This SMinOrgs News Digest focuses on social media in the public sector. It includes pieces about initiatives in the UK and the US, most of which are examples of “Social Media Do’s” – and one of which is a “Social Media Don’t.” There’s also a classic story from a year ago that still has much to teach us today. In true 2.0 spirit, be sure to read the comments for each item as well as the pieces themselves.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on the items in this News digest in the comments section on the blog post, or start or join the dialogue on LinkedIn. We especially welcome other examples of how social media is being addressed in the public sector. Thanks!
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We begin with two items from the UK. The first describes an innovation called MyPolice, which has been developed by a group outside the public sector and is intended to “improve policing.” The second item describes how a police force is itself leveraging social media to educate the public about its work. There’s even a cool video…
The next two items are from the US. Again demonstrating how the public sector can leverage new communication technologies to achieve their objectives, there is a brief announcement describing an initiative in Maine to use social media to deliver emergency messages. The next piece demonstrates how social media can be used by the public sector to promote and support the private sector: it describes efforts by Florida state officials to reduce the negative impact of the BP oil spill on tourism.
The next item, unfortunately, is an example of what not to do. Although the City of Brentwood, Tennessee gets some things right in their social media policy, their stated objective of only using it to “provide one way communication from the city” reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of how social media works and the best ways to respond to Digital Era realities.
And the final item is an “oldie but goodie,” describing three classic examples of social media’s implications in a single small community in the US: Bozeman, Montana. In the summer of 2009, they had a disastrous failure when they created and attempted to implement a policy requiring that all job applicants provide their personal social networking account information, including passwords. A police officer was also fired for posts he made to his Facebook account, which were apparently discovered during a law suit against the city. And then there was the positive example of how the citizenry leveraged social media to respond to an emergency situation created by a gas explosion.
Author: Lauren Currie
Lead Paragraph: For too long, policy-making has been monopolised by civil servants, self-serving pressure groups and sensationalist journalists. We get a vote once every four or five years and we’re expected to be satisfied with that.
Author: The Associated Press
Lead Paragraph: From stolen cars to suspicious smells, one of Britain's biggest police forces is tweeting every incident it deals with over a 24 hour-period to prove a point.
Here’s a related video from the Greater Manchester Police:
Source: Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Lead Paragraph: Maine's Emergency Management Agency is pondering how to get emergency information through to people who are shunning traditional radio and TV in favor of the Internet.
Author: Shelly DuBois
Lead Paragraph: The state mounted a PR blitz to show beachgoers that Florida's surf had been spared an oily disaster. Presidential visits aside, it seems social media helped save summer tourism on the Gulf of Mexico.
Source: Cool Springs TN
Lead Paragraph: The City of Brentwood, just outside Cool Springs, recently issued a new social media plan and policy.
Since I'm not sure my comments will be added to the original post, I'm also including an edited version of them here:
I commend the City of Brentwood for recognizing the importance of embracing social media technologies to enhance their communication efforts. It’s clear they put a lot of thought and effort into developing this policy. I especially appreciate their efforts to create an integrated social media system and their emphasis on quality content.
That said, their approach is fundamentally flawed. The underlying notion behind social media is that it facilitates user-generated content, promoting dialogue (and multi-logues), not just monologues. Brentwood’s clear commitment to using social media channels simply as fresh outlets for one-way communication, in spite of their stated "emphasis on open communication between the City and citizens,” reveals that they just don’t “get it.” Their lack of understanding is also reflected in some of their language choices (e.g., references to THE social media, a suggestion to “subscribe” to the City’s sites) and technical solutions (e.g., autoposting from the website).
The flaws in their logic and approach indicate how important it is for organizational leaders across all disciplines to have a solid understanding of social media before pursuing specific initiatives. In the Digital Era, not doing so could have fairly significant negative consequences.
I’ve shared this piece with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community – unfortunately, as a “Social Media Don’t.” I hope one day I can share a story about Brentwood as a “Social Media Do.”
PS – A relatively minor but important point: the policy is full of typos and grammatical errors that detract from its overall quality and in some cases may change their meaning/intent.
Author: Adam Ostrow
Lead Paragraph: I’ve never been to Bozeman, Montana, and without Google Maps, I’d have no idea where it is. However, the city government and its employees have now been the focus of two rather bizarre social media stories to grab headlines, which has put Bozeman on my radar.