by Dan Slee
Golden bullets are great: shiny and powerful, they make you feel like you're bang in the middle of a James Bond film. The downside is, like 007 himself, they don't really exist no matter how much you really want them to.
So, here's a bit of digital iconoclasm. I don't think social media is a golden bullet. Not only that but pretending it is doesn't help anyone, least of all those pressing for change.
Social media is an increasingly powerful channel. Right now, not everyone is at home using it. People since the 1870s have had to get used to the telephone and we're still not really there. For me, there's a middle ground that involves talking to newspapers, using the web, using social media more, and even print when necessary.
Should we be obsessed by social media? Right now, we need to be sensibly obsessed. Think of how much time and effort local government up and down the UK spends servicing newspapers. Even with plummeting sales the local paper front page still commands attention.
Where I work in Walsall, in 2005 there were more than 20 people involved in the print media and four newspapers based in the town. Now, after rounds of cuts, there are no journalists based in the town and the number working to put the local news together has more than halved. That's a seismic shift, but one we need to communicate internally every day.
Plymouth-based GOSS has carried out a public sector social media survey. It found that only 63% said their organisation were using it, and just 60% had a policy on its use. Meanwhile, 67% said their own lack of skills was a worry to them, and a 46% pointed to restrictive IT regimes as a major barrier to using social media.
Worryingly, less than half of the public sector employers asked were using social media to gather feedback.
Last year, former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell spoke of how engaging with radio, TV and print does not guarantee airtime. "There's no such thing as dominating the news agenda anymore," he said. "The agenda is more chaotic but that's a good thing."
We need to recallibrate how we do things. For now, we need to be good at the old things while making ourselves busy doing more to learn the new ways of working. We need to obsess at how to create a range of good content across a range of platforms, not just be obsessed about social media.
Dan Slee is senior press officer at Walsall Council.