This week’s news that Twitter now has 10 million users in the UK, one in six of the population, is further proof of the rise and rise of social media.
Compare this figure with the nine million people who buy national newspapers, and you could be forgiven for thinking that traditional media is on the way out, especially when more than 30 million people are using Facebook.
I don’t believe traditional media is in its death throes, as Dan Slee’s blog for @comms2point0 points out, but have we now reached the tipping point where colleagues in local government who continue to ignore social media need to be more than just encouraged to join in?
I’ll declare an interest, Twitter is my favourite social media tipple. Like most indulgences, you can overdo it, and I have on occasions lost hours that I’ll never get back in the wastelands of trivia and nonsense. But those lapses aside, I do find it incredibly useful, both personally and professionally.
On a personal level, Twitter is now the most immediate source of news, providing both comment in 140 characters and links to more expansive articles. Just a quick scan of a timeline keeps me up-to-date with what is going on. I also get to share information with friends on subjects of mutual interest.
Professionally, once I’d followed the right people, I now have access to networks of people who work both in local government communications and the wider public sector. I have learned an awful lot from these individuals and the comments and links they post, knowledge which I’m using to improve the way I work.
We reached the point some time ago where local government communicators must have social media knowledge and use as part of their basic skills sets, they simply have no excuse. But what of other colleagues?
The pride in ignorance and/or dislike of social media has now worn thin. Gleeful comments about people ‘twittering’ are becoming embarrassing, especially when more and more people are using tweets to engage with their residents and customers.
Deliberately avoiding a free to use and increasingly popular and beneficial social media platform in the current financial climate just isn’t on anymore.
Twitter isn’t perfect, and there are some weirdos out there, but they can be blocked. And it won’t be for everyone in local government, but it can benefit the majority. It will become increasingly important for engaging with residents, learning and development, and as a channel where staff can be both advocates for and critical friends of the organisation.
So if you haven’t yet dipped your toe in the social media waters, why not start with Twitter? There are many people around who can help you get started, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We have now reached the stage where it isn’t a case of if you should join, but when?