Councillors and social media: winning friends and staying out of trouble online


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Presentation for the Standards Board Annual Assembly (fringe event)

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  • Asking people in the room what social media tools they use, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Maybe ask what people think about them...
  • Social media is really about conversation, sharing formal and informal information. Gossip may seem trivial, but it’s an important part of the social fabric. Much of what takes place on social media may seem trivial, too – but a lot of it’s not...and when it’s about you, your organisation, your councillors – then it’s not trivial at all.
  • Social media is radically transforming where conversations can take place. It’s puts the power of publishing into anyone’s hands – a huge shift in the control of information. So we shouldn’t underestimate its importance, but we can’t imagine that it will solve everything either. Just as the printing press shook up power and information, it didn’t mean the world became rosy. And just as it’s easier to publish great’s easier to publish nasty things too.
  • But the important thing is that social media isn’t necessarily Facebook or Twitter, it’s about extending connections and conversations. Making views more accessible and discoverable.
  • I’m going to provide a brief run-through of how social media is being used in the context of local government. These are just a few examples. Twitter – to communicate with each other and with consituents YouTube – here a councillor raps six local pledges (badly) but this garnered wider press and online coverage of the six LibDem pledges for their area Blogging: councillors have been blogging for a while – this is a great way of explaining views in more detail – some are more conversational, so more reportage. There are as many different styles as there are councillor blogs
  • Planning alerts sent to residents automatically (now defunct ‘cos of Earnest Marples thing) Using social media monitoring tools to listen to what local people are saying for customer action, performance improvement and to take action Multi-media sites aimed at young people
  • This first example is actually a video produced by a Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership for councils to put on their YouTube channels, but citizens will increasingly use the web to find out about councils and they may start from some unexpected places Neighbourhood social network. This is Harringay Online (the neighbourhood not the borough) it’s used to discuss local issues, local restaurants, more or life in that area – councils and councillors need to be aware of these expanding networks Help Me Investigate is a social network focused on helping people in the Birmingham area help each other get information from official sources. This could be as simple as navigating better information or it could be as complex as filing a freedom of information request and working together to use it. A fun example – this is a snowfall map on Twitter, using a simple rating system – and the first half of a post code, people were able to develop a fairly accurate picture of snowfall during the blizzard last winter.
  • Social media is for everyone. It’s a great way to campaign, Barack Obama has certainly proven that, not just for elections but on issues A great way to explain more complex positions in more detail and more regularly than a letter to the paper or infrequent area forums. But a cause for complaint...the rest of this talk is about how councillors could potentially get themselves in trouble online, some of these could be breaches of the standards of conduct, others are merely cases of bad form. For anyone who uses social media, the following is merely good advice.
  • The most important thing to remember is that Google is forever...that is...anything you publish online is still out there...even if you’ve deleted something, it still can and will show up in other people’s caches, feed readers and so on.
  • Intentionally publishing false ‘facts’ is a violation, but anyone can make a mistake. Don’t try to delete, as someone else will have seen it. Better to admit, apologise for the error and retract.
  • While it might be fun to imagine pulling all kinds of political chicanery, don’t. Comments to your colleagues are not the same as publishing “funny” stuff online.
  • It ‘s actually worse than appearing in your local paper, because Google is forver.
  • Anyone who’s ever been to a public meeting has seen the person who likes to dominate and disrupt, has a louder voice and can be extremely frustrating (even if they’re sometimes right). That person has a cousin online. But the Internet is a place for geeky jokes, too. So try to take things in perspective. This website has been around for a few months and it’s hilarious. It pokes fun in a light-hearted and sometimes not so light-hearted way at councillors posing by items of disrepair. I have laughed out loud at some of the pictures, but I might not laugh so loud if it were me. As difficult as it can be, try to appreciate the spirit in which things are intended.
  • Count to ten. No matter how obnoxious someone may be, you need to take a considered approach. Who is this blogger/ tweeter. They may have three readers for their blog and ten followers on Twitter. Who cares? (Unless they have a serious service complaint) They may have tons of readers and be an important node of influence in your community. There are some simple responses strategies which I’ve linked to in my draft online guidance. Have a comments policy. Allow disagreement, but you may choose not to publish deliberately contentious, insulting material. Draw a wide line and stay cool.
  • While what people post as comments on your blog are not your statement, they will be seen as your responsibility. That’s why you need to have that comments policy. Facebook can be seen that way even you’ve already accepted people as your friends. Never mind that someone may post that very humorous, but slightly embarrassing photo of you from Uni.
  • More people are on Facebook than any other social network and they are probably talking about your area, so you can’t ignore Facebook. As a public figure you did need to consider how you’re going to deal with this. Two profiles? No posting to your profile.
  • In many senses there’s nothing different about being online in terms of standards. But even though it may feel conversational, it is published so if you mess up you’ve provided evidence against yourself. But don’t worry too much, because if you follow the rules, you’ll be OK. (I don’t know much about the planning restrictions!) Take extra care when dealing with planning issues online even though that may be just what local people want to hear about. Although it hardly should need mentioning, you need to be very careful about discussing individuals online – even if you think you’ve succesfully anonymised the content.
  • Councillors and social media: winning friends and staying out of trouble online

    1. 1. Councillors and social media Winning friends, influencing people and staying out of trouble online Standards for England Annual Assembly Ingrid Koehler 12 October 2009
    2. 2. What is social media Is it a collection of tools?
    3. 3. As common as gossip Gossip_bench by ercwttmn on Flickr
    4. 4. As revolutionary as the printing press The original moveable type by Purdman1 on Flickr
    5. 5. Don’t be fooled by the tools Social media is social It’s a new way of connecting
    6. 6. How are some councillors using it?
    7. 7. How are some councils using it?
    8. 8. How are citizens using it?
    9. 9. How councillors can use social media
    10. 10. Never forget... is forever
    11. 11. Pinnochio by metamerist on Flickr No porky pies
    12. 12. Everyone makes a mistake sometime
    13. 13. Kermit the Frog by Nicole Marti on Flickr Don’t be a muppet
    14. 14. Your impact online
    15. 15. Floating on clouds Fat Rap Art by cme fish On Flickr
    16. 16. All in good fun
    17. 17. Stay cool
    18. 18. Img_3944 by mavideoz on Flickr The company you keep
    19. 19. Gun Nut Gun Nut?
    20. 20. What are your “friends” posting?
    21. 21. Rules, Rules, Rules by Liber on Flickr
    22. 22. Just follow the rules, you’ll be OK
    23. 23. And never forget... is forever
    24. 24. Sources of support <ul><li> a resource for blogging councillors </li></ul><ul><li> draft guide to social media for councillors </li></ul><ul><li> a primer for harnessing social media for social good </li></ul><ul><li> IDeA’s communities of practice network </li></ul>
    25. 25. Contact me <ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>