Councillors need to get down with the Social Media Disco

Hip Young Councillors Are After Your Seat

Chances are that newcomers to the local political playground will be social media savvy. Younger, faster, slicker than their long established peers? Maybe! Better politicians? Perhaps not, yet, but given time and the benefit of advice and guidance of their peers and they have the potential to be. The combination of this ongoig political education and use of social media tools, will over time strengthen the potential for the newbies to reach out further to their constituents. In the annual game of political musical chairs, those who can play the social media tune alongside the doorstep dancing, will find they’re the ones more likely to be sitting on the chair when DJ Purdah stops the music.

That said, not all long established councillors are social media ignorant, nor all young inaugurals aware of the real value or potential of social media tools. Just because you have a Facebook page or blog, or Twitter account, doesn’t automatically give you one-up-man-ship on an opponent who does without.

Maybe I have over-egged the impact use of social media tools can have on wooing the electorate, as you still cannot beat that face to face door step discussion, where your potential voter gets to see you and listen to you in the flesh. Human to human interaction, even for social media advocates, is not something dismissed as outdated and wasteful use of time. However, the way society is shaping up and technology allowing for swathes of citizens to access the internet and develop their own online presence, as we see commercial organisations beginning to utilise these tools for marketing and developing stronger customer bases, councillors need to also recognise the opportunities to develop and connect with their own customers in this very same way.

By having a blog, using twitter, setting up a facebook page, all and any councillor can begin to tap into the online communities that exist, and which are spreading all the time. Councillors are pretty blooming good at doing social: Listening, discussing, supporting, and taking up issues on behalf of residents or groups in the community. Social media tools therefore should hold little fear, although they do seem to in many cases.

The fact is that, even if you just have basic IT skills, it’s enough to be able to use a range of online tools. The biggest barrier is having the confidence to use them, or find out which one (if not all) is for you. Yet, it’s not just confidence about the tools themselves, rather how they can be used effectively.

CllrSocMed

Last year the CllrSocMed team undertook a number of social media group sessions across the Yorkshire and Humber region. These sessions were purely for councillors who wanted to know more about the ins and outs of social media, what it meant, the potential pit falls, saying the wrong thing, why should they use it, how will it make their life easier as surely its just something else they have tolearn but don’t have time for!

In excess of 50 councillors attended those sessions. Each of them took something positive away. The age range varied, as did the political hue.

The best thing about those sessions though was that they were not run by council officers, but fronted by councillors already using social media. Who better for a councillor to talk to, listen to, debate the range of issues that the words ‘social media’ raise, than with a peer who already uses them? So, whilst the officers offered technical support, Cllr Cooke (@SimonMagus), Cllr Cheetham (@CllrTim) and Cllr Cooper (@clrandrewcooper) were at the forefront of discussion, debate, advice and encouragement.

Some learning resources you just can’t buy…because they’re FREE!

What the CllrSocMed team were able to do was to capture a lot of learning from these sessions, developing resources that could be used by councillors anywhere across the country. They were generated as a direct result of questions raised and debates had by and between councillors.

This particular link will direct you to a range of material, to give you a flavour of what is on offer.

Where can CllrSocMed next be found?

The CllrSocMed team will next be found at Local Gov Camp North West, on 4 February 2012, and are very much looking forward to hopping over the border into the red rose county.

The role councillors play in the lives of their communities can be pivotal, especially in terms of planning, environment, community safety, health and education. If you had the option to make an even greater impact by reaching more people in your community, morereadily, that can only be a good thing, a quite powerful thing. Social media is the means by which this can happen!

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