#PSFBuzz : Four Steps To Incorporating Social Media

Monday, July 20, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Public Sector, Social Media, Technology

Dave Briggs (@davebriggs) chaired the PSF event, so had two opportunities to speak — firstly a fifteen minute ‘welcome’ session (although that was mostly housekeeping matters, and I don’t think it particularly worth blogging about where the fire exits were, and where the toilets were) and then secondly, a session to wrap up the event that the chair was confident would be the best of the day, telling us how to get started with using social media.


…started the session by telling us a little bit about himself: how in the space of five years he has gone from trying to work out how to make risk management fun (clue: you can’t) whilst working in a benefits office, to having been asked by 10 Downing Street to work three days a week with their digital communications.

This is not through a traditional CV, but through to the reputation he was built up online through blogging and through talking about social media on the web…


Dave quoted someone or other to say that “websites don’t change the world, people do”, although it would also seem from some of the things he was saying that the right website in the right place will help people to change the world.

He talked about the first web browser, and how it was designed as read/write thing, rather than just a browser, and therefore that he doesn’t see Web 2.0 as a leap forward, he sees it as a return to where the web ought to be, after the retrograde step made with web 1.0.


When producing policies about the web, these need to be about culture, rather than specific technologies — otherwise those technologies might well be out of date by the time the policy is ready.

Remember: you don’t have to like everything. Some of the social media things might suit you, and what you need; some might not. You don’t have to use them. But it is worth at least having a play with them to find out what they can do.

It’s okay to be scared: the pace of change is so rapid that it is no surprise that people are wary about it. For example, You Tube seems to be part of the furniture now, but it was only launched in 2006. Dave also feels that newspapers are going down the drain and TV isn’t really sure what it’s doing (no reference to radio, though: I wonder if everything he had to know, he heard it on his radio?)

Then there was another quote (again, too busy getting the quote to see who) — “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring”. Which offers up a supplementary question — how do we make the web less exciting?

The Long Tail

…also known as “something about niches”.

We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.Amazon

(take the moment to stop and decipher it)

What the internet is good for is the self-organising of niche interests: it allows people with similar interests to group together and convene online.

Information Overload?

He then raised the concept of “infobesity” — the idea that there is just too much information for anyone to cope with; but countered that with another quote I didn’t pick up the author of — “there is no such thing as information overload, only filter failure”.

Culture Shift

He talked about companies or organisations who close off avenues to use tools like Twitter, instant messaging and so on, and said that the time will come — and it will come soon — where new employees expect to be able to use these sorts of tools to carry out their jobs: organisations which ban these might find it difficult to get the best staff.

What does local government need to consider?

  • If you don’t do it, someone else will (e.g. Fix My Street)
  • Get with it as quickly as possible; be aware of it; learn about it

But you also have to remember the other mantra: if you build it, they won’t come. You’ve got to market it, drive it and seed useful content on it. You need to remember that interactive websites need interactive organisations — if you don’t change the culture/ way the organisation works, it will be a car crash.

Dave returned to a point which had been made earlier in the day: that you don’t want to be too professional. If something is too professional, too slick, too corporate, then people won’t trust it and won’t want to engage with it. On the other hand, you don’t want it to be shambolic either…

…but it’s better to be doing something than nothing at all.

The Four Point Plan

And coming to the end of his talk, Dave finally unveiled his four step plan for incorporating social media.

  • Listen — people will be saying horrible things about you; it is better to know this than not to know it, as you can try to find out why
  • Acknowledge — respond to comments on blogs; acknowledge what people are saying; provide explanations
  • Create — create your own content, photos on Flickr, organisational blogs and so on
  • Share — and then start licensing your content under some form of creative commons, allowing people to re-use it

Make a policy — copy Carl’s — as people need to be confident in what they are doing, but don’t over-strategise, as that takes all the fun out of it.

And above all JFDI.

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1 Comment to #PSFBuzz : Four Steps To Incorporating Social Media

  1. prestolee (Neil Mackin) says:

    July 20th, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Read: @ThePickards: New post: #PSFBuzz : Four Steps To Incorporating Social Media http://tinyurl.com/n8la2p #fb

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