As social media is used on a wider scope across government, its end result will quickly become evident.
James Kirkham, head of social and mobile at Leo Burnett Worldwide, is sceptical of the approach that government is pushing social media as a means of reducing the costs of communicating.
He said: “There is a slightly misunderstood aspect of social media that it is somehow free or that it is purely about earned media and viral potential,” In fact, social media is labour intensive, often involving additional work.
The Guardian reports that Steph Gray, who runs a consultancy called Helpful Technology said:
“For a long time there was a feeling that social media was an IT and a reputational risk, either a waste of time or only needed by a small number of people. It is now accepted that civil servants have to communicate using these tools,”
“Now government is full of people tweeting, blogging and talking online in a public way which you couldn’t have imagined civil servants doing 10 years ago,” he adds.
The tools are opening up government to new levels of inquiry and clarity.
According to JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at social-media systems provider Salesforce:
“There is a feedback loop between government and citizens that helps ensure messages are being understood.
Consultation becomes more active and valued, and much cheaper.
Nearly everybody owns a connected device these days”.
“Social media offer the government a much better picture of what the citizen looks like.
There is a better engagement process between the citizen and government. Social media can create a level of interaction with consultations that just wasn’t possible before.”
According to Anthony Simon, head of digital communications at the Cabinet Office:
“This shows change is coming from the top, that social media is something we expect all civil servants to be able to do,”. “What stands out in the guidance is the 10-point plan for using social media. This gives you confidence that, as a civil servant, if you bear these things in mind, you can succeed in social media.”
Simon further commented that:
“Social media has enabled government to interact with specific interest groups: for instance, the business department has contacted business people on LinkedIn to talk about apprenticeships.”
Neil Major, strategy director at agency Yomego, said:
“The pitfall is to treat social media as a technical solution – it’s not. You have to appear human in your interactions.” Insisting that all Tweets are signed off by a department head before being sent out, as happens in some departments, seems to defeat the object of the medium.