Developing a Web 2.0 strategy for local government

Original post: Developing a Web 2.0 strategy for local government

Following on from my earlier post about local government and Web 2.0, I would like to discuss in more detail about forming a strategy for implementing Web 2.0 in local government.

The two main factors to be discussed and agreed upon are what channels you will use, and what you intend to use them for.

However, more importantly, there needs to be a clear understanding of ‘why’ social media is being implemented. Without a clear appreciation of the benefits and uses of social media, any proposed strategy for its use will fail. What demographic group(s) are you trying to reach, and what do want to tell them?

As mentioned in my earlier post, social media gives local governments a very good vehicle in which to engage with harder to reach demographic groups, such as teenagers and young adults. It can give citizens a voice in decisions that affect their local communities. Social media can provide a two way communication channel, allowing citizens to be both informed (listen), and to have their say (talk). Social media presents local councils with unique opportunities that should be fully utilised.

Different social media channels work better than others for particular types of communication. For providing an ‘online community’, Facebook / MySpace may be suitable channels. For quick updates in real time, Twitter may be a more suitable channel. There are no rules, and each channel has its own particular set of advantages and disadvantages. Each social media channel should be used to its own particular strengths.

To summarise, any strategy for implementing Web 2.0 within local government should include answers to the following questions:

  • What do you want to achieve with social media? Why are you using it?
  • What social media channels will you use?
  • What do you want to use these channels for?
  • What resources do you have? Who will provide the content, who will post the replies, who will moderate the comments and so on.

About Dominic Burford

My name is Dominic, and I am a Senior Systems Developer working in local government. My skills include .Net, SQL Server, Internet Information Systems and Content Management Systems. I am responsible for all online web content for a UK local council, which includes their web site, intranet and community portal.

4 Responses

  1. Bill Free

    These two posts are a good primer, particularly for those of us outside government thinking about how social media can stimulate engagement with elected officials. I agree with your observation that sound strategy should precede implementation of any social media “toolbox.” That strategy should view the technology platform not in isolation, but as part of an integrated solution that includes both traditional media and opportunities for face-to-face contact.

    Also interesting to me is your observation that most successful uses of social media have been in small scale projects addressing specific needs. This conflicts with my natural impulse toward the comprehensive killer app, but is more consistent with my experience with social media, both personally and as a corporate communicator.

  2. Thanks for the comments Bill.

    Like the implementation of any tool or technology, you need to have a sound plan in place before proceeding.

    The killer app may be out there somewhere, but not at the present time.

  3. Hi Dom, Wayne here!

    How do the needs of local government differ (if at all), from that of a small business?

    I imagine them having access to more data, which would help a great deal on the demographic refinement side of things, if not the implementation.

  4. Hi Wayne

    The key difference is that a business (any business) will predominantly use social media channels to promote their products and services.

    Local government on the other hand, have no products or services to sell. They are more interested in using social media to create online communities, and engage with local citizens.

    It gives local governments a powerful means of engaging with harder to reach groups, such as teenagers and young adults. It can also be used to empower the citizens within the community. For example, Redbridge Council used online polls to solicit feedback in relation to the closure of local Post Offices.

    Social media is a vehicle for social inclusion.

    It may take some planning and effort to get there, as this article hopefully highlights, but using social media is a faster, cheaper and more effective means of engagement than the alternatives.

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