being provided – which, of course, it does.
To another group, it means bringing social technology into the organisation, to improve the way people work, learn and generally get stuff done – which, of course, it does.
Then there are those to whom it means an approach to consultation on a particular decision, policy, campaign or project – which, of course, it does.
So all of these things, and a fair few others as well, are a part of what digital engagement means. Often the trouble is that they aren’t always considered by those looking to implement digital engagement.
So, if people bring me in to deliver some training on this, it’s usually because they have one of the above things in mind.
Rarely do they want to take a step back and put into place a kind of framework so that everything that digital engagement can mean can happen, in a sensible and well-governed way.
In other words, setting up and maintaining corporate Twitter and Facebook presences matter and are important. Equally important, however, is the use by people in service delivery roles, and indeed the other forms of engagement I mention above.
One shouldn’t preclude the others, and nor should they necessarily take precedence over others.
So what does this mean for organisations wanting to start to engage digitally?
As part of the book I’m still writing, I’ve broken digital engagement down into three main elements which should be considered by anyone undertaking some digital engagement work.
The first is strategy – whether organisation-wide, within a team or teams, partnership working with other organisations or even as an individuals. External or internal is another strategic consideration.
The second is tools and techniques, which includes the big platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but also non platform-centric stuff like blogs, email newsletters, web chats, crowdsourcing, mapping and so on.
Finally there are the skills such as curation, community management, social reporting, user centred design approaches etc.
Overall, organisations need to take an approach where:
- Every piece of work undertaken is encouraged to have a digital element unless there’s a good reason not to
- Anyone within the organisation can make use of a documented suite of digital tools and techniques to support this
- A policy sets out people’s responsibilities and what they ought to be doing
- Training is provided to fill in skills gaps
It just seems a shame to me when so much effort is put into working out how just one part of an organisation can make effective use of digital tools. Building a framework that the whole organisation can use strikes me as a much better use of time.