I was pleased to be part of #cllrcamp on 12th January 2013. It was a great opportunity to share knowledge and experience and explore the potential of social media in local government with fellow councillors. About 100 of us gathered at Facebook HQ on a Saturday, representing pretty much the full English spectrum –most political parties (didn’t realise there are still so many LibDems!), all genders, wide range of ages and geography although more limited ethnicity profile. Here are a few of my random reflections and observations after the event.
- The Facebook confidentiality agreement that we all had to sign as soon as we stepped out of the lift means that I cannot describe their HQ nor my thoughts on their unnecessarily gender specific toilets which ignore the principles of queuing theory.
- How can one Facebook exec be responsible for government links for half the western world? Facebook users are 43% more likely to vote than non-users and 57% more likely to persuade someone else to vote.
- www.harringayonline.com is a demonstration of how an apolitical on line community can grow and flourish. 6,000 members after 5 years. Start small and it builds!
- Open discussion forums and direct interaction with the electorate can be quite scary for some councillors. There was a great deal of delegate discussion about authenticity and individual councillors finding what works for them and their local circumstances. Social media networks should be an additional communication channel and not a replacement for the more traditional print media.
- Our joint interests in local government, democracy and the mechanics of Twitter were more powerful in the room than our political identities. I liked and agreed with @dean_r description of communication, collaboration and compassion – how can he be a Conservative?
- Don’t use MS word for website or email content. I know when I type it is my professional language skills, honed over years of senior NHS management, which comes out – not the optimum style for election leaflets! It may be obvious that photographs, videos and images transcend language but do we use them enough? I was fascinated by my own instantly emotional response to a small clip from the 2008 Obama campaign – a powerful connection that the reasoned, written word would never reach.
- Skype surgeries are a novel idea described (invented?) by @cllrharrington – avoids traffic congestion and good for your carbon footprint. There followed quite a bit of discussion about the reluctance of local government officers to support their more media savvy councillors – can it really be so difficult to add a Twitter address to business cards and letterheads?
- I learnt how to search hashtags, not to bother with LinkedIn, what an ‘unconference’ is, about TweetDeck and SocialBro.
- How has it changed my life? I have resolved to take responsibility for taking and sharing my own photos instead of expecting others to do so. I shall be tweeting more frequently and hoping to find, encourage and motivate supporters via Twitter. I need to overcome my technophobia and set up the Councillor facebook page that I have been talking about for ages. I may need to upgrade my mobile.
Thanks to the organisers and sponsors for an interesting and thought provoking day.
@LynnDenham1, Labour Councillor, Cathedral Ward, Worcester City Council (@myworcester)