I attended the session by Liz Azyan and Simon Hume at Socitm09 on social media – which was ostensibly about the blocking of social networking sites in the workplace but which was also a general discussion around the benefits of this new way of working.
As a follow up, a brief discussion took place on Twitter last night around how senior management can be engaged and convinced of the necessity of using this technology. Carl Haggerty at Devon County Council always points to the fact that he got his Chief Exec on board early on, and the role this played in getting adoption throughout the organisation.
Various web tools were discussed, then I rather grumpily responded:
I would say that if you want to engage senior m’ment on a large scale, you’re unlikely to succeed with any web tool
Which sounds very negative, but wasn’t really meant to be so – my point was more that there are more effective ways of going about things. Basically, you have to talk to them.
Get a spot on a meeting agenda, and make the most out of the time you have, by focusing on what you can achieve. Don’t go into detail about how to set up a blog, or how to tag a link in Delicious. Instead, focus your energy on whipping up some enthusiasm, and inspiring a bit of curiosity.
Also, focus on what the benefits are for them, and for their organisation. Don’t make the mistake of putting all this stuff into a box marked ‘web’ or ‘communications’. Make it clear that this is less about marketing and a whole lot more about forging a new relationship between the organisation and citizens, or customers.
In other words, before you even mention technology, make sure you have some idea of what the point of all this is. For local government, this is about opening councils to conversations between authorities and the people, businesses and organisations it serves. It’s about bringing together communications, customer service and service design into one iterative process, each one informing the other. It’s about local government choosing the right delivery method for each service it provides, whether doing it itself, getting a social enterprise involved or handing it over to the private sector. It’s about government at all levels taking a more forward thinking attitude to its information assets and making them available to those who can do useful things with them.
The web, and social media, is just a means to an end, after all. Anyone who tells any organisation that they are golden if they just start a blog, or twitter account, is doing that organisation a massive disservice. At best the web, social or otherwise, is an enabler to a bigger change and one that benefits everyone.
Because, of course, websites don’t change the world, people do.