Infonex only recently asked me to chair the event in Ottawa this week; however, I am very glad I had the opportunity to do so. A special shout out to Philippe Renoir (@philipperenoir) who jumped in to co-chair the event. Almost every speaker had a good message or some important lessons to impart.
Some items that distinguish Social Media from regular media:
Reach - enables anyone to reach a global audience (potentially for free).
Accessibility – industrial media typically owned privately; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.
Bi-directional – Conversation rather than publish pattern. Synchronous vs. Asynchronous!
Usability - industrial media production typically requires specialized skills. Most social media sites do not. Some define new skills, so anyone can operate the means of production.
Concurrency/Speed - the time lag by conventional media = long. Social media is virtually instantaneous responses; participants determine any delay in response).
Mutability - industrial media, once created, cannot be changed easily, whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing. Newspapers are technically out of date the moment they leave the press and any notes scribbled on them are not seen by all readers.
Uncontrollable – no central point of control.
Measurable - unlike normal media you can determine who has spent time ingesting your message (not true for all forms of media)
Here is a quick summary of some of the messages I heard about public sector social media:
- Look before you leap: Before starting on a social media project, take the time to understand what you are getting into. Use experience (yes - consultants) if required.
- Realize that is it better to be part of the conversation than being defined by it! Some people had issues with risk adverse managers who insisted that somehow the conversations in social media being negative to them are not happening. Be part of the conversation and help your community.
- Determine whose voice you are talking with. Are you talking for your department in an official capacity or are you a person who is sharing personal experiences?
- Conduct you social media campaigns with a strong ethics policy. Identify yourself if commenting on a subject you are part of. Disclose conflicts of interest. Be authentic (thanks @philipperenoir!)
- Be accountable. Set a clear and consistent policy for communications and ensure it is regularly reviewed. This also prevents potential issues if employees are dismissed for non-adherence.
- Ensure everyone in your government department buys in. Make sure they have knowledge of the policy mentioned above and have a chance to provide input.
- Have clear, concise goals and metrics to judge your goals. Understand what you are attempting to do and use the social media networks wisely.
- Don’t build it yourself! Your chances of attracting a critical mass on your own platform are probably fairly small. Using existing platforms is likely a better path (if possible).
- Start with baby steps. Small manageable projects to start with will probably have better results.
- Don’t try to control social media! You cannot and trying to do so will be like pouring gasoline on a fire.
All these are of course nonexclusive and perceived with my own filter! Your actual mileage may vary. Please comment if I missed something.
Time to fly back to snowy Vancouver!