The benefits of open access to social media

Coventry by air at night

At Coventry City Council we’re proud of our 28,700 “likes” of Facebook – followers built up over several years of hard work, careful messaging and judicious use of social media when it really matters (which turns out to be, of course, when you think your school might be closed because it’s snowing).

But we’re just as proud of the 426 likes for Coventry’s library and information page (just wish it was called something a little snappier), the 1,846 likes for Coombe Country Park and, even, the modest 53 likes for Coventry’s Lord Mayor page.

The communications team has little to do with these pages, although we helped set up a few of them and gave some colleagues quick practical tips to get started. Others simply appeared, as have a myriad of Twitter accounts across the Council. It’s an important sign that our employees are confident enough about what they want to say and passionate enough about the work they do to engage directly with residents.

Transport Museum, Coventry

It’s born, in part, from a sensible approach to access to social and digital media adopted by the organisation. Employees can use the internet for personal use for up to two hours a week. So, seeing someone use Facebook on their work PC isn’t (necessarily) a disciplinary offence.

And while we have the usual IT issues of any large public organisation (some old PCs mean not much point in playing YouTube unless you’re a lip reader, IT security blocks websites it doesn’t like the look of in an entirely random way), we also have an IT team that, in the main, absolutely gets the importance of social media. So, when we uncover blocks to decent access for all they can find  a solution that will work for most of us.

Most importantly of all, we have a Chief Executive – Martin Reeves – who tweets, blogs and understands social media as well as his communications team. It’s a pretty tired cliché to say it all starts at the top, but there’s no doubt that Martin’s championing of social media has made a big difference.

In an age when honest conversations about the challenges we face are more important than ever, being sensible about social media and the role it can play has to be the right way to go. There’s a lot more to do in Coventry, but we’ve made a decent start.

by Fran Collingham,

Coventry City Council

Picture credit

Picture credit

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