This week I’ve been working on our new piece of thought leadership. We’re updating our social media research piece from last year and looking at how social media is evolving. As a former Council press officer it’s been fascinating re-entering the world of local government communications teams from the point of view of a Consultant. In my former team we used social media very effectively to help residents but I never compared our practice with those of other Councils. This week I’ve had the opportunity to speak with two high flying Heads of Communications – Marc Schmid from Blackburn with Darwen Council and NHS Care Trust and Ross Wigham of Northumberland County Council.
Both Blackburn with Darwen and Northumberland have thriving social media accounts but interestingly both have different internal policies relating to how their officers manage them. Here at BDO we wholeheartedly endorse an open social media policy so I was obviously delighted to hear that last week the gritters and refuse collectors from BwD were updating the Council’s Winter facebook page themselves! But equally it was interesting to have my views challenged by Ross who explained how the Northumberland Comms team efficiently manage their Council’s accounts using a logging system where staff make contributions which the Comms team collate and then make live.
The interviews made me reflect on how we get so bogged down in theories of social media and best practice that we forget that the real reason we use these tools is to communicate with customers! Each Council has the best idea of who their target audience is and have developed their policies accordingly. Of course Local Gov should innovate and seek to make improvements (and come to BDO when extra support is needed!) but the measure we use to gauge what works well should be the popularity of the accounts. So have a look at the brilliant and popular BwD and Northumberland CC sites and let me know your thoughts.