Thursday, 19 January 2012

Social Media Transmission

Wow it seems the world and his partner are getting on Facebook, Blogger,Twitter, telling us where they are sitting, what they are eating and what they think about it. The interesting, witty, trivial and generally the controversial might well get re-tweeted. No wonder Winston Churchill’s saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” rings more true than ever today.

So what should RSL’s and housing organisations be doing about SM and what’s the approach to make it work best?

It’s a given that organisations will have a website already with all the usual information presented in a corporate , but accessible fashion for residents and customers. Often these websites have a link to follow on Twitter and a RSS newsfeed. The example housing website I was looking at with Firefox had an error on the latter. I won’t tell you who, unless you contact me, but it illustrates that you need to be sure all this stuff works with the variety of browsers, desktop and mobile out there. (I bet you will be checking yours now wont you?).

It is important to get organised before your residents do. I have experience of one housing association which was upstaged by some resident’s blogs. These were setup for free, by ex-customers who had been through a perfectly completed eviction procedure, but wanted to broadcast their feelings. They quickly clocked up views, followers and prominence on web searches, such that in certain cases the blogs were easier to find than the official site.(Have you Googled your own organisation lately?)

This highlights a very important point. If SM is going to be utilised, a following/community needs to be built. You would be better doing it first, before dissatisfied customers do.

This of course does take resource and for once, it’s not much that’s needed from IT. The bad news though, is that someone will need to be designated to create/record content, such as service updates, bits of local news, events etc. It’s important to listen as well as broadcast too.

Maybe SM needs to show a milder face to the organisation, slightly more cuddly and approachable.  Thinking about what communities you service, maybe a number of geographic or sector channels of SM are needed, to reach everyone.

If criticisms or issues are highlighted, they must be tackled ASAP. Remember, the world is watching (or reading!). Such as in this example below, showing a clear attempt to follow up the issue (Bravo!):

Twitter and Facebook are probably the current two to start with, setting targets for follower numbers, to ensure effectiveness. Much like diversity information it would be tremendously useful to collect what their preferences are and how they change.  Will Google+ become what MySpace was? What kind of discussion do you want to create? About your service, their neighbourhood, social issues? Have a clear aim and try to set yardsticks internally in order to measure it.

Remember to try to focus it to the target community and post on a regular basis. Have something relevant to say at all times and being consistent is essential. It is likely that you will receive positive as well as negative feedback, ensure both are tackled equally and action is seen to be taken. In most cases, the issue or problem will be dealt with, off-line from Social Media. Avoid an on-line catfight at all costs.

Use posting guidelines internally. Decide too if staff are going to blog or tweet in a personal capacity or not, (All opinions are my own etc...). Any indecent, libellous,  or offensive content posted as external comments should of course be removed straight away. Common sense is certainly needed, we all know that the internet can be the wild west at times. 

While numbers of smartphones are increasing out there (some figures suggest more than PCs/Laptops are now being  purchased for browsing the web), are increasing, SM is not the silver bullet that will reach all residents. Use all channels to communicate, sometimes a note in a quarterly newsletter or on a poster, can have a far better effect than a weblink.  I have experienced this personally when setting up SM recently to re-open my local library.  Sharing content across a number of SM platforms can also be of great benefit. Hootsuite ( ) and other on-line apps are a godsend in this area and well worth looking at.

So, make SM your friend. Decide who you are doing it for; residents, staff, communities, spreading best practice and higher level ideas to your peers etc. Let your followers become your friends, get out and build something not out of bricks and mortar for a change!
Decide how you are going to transmit your messages by SM. Let the Playmobil men help you decide.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting

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