Most organisations now have multiple social media accounts. It’s become the norm. But is there an argument for one account to rule them all? The manager of one UnAward-winning team argues the case.
by Alexander Mills
Looking through the results of a social media management survey the other day felt a bit like that time at primary school when you find out that yes, it’s just you that still believes in Father Christmas or no, no one else still sucks their thumb at night.
One of the most striking findings for me was the stat that just 1% of organisations surveyed only operate online using single corporate accounts, with the devolution of social media to teams, individuals and departments on the frontline of service delivery now very much the norm.
Well, that makes me and the organisation I work for one of the 1%.
Put me in the stocks, pelt me with over ripe tomatoes and laugh at my stubborn refusal to get with the programme, but first let me state our case for being one of the last bastions of digital imperialism.
Don’t get me wrong- we’ve tried. We’ve set people or teams up with their own ‘official’ pages and watched on as the initial enthusiasm of the self-proclaimed digital gurus dissolves into a grey gunge of banality and inertia. It’s a bit like when a child asks for a puppy, promises they’ll feed it and walk it and groom it every day, but a few weeks down line you know it will be you getting up on a dark November morning armed with a raincoat and a poop-a-scoop.
As relatively early adopters of social media back in 2009, our online strategy has been to build single accounts with large, established audiences who trust us to deliver accurate, interesting content. That means giving our audiences lots of what they want- photos of firefighters putting wet stuff on hot stuff or rescuing animals are a guaranteed crowd pleaser- together with a bit of what we want them to know, like information that’s going to make them safer.
We think it’s a strategy which has really worked for us, with our digital channels a proven part of our award winning fire safety campaigns, responses to major emergency incidents ranging from huge recycling fires to the worst snowfall in 100 years and, increasingly, meeting our internal communication challenges.
We’re also not shy to try new things, from dabbling with WhatsApp, persevering with Yammer and increasingly thinking video first in everything we do. So I like to think we’re not completely stuck in the past.
But in the post-truth, fake news era, isn’t it more important than ever that people know they are getting their information from a single, trusted voice? Especially in times of crisis, which for the emergency services is the currency we deal in every day. People from journalists to worried residents know to come to our established, corporate channels for the up-to-date, accurate version of events.
Of course, looking beyond my own organisation, there are some islands of great workforce generated content out there, but I also see an ocean of sporadically updated accounts with dubious content which do little to improve reach, reputation or outcomes. For me, multiple accounts, particularly if they are poorly maintained, but even if they’re not, only serve to dilute the message from organisations for whom authenticity means a lot.
But on the whole single account thing, I’m prepared to be proven wrong so please, please do get in touch if you can wipe away my cynicism by offering me compelling examples of where letting go of social media is the only way to go.
And we’re still prepared to give devolution a chance- in fact, we’re about to start a trial giving one of our on-call fire stations control of their own Facebook page, in a bid to boost recruitment. I really hope to be writing again next year to tell you how much of a success it’s been.
Until then, I’m part of the 1% and proud.
Alexander Mills is corporate communication manager at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and current chair of FirePRO, the network of fire service communication professionals.
image via Alan Bixby