Good social media advice for elected members has never been more important to help democracy work better. So we are proud to announce that we have helped draw-up a handy download with the Scottish Improvement Service and National Communications Group. You can find it here. Here is the thinking behind it.
By Val Millar and Kristoffer Boesen
Like, favourite, share, post, reach, follow, tag, pin, scope, quote, tweet, snap! Some of us are at it all the time – for others it’s all a bit of a mystery.
Social media is buzzing with a scary amount of challenge and opportunity, especially if it’s your job to represent the views and needs of others. Local councillors up and down the country are under pressure to join the social revolution, and it’s a tough call for many.
Our mission as professional communicators, should we wish to accept it, is to help make sense of it and support people into this brave new social world in ways that benefit the communities we’re all here to serve.
Scotland is no different, but facing the prospect of creating 32 individual council policies, multiple guides and endless individual solutions – and all the headaches that brings – we decided to do the radical thing and work together. Communication professionals from across Scotland’s 32 councils were coming together with colleagues from the Improvement Service and Comms2Point0 to create a great new resource: #FollowMe – A guide to social media for elected members in Scotland.
It’s pretty big stuff
Scottish adults are spending nearly 20 hours online every week. One in five say they’re ‘hooked’ on social media and 80% visit their accounts every day. And it looks pretty similar across the UK.
As you know too, the world and the way we get news and information is constantly changing. This affects how Councillors communicate as well and they are having to reach out to constituents in new ways. Traditional news outlets don’t have the reach or depth of local news many people are looking for. But social media isn’t just bridging a gap, the many channels that make up ‘social media’, are creating an altogether new communication infrastructure for society. It’s pretty big stuff.
Why, oh why?
Some councillors are avoiding it. Some know they need to jump in, but aren’t sure how. Others are up and running and using it to great local effect. But for most…it’s unfamiliar ground, daunting and at times a paralysing task.
Communication teams across Scotland were being asked the same questions. “Must I?”, “What’s the benefit?”, “How do I start?”, “Who can help me?” “Isn’t’ it too risky?”. Trying to answer individually in our respective councils was time consuming and, on occasions, we were coming up with different answers.
What we needed was common ground. The 5.4 million people of Scotland that we serve together might well live in a council area but in their social media worlds there were no such boundaries. Online experience isn’t restricted by geography and if we want to build a consistent positive reputation for local government in the digital world, we need to think differently and in a more networked way.
Our response to that challenge is #FollowMe. It is a first step guide to social media for councillors. It covers the basics of why it matters, how it works and what you need to do to get involved.
And, for communicators, it helps us give councillors good quality, consistent and endorsed advice right across the country.
Open new doors to win the big prizes
Initially it was just about the basics. Getting a good starter guide in place that explained the why, how, and where to get started with social media – rather than getting bogged down in the detail of individual platforms. And, creating a guide that comms teams could use for reference too. #FollowMe does just that.
But the benefit is wider. The way we (as people) communicate, and who we trust is changing. If councils and public services are to stay connected, they’re going to have to change too. Social media is (for now) one of the main routes into local communities and the key to building some great one-to-one relationships and a new more modern kind of community relations. Trust is key. Social media opens a door that could help local government build a new kind of trust across communities – but it demands new thinking, openness, flexibility, informality, honesty, and a good doze of bravery.
And, what does all this mean for us as comms professionals? Social media opens up a much wider debate. One that focuses on the future of local government communications and our role within it as ‘multi-disciplinary specialists’. Many communication leads are fast becoming the go-to-people for not just strategic comms , marketing and community engagement – but aspects of culture change, organisational development, customer contact, user-experience, data and insight, service re-design and more.
It’s a brave new world indeed.
And, a great opportunity - social media is just the tip of the iceberg…
#FollowMe has been published jointly by the National Communications Advisory Group (Scotland) – the group that brings together communication professionals from all 32 councils - and the Improvement Service for local gover
nment in Scotland, in partnership with the creative communication specialists at comms2point0.
Val Millar is Communications and Customer Insight Manager at Fife Council, and the project lead on behalf of the National Communications Advisory Group (Scotland). @millar_val email@example.com and Kristoffer Boesen is Media & Communications Officer at the Improvement Service. @OnkelGobber firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture credit: Alexandre Duluandre / Flickr