Barrier vaulting – for an organisation to use social media

Sometimes we can be a bit hard on managers. They’re under fire from all sides when all they want to do is a good job. So, let’s cut them some slack. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes and think of why they would say no to social media. Once we do that we can start to understand what the obstacles really are so we can navigate round them.

‘Because it’s just kids in bedrooms…’

A couple of years ago this was true. But in the UK in 2013 with more than 30 million Facebook accounts that just doesn’t wash anymore. Take a look at the chapter on mapping the landscape to construct an argument that fits for you.

‘Because the popular platforms will change…’

They’re right. Once Friends Reunited was an internet monster. Shortly after its launch in 2000 it drew 15 million users in the UK. Today it has lost its way. One day, Facebook will go the same way. But to understand the changing nature of the social web you have to be part of it.

‘Because we don’t have enough time in the day…’

True. There’s plenty of challenges to time. But the same was true when email was introduced and the telephone. We can spend a couple of hours a day unthinkingly on email most of it is probably ineffective. But experience shows that you build a useful interactive social media channel in 10 to 15 minutes a day. Why spend twice that sending an email to five people who you will only end up telephoning is my question.

‘Because people will just mess about…’

One of the reasons we have managers is, let’s be honest, is to make sure the job gets done and people don’t mess about. If people stare out of the window and don’t do their job that answer is that it’s a management issue. The answer is not to brown paper over all the windows in the building. There are policies for spending too much time messing about. But this isn’t. Local government needs to reach a place where using Facebook to talk to 2,000 people is as important – or heck, let’s be bold – more important than turning up at a community centre to talk to 20.

‘Because I don’t like it…’

Not everyone will love using the social web. But not everyone likes using the telephone, email or reading the local paper. If there is an audience of people we should be talking to them where they feel most comfortable.

‘Because people may say something bad to us…’

Here’s something for you to wake up to. They already are. On the bus. In the pub. At the breakfast table and at the water cooler. Social media is a conversation and those conversations are taking place anyway. By using social media we can see what people are talking about, what is really bothering them. Birmingham blogger Michael Grimes who works for the Citizenship Foundation produced this flow chart of engagement which is a handy resource for people using social for an organisation.

‘Because someone may screw-up…’

People are human. There’s no stopping that. People mess up with the telephone, in face-to-face conversations and by email. Because they’re human. All we can do is train and put in some safety nets. That’s the same with social media too. Some basic points in a strategy can work wonders.

‘Because we don’t have the technology…’

It’s a barrier. But the price of technology is falling. A 64kb computer put a man on the moon. A smartphone typically has 20MB and are available for around £20 a month making it an affordable piece of equipment.

‘Because it’s hard to evaluate…’

It’s true. How do you work out the value of social media? But when you start to think of it as a two-way communications channel it starts to make sense. You wouldn’t monitor the effectiveness of a telephone. But you can start to measure engagement and also what people do as a result of your digital campaign.

‘Because the comms team looks after that, don’t they…?’

As social media becomes more commonplace a team in an organisation tends to take responsibility. Often this is the comms team. If they are bright they’ll have a way where people on the frontline can use it for their organisation.


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