I am impressed by how far ahead the UK Public Sector is in it's thinking about connecting with citizens and the delivery of services using social media. Marketeers have tapped into Twitter, Bebo and Facebook to push products for quite a while, but UK Local Authorities are looking at these channels in a more strategic way. This is not slavishly following a technology fad, but responding to how people are changing how they engage with the world.
I was thinking about whether is was in response to ever diminishing resources and budget cutbacks. Yes, this is clearly a major driver, but pioneers such as Kent, Kirklees, Lichfield and Devon County Councils have been very early adopters. The maturing of social media technologies happens to coincide with the urgent need to think radically about how to deliver council services.
Examples such as the councils mentioned, and many others, will no doubt feature in the online 'Local by Social' conference between 3rd and 9th November 2010. The very fact that the sector (through KIN member LGID) can organise a cross-organisational virtual event over 6 days is an indicator of the capability and social media innovation that now exists. I don't know of many other organisations that could engage hundreds of people in such an event over that period of time.
Just a small selection of social media topics suggested by the 376 'community' of participants already registered for the event:
- Listening to local people online - social media monitoring
- Council Apps for the mobile web
- Hyperlocal and the council
- Using the social web to consult on cuts
- The social council website (incorporating engagement tools on the council's website)
- Social media for public emergencies (e.g. Twitter Gritter)
- Social media and staff flexible working
- Hack contests and stimulating the market for government data