This isn’t just a flash in the pan, buzzword friendly request, but a recognition of the change in the way that many people today prefer to communicate.
As the user figures of services such as Facebook continue to sky-rocket, while the circulation numbers for newspapers seem in terminal decline, it’s clear that if councillors want to reach people with their messages, they need to look to the web.
Not only that, but the interactivity of social media means that there’s an opportunity to genuinely engage with residents and find out what they think, and how they feel about important local issues.
At a time when budgets are under threat, and the very shape of local public services open to complete change, this is incredibly important. Ensuring local people understand the decisions that are being taken and the policies behind them is vital, as is offering every opportunity for people to have their say.
It doesn’t even have to take up a huge amount of time for a councillor. After all, many councillors already produce newsletters and other communications materials on a regular basis, much of the content from which could be used in blogs, emails, or updates to Facebook or Twitter. It’s just a case of getting the content into places where more people can see it.
Indeed, using some of the sophisticated, yet freely available, aggregation technologies, it’s possible to publish a piece of content in one online space and have it automatically posted around the web in one go.
Another reason why it is important for councillors to get involved online is because many of the electorate are doing so themselves. Whether on local forums or blogs, people are coming together on the web to discuss the issues that matter to them. If councillors aren’t aware of these discussions, they are missing out on a great source of feedback from the community.
Exactly how can councillors find out about making the most of these new technologies though? One place to start is the excellent Getting Started with Social Media module in Modern Councillor, which comes as part of the subscription and therefore is available to any councillor whose council has purchased it.
The module takes councillors through all the basics of what social media is and why it matters, as well as providing practical, hands on guidance with tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogging and more.
On top of that, we’re going to be publishing a series of posts here on the Modern Councillor blog talking about all the elements of using social media as a councillor. We’ll be looking at the various tools and networks available and giving some examples of how they’re being used by councillors to help them serve their communities even better.
In the meantime though, a great resource you can have a look through is the Local Government Group’s 21st Century Councillor, which includes lots of interesting content.