I spent last Monday evening in Hackney with a group of councillors discussing how social media and other online tools can help them be more dynamic, productive and efficient.
The beginning of the session identified three clear areas that participants wanted to explore. How, they asked, can all this stuff;
– help me reach new people, raise my personal profile and demonstrate my role as community leader?
– make my case work more time and energy efficient?
– allow me to receive quick and cheap feedback on local policy?
To these questions there are obviously very localised and different technological solutions for each councillor in the country. To help the group in Hackney identify the best approach for their individual online neighbourhoods we spent a couple of hours looking at
- what tools are available – and when and where to use them
- how to find members of the local online community (and how to encourage them to follow you back)
- how to listen to and organise your ever-growing network
- when and where to engage – and what to say
- using statistics to analyse output – which really stirred some interest
One idea that kept cropping up was to simply aim to be ‘interesting’- show interest in your local community and they will show interest in you.
So how have other councillors attempted to be ‘interesting’?
Cllr Catherine Lewis uses an email newsletter, an active profile on a community forum works wonders for Cllr James Barber, whilst Cllr James Cousins has become a local information-service for residents through hisblogging about dog poo, grit bins and planning applications.
These are just three of many possible examples. What they demonstrate however is that there really is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to any of this. Luckily, to help councillors identify the best approach for their local online community the LGiU is running a series of afternoon sessions throughout the summer. These two hour sessions are specifically designed to help councillors who may have perhaps dipped a toe in to social media but are not yet convinced of how it can assist in their role. The first London session tickets (£30, £45 for non-LGiU members) are available through this link.
The session will be led by LGiU’s digital democracy manager Robert Dale (@robandale). For information about other locations, or running a session in your council please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 7554 2855.