Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ten tips for social media engagement by government (from the UK Cabinet Office)

The UK Cabinet Office recently released Social Media Guidance for civil servants.

The guidance goes far beyond the level and sophistication of material I've seen from many other jurisdictions, offering support and useful advice, not just rules and warnings.

It also provides advice to CTOs and CIOs on how to oversome some of the technical barriers to accessing and using the internet and social media that still plague many agencies, stating that,
Social media is likely to become as ubiquitous as email with many more, if not all, staff eventually needing to use it in some form as part of their work.
The guidance provides an excellent model for governments in Australia. In fact it could almost be reused wholesale as most of the information holds true here as well.

As Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office, states in his introduction to the guidance,
When civil servants, policy makers and service delivery units alike, open themselves to dialogue with the public they can glean a much better understanding of the real needs and concerns of citizens. They can keep up-to-date with the latest thinking as well as being a listening post and avenue for real time reassurance and information.
In particular, the ten tips for social media engagement are sound advice I'd recommend agencies in Australia follow to the letter.

These are:
  1. Have a clear idea of your objectives in using social media (behaviour change/service
  2. Learn the rules of each social media space before engaging
  3. Abide by the Civil Service Code and ask for advice if you are not sure
  4. Remember an official account belongs to the Department not the individual
  5. Communicate where your citizens are
  6. Build relationships with your stakeholders on and offline – social media is just one of many
    communication channels
  7. Try not to channel shift citizens backwards (move from email to telephone for example)
  8. Do not open a channel of communication you cannot maintain
  9. Understand when a conversation should be taken offline
  10. Do not engage with users who are aggressive/abusive

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