Those who know me will be aware that I am a big supporter of social media in the Public Sector. I have piloted public engagement via Facebook for Neighbourhood Policing Teams in Lincolnshire Police – check out Bracebridge Heath’s page for an example. I am often on Twitter(@jiiiii) promoting various police and public sector issues, especially around the Big Society, butI think that we have only just scratched the surface so far. Big things like location based services (think Foursquare for local public services) enhanced reality, social provision of services etc are all awaiting people cleverer than me to exploit them.
One particular area that I think has been neglected is internal use of social media – using a Facebook/Twitter style approach inside organisations. I presented recently at the ACPO Policing 2.0 conference on this, and there has been a significant amount of interest. The principle boils down to this: Social media allows people to connect with your brand or organisation in a dynamic two way conversation. This is A GOOD THING because it gives people a real voice in issues, and gives organisations real time feedback on how they are doing. If this is accepted (and I know that for lots of people still this is not accepted) then why is the same not true within organisations?
Most organisations (including my own until recently) communicated with staff mainly in a one-way ‘press release’ style. Where there is two-way communication it is reserved for special issues (focus groups and employee surveys) and individual comments are hidden from others (e-mail replies etc). A social media approach allows people to both reply to special issues and deal with the larger strategic issues, but also to share good practice, ideas, concerns and insights into the smaller everyday issues. Critically the open nature of social media means that the debate is open to all who follow it, and all can join in and hopefully improve the eventual outcome.
This was brought home to me today by a tweet from @keneastwood who proposed a similar social media support network for public sector workers at risk in the current financial climate. He has established a site here which is in its early stages but is a really good example of using the social media approach to improve outcomes.
Much of the use of Yammer (the tool we use in Lincolnshire) has been mundane, low level issues – people asking for help, finding out who else is working on an issue, and posting links to useful information. That is how it should be, and it ensures a viable lively community of users, all with a common set of aims and interests around improving the organisation. Hopefully Ken’s public sector site will achieve the same things for the public sector at large.
Social Media is potentially a real game changer – just keep watching initiatives like this to see how large an impact it may have – exciting times!