I’ve been following an increasing number of councillors on Twitter lately and I think it’s really exciting to watch as they embrace new ways of engaging with local people. You can see a growing list of councillors on the Councillor Tweeps site.
It’s not that councillors haven’t always engaged (to greater or lesser extents depending on individuals), it’s that it’s so much more visible. For example, I recently witnessed a conversation that a resident of my borough was having with one of our councillors and our MP about a contentious local matter. Although I was watching in real time and could have easily asked my own questions, I didn’t need to. And who was the person they were conversing with? Really, just a local resident. In what other forum could something like that happen so easily and so spontaneously?
But as well as powerful examples like that, there are ways to misstep using social media, too. How many councils have moribund Facebook pages? And never mind mistakes, some of it’s just not that easy. If you’ve ever started blogging, you’ll know that setting the tone is hard – those first few blog posts are a struggle. And how can you let people know that you’re doing it and promote real conversations online.
Or maybe you’re a bit sceptical about the whole social media thing. How can you safely explore social media while still learning how it all works or if it will work for you. How can social media be used to engage communities, empower citizens and improve services (and possibly save money, too)?
We’re going to be looking at these issues and more in Councillors Connected: The social media online conference. This free conference will run on the IDeA’s award winning communities of practice platform from 6 to 8 April 2009. We’re booking a great line up of speakers (we’ll be announcing soon) and bringing in a range of practitioners and social-media-using councillors. The conference is aimed at councillors specificially. But we’ll also be looking at the way that local public services in general can use social media, so it will also be of interest to officers from local government and a range of partner agencies.
How to sign up
OK, first you need to register at www.communities.idea.gov.uk if you’re not already a member of the IDeA’s communities of practice platform. Anyone can sign up and registration is free. Then you need to join Councillors Connected: the social media online conference. There’s not much going on in the space just yet, but it’s all kicking off in April.