Last week I facilitated a short workshop for Councillors here in Devon on Social Media – It was pre-introductory, in that if I tried to provide any less detail I wouldn’t have actually said anything
Out of the 62 councillors we have 20 attended which I was very pleased with, I’m not sure if it was my session or that it was scheduled at a convenient time or that tea/coffee was provided – whatever the reason, people came and stayed until the very end of the session, for which i’m grateful.
I was scheduled for 30 minutes, I used 20 minutes for a presentation, which included a 5 minute video and then left about 10 minutes for questions or discussion. However I was very surprised in that the questions went on for 40 minutes and the whole session went on for an hour – plus all councillors stayed for the entire time (the whole 1 hour) and were engaged in discussion and asking good “practical” questions.
The session went down well according to the councillors who came up to me afterwards and gave some feedback, although for some it was still too techy in places….not sure what else I could have done differently to ensure I accommodated for all but we live and learn.
The general attitude was that they were all very curious but also very cautious about the whole thing – questions around “how do you find the time”, “how do you set this up”, “what tech do I need to get started” meant that the discussions and questions were varied and focused on the real practical aspects of using social media…No one asked “So why should we do this? which was great, the overall selling job wasn’t needed for the 20 who attended….now for the other 42
I’ve offered to facilitate some more specific sessions around “how to set up a Facebook page”, ”how to set up a twitter account” and “how to set up a blog” as this was the level they really focused on….
Some felt that there was a barrier in actually setting these things up and once you did you were suddenly bombarded with requests for information or dialogue which they felt would be hard to manage – I suggested that they simply state the amount of time they can dedicate in the platform, for example in Facebook, say that you will proactively check 3-4 times a week and if appropriate hold a weekly “topic” for discussion…in twitter use the bio to say will respond to tweet within x hours or days whatever they feel is manageable, that way they are open, honest and managing expectations whilst they learn how to use the platform.
This maybe isn’t the best way to use the platforms, but it can be daunting using them and I’d personally rather seem them take baby steps which are supported by those that connect with them then they receive negative feedback because they aren’t responding in 30 minutes…
A few questions, thoughts and observations from the session which I’d value comments on from other….
- How have other councils and councillors dealt with the “perceived” conflict with a press office function?
- There is actually a huge amount of awareness raising still to do not just with members but with the variety staff who support them in allowing them to understand the implications and opportunities social media can provide.
- This is obvious but the existing culture is so polar opposite to allowing social media to just be embraced, we need to find productive and constructive ways to challenge the culture and foster new ways of working and operating.
- Getting people to focus on risks and highlighting where stuff has gone badly wrong is not always healthy, but people must understand that managing and mitigating risks is critical to achieving success.
- You can’t support members without at least a plan around training and development for staff at the same time.
- We need to develop a “Digital Passport” training programme which supports members and staff to feel confident to use these tools and feel supported by the organisational frameworks and guidance that exists or needs to be developed.
- Sometimes people just want to feel reassured that this is possible and that simple steps actually work and can open doors to new things.
- Never ever assume that someone knows what you are talking about, even if you say things like “smart phone” or “mobile device”….you will need to show things to people – I shows the councillors – iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, all capable of social media…
- Understand your regions connectivity challenges, questions were asked about which mobile phone network was best in Devon..
- All things said and done, the session was an excellent first step on a long journey, I’m just grateful to other councils who have pioneered this work as it gives me something to show and experiences to share. Thank you
I’ve included the presentation below, the video doesn’t play as I’m not sure how you actually get a video which is embedded to play within Slideshare (any tips on this welcome).