Socitm Public Sector Social Media Report

Failure to harness the social media trend is “tantamount to ignoring the telephone at the end of the 19th Century.”

As reported earlier, Socitm has published a report on the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook within local government and services, warning that many were failing to see the potential applications within their respective organisations.

Fuller analysis of the report includes feedback from 57 respondents from across local government, such as unitary authorities and borough councils, as well as a small number of fire and rescue services.

One of the defining conclusions of the report is the argument that social media could be “instrumental in shaping organisations as commerce emerges from recession, and the public sector struggles to cope with its severest test in living memory.”

Despite this, around 90% of respondents revealed some level of restrictions were in place to prevent employees to access social media in the workplace, with 67% confirming a total ban on its use. The top reason for applying such a policy is security, with two-thirds of respondents citing it as a concern. The report counters the argument however, pointing out that whilst security risks do pose a threat “they are as manageable as security risks from any other activity involving access to the internet.”

Perhaps inevitably, another major reason to control the use of social media in the workplace is the perceived time-wasting. 64% of respondents aired the concern, but in a damning statement the report suggests productivity volumes is a management issue, and not a technology problem: “Managers should know what their team is producing, and be able to judge whether that output meets reasonable expectations. If they cannot do so, it speaks volumes about their managerial ability. This is not a technology problem, but ICT managers must be ready to rebut the assertion, and point out the real managerial issue.”

The report calls for CIOs and heads of ICT to “provoke discussion and inform the debate” about how best to use social media as tools for citizen engagement and reputation management. The variety of ways social media is used across the country’s local governments is highlighted throughout the report, countering the belief amongst some local authorities that social media didn’t have applications within their organisations. Service delivery and the ability to communicate achievements to the community, is one of the mainstay applications of social media for any organisation.

For instance, Somerset County Council use Twitter as a way to inform parents what school meals are available at the county’s schools; East Renfrewshire Council keep a Facebook page to keep its citizens up to date with the latest leisure activities news; Newcastle City Council’s Twitter feed has been ranked as one of the popular council accounts in the country, and uses it to inform people of everything from school closures to a live feed of election results.

The report also disregards claims that social media use is hampered by a lack of resources, claiming such an argument is “hardly tenable.” It points to the district council at Stratford on Avon, which the reports describe as being at “the vanguard of social media adoption.” The ‘modest’ council harnesses a number of tools, such as Twitter and image sharing site Flickr, to engage with the community – and one look at its website reflects its proactive approach to communication and social media as a whole. Socitm argues that rather than a lack of resources, “It is more likely that managers do not understand the opportunity, and are therefore unwilling to allocate resources to invest in social media.”

The report starkly issues a warning to local authorities that, “Failure to engage with the [social media] trend is tantamount to ignoring the telephone at the end of the 19th Century.”

The public sector will face a tough test of budget cuts in the coming months, and as such will have to become increasingly more inventive. Socitm adds that, “Whilst the full picture of hollowed-out public service organisations will only emerge over time, we can be sure that ICT will play a crucial role in the design. However, the impact of social media is so broadly spread across the organisation that it is essential to take a comprehensive and coordinated approach to adoption. In short, the organisation needs a social media strategy.”

It concludes, that a shift in attitude will have to take place amongst authorities lagging behind the social media curve, and that local public sector organisations should relax restrictions on employee access to such tools, adding: “By monitoring the topic and joining some of the relevant social media channels, CIOs and heads of ICT can provoke discussion and inform the debate about how to tackle the challenges. For traditionalists, it demands a new outlook. It will not be easy for some.”

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Is it beneficial to be LinkedIn or not?

Found an interesting article from the local government blog…

Thousands of people are using social networking website LinkedIn to make contacts. But can the service really benefit your career and business?

Most people have heard of LinkedIn, but do you know what it is and how it can help you with your business?

First, define what it is – LinkedIn is a professional networking group whose purpose is to provide its members a way to search for new contacts, jobs and opportunities.

Your individual network consists of your immediate connections, and two further levels of people with links to any of your contacts. This means that your searchable network can expand very quickly.

Just to highlight the power of this network, I currently have around 325 connections and my total network is over 6 million people!

When you start on LinkedIn, you need to build a profile of yourself, what you do, who you work for etc. This is like an online CV builder, and if you are serious about using the site, you need to spend some time getting this right and keeping it updated.

People can find you by searching so it is worth putting a smattering of keywords across your profile that reflect your key skills, products or services.

It is worth spending some time filling your profile out fully, because you never know who can find you online – business contact, ex-colleagues, prospects and even potential employees.

One of the biggest mistakes people make after joining LinkedIn is sitting back and wait for something to happen. Any form of networking whether offline or online, needs you to be pro-active to grow your network.

The difference with LinkedIn is that it makes this very easy for you to do. My key phrase with regards to this and other social networking sites is a simple one – you only get out of it what you put into it!

How to build you network

Here are my top 10 ways to grow your LinkedIn network:
1. Take out your business card collection, or if you’re organised use your Contacts in Outlook, or even on your PDA or Blackberry. Go through each one and do a quick search on LinkedIn, and if you find them there, send them an invite using the relevant page. Make sure you personalise the emails. There is nothing worse than boring template emails!
2. Think of people you have worked with during your career, and if you can find them link to them. They may have gone to the same school, college or university, or you may have worked with them at current or previous organisations. You will be surprised at how many of these people are on LinkedIn.

3. Each time you get a request to join a network, either accept it or archive it. Do not choose the ‘I don’t know this person’ as once a person gets five of these their account is frozen, and you could then be responsible for having them removed! My advice in the beginning would be to accept all requests to link up.

4. Get into the habit of being a ‘name magpie’. Each time you think of people you haven’t yet linked to write them down somewhere safe. Next time you are online, go searching on LinkedIn and as before, when you find them, link to them. It is also a great way of finding what people have been up to since you last met.

5. If you do find someone in your network who you would like to connect to but don’t have an email address for, then you can still contact them. Request an introduction through someone in your network that is connected to the person you want to connect to (if there are multiple connections here, you can even choose which introducer to use!). Just make sure you explain succinctly why you want to be introduced, as the introducer does have the power of veto.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask current colleagues, ex-colleagues, business partners etc for recommendations. They do help in building your profile further, but my advice is to only seek recommendations from people that you would recommend yourself!

7. Regularly go through the connections of all your first level contacts. They are also expanding their networks, and it is likely you will find mutual contacts that you will be able to link to.

8. Connect with power networkers or ‘hubs’ in your industry. These are the people who have thousands of contacts and are usually only too pleased to link with others. They are often referred to as ‘open networkers’ and most have their email address in their profile.

Don’t be shy with these people; they are motivated by expanding their networks. When you next do a search for someone, sort the search by connections (drop down box), and you will find them.

9. The Advanced Search is key to getting the most out of LinkedIn, get used to using it – you will reap the benefits.

10. Tell everyone about LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is a great tool, and one that I firmly advocate using it. From a recruitment perspective, I use it as a regular high quality source of prospective candidates, and from a development perspective you get the chance to do some ‘homework’ on your business prospects.

When you get used to using LinkedIn, it will become second nature to you, and you will find yourself ‘checking out’ every potential contact you deal with before you meet them!

How to Twitter in Local Government

PINGBACK FROM PUBLIC SECTOR FORUMS…

If your council’s thinking about taking the plunge with the social networking tool Twitter, Stuart Harrison, alias Lichfield District Council’s Webmaster, gives some helpful and practical advice on getting started with this new platform. For more from Stuart, visit his personal blog atwww.pezholio.co.uk and follow him on Twitter at @pezholio.

Since my council got a bit of coverage for our usage of Twitter for planning applications, both in thespecialist press andSOCITM’s Better Connected report, I’ve received a few calls from other councils who haven’t yet got on the Twitter train asking for a bit of advice.
Therefore, in the spirit of sharing, and, being a sharing caring kind of a guy anyway, I thought I’d stick some of the advice I’ve already given up here too. Feel free to share some of your experiences (or tell me I’m completely wrong and a massive idiot) in the comments section as well.Posting your tweets
Twitter is about so much more than just the main Twitter website, in fact, most people who use Twitter on a regular basis barely touch the main Twitter site. They use a combination of tools, from widgets on start pages (such asNetvibes), to Desktop clients (such asTwhirl andTweetdeck) and mobile applications (such asTwitterfon on the iPhone andTwitterberry on the Blackberry.
There are also other sites that let you tweet from them and offer a wide range of extra features that the main Twitter site does not. Our council useHootsuite which, as well as giving multiple usernames for one Twitter account (which avoids the risk of giving the password to the main account away to many people), also lets you track the amount of clicks a link you send gets, which is useful if you want to measure the success of your twittering.Feed your account
As well as tools for live tweeting, you can also automate your tweets. If your site has anRSS feed, you can use a tool likeTwitterfeed to automatically post a tweet every time that feed is updated. For example, if you have a news RSS feed, every time a news article is added to the site, Twitterfeed sends out a tweet. This is the process we used forTwitterfeed to automatically post a tweet every time that feed is updated. For example, if you have a news RSS feed, every time a news article is added to the site, Twitterfeed sends out a tweet. This is the process we used for@ldcplanning for planning applications. Also, if you have multiple RSS feeds (say, for jobs, planning applications, events etc), you can add those, differentiating between them with a prefix (i.e. ‘New job:’’or ‘New events:’)
Now, a little health warning here, this really shouldn’t be your only method of using Twitter, it’s all about conversation, and if you’re only broadcasting messages, then really, you’re not using Twitter to its full potential.Following and being followed
Following is at the heart of Twitter, every time you follow someone, you’ll be able to see their updates when you log into Twitter. Every time you get a new follower, you’ll receive an email letting you know that they are following you, you can then check out their profile, and take a view on whether you want to follow back. Generally it’s considered good manners to follow back regardless, but personally, I only follow back if the person who is following me seems like they might have something interesting to say.
I used to take a similar selective approach with the council account, only following people who were from the local area, but when you get a number of followers every day, that can be time consuming.
I now use a tool calledTweetlater, which automates this process for you, every time someone follows you, you automatically follow back. You can also opt to send them an automated direct message (a personal message only they can see), but most people I’ve encountered on Twitter (including me) find them irritating and intrusive, so, unless you’ve got a very good reason for doing this, erm, don’t!Search
Twitter really comes into its own when the search comes into play.search.twitter.comallows you to search across the Twitterverse in real time for things that people are tweeting about.
This can prove to be really valuable, as many councils have found out, for example, if you search for your council name and find someone is complaining about the council, you can take a proactive approach and offer to sort out their problem via @ reply. If they give you more information, you can contact them by direct message, sort out their problem and hey presto! a hacked-off resident becomes an engaged resident, who will hopefully go off and tell all their friends how great your council are (that’s the theory anyway!)
Now, obviously, as a council, you’re not going to be monitoring Twitter 24/7, so there’s a couple of ways that you can make this process easier. Firstly, you can monitor a search, either by subscribing to a search’s RSS feed or usingTweetgrid, which allows you to ‘follow’ searches.
You can also subscribe to a nifty service (called, handily enough,Replies), which sends you an email every time someone sends you an @ reply. Again, this makes monitoring Twitter just that little bit easier.
Phew! And I think that’s about it! I’ve learnt a lot about Twitter since setting up@ldcplanning in August of last year, and, really, I’m still learning. It might seem a lot to take in, but once you get into it, it’s really not that difficult. There’s also a great,helpful community of local government people on Twitter, so dive in, follow some people and if you’ve got any questions, just ask!
Also, for a bit of a wider view of Twitter, check out@bounder’s guide toGetting Started with Twitter, which gives an overview of Twitter from a less local government-y bent.