how we learned the cultural contribution of social media devolution.jpg

One size fits all is rarely the answer to anything in life. And for sure that’s true with organisational social media strategies.

by James Morton

The single question I’ve been asked more than any other of late has been a surprising one.

Not the usual frontrunner: “Can we have a poster for our open day?”

Nor the sometime-favourite: “So, what does comms actually do?”

No, it’s been: “When are the next Tweeties?”

The Tweeties were an internal awards bash we ran last year to celebrate the good things going on across our social media accounts. Best Use of Content, Best Community Engagement – that type of thing.

It was a low-key thing, really – just some certificates (and awards avatars, of course) dished out, a few biscuits and some words of thanks for the work people had put in.

But the fact we’d not got round to organising one yet this year – this summer has sadly been about Grenfell Tower and little else – has been noticed and made me realise the pride our account holders have in their contribution to our comms output.

The social media devolution debate has been one I’ve tracked closely on comms2point0.

Many of Darren’s findings from his review of 500 social media accounts certainly rang true for our organisation. I don’t doubt or deny our 50 or so accounts are in need of a review and refresh.

And as a bit of a comms control freak, I can absolutely identify with South Yorkshire Fire’s Alex Mill’s desire for digital imperialism – but he invited us to “prove him wrong and wipe away my cynicism” so here I go…

The enthusiasm for the next Tweeties made me reflect on what the devolved approach to social media has actually meant to our organisation – and it all boils down to that dusty old perennial: trust.

Three years ago, a new Chief instigated the start of a cultural journey aimed at empowering staff (and all the other similar guff we’ve all committed to a million corporate plans now sat gathering cobwebs in a cupboard.)

A worthy mission but, in a highly hierarchical organisation like the fire service, a tricky one.

Trusting frontline firefighters with such potentially lethal weaponry as a Twitter account would have previously been the stuff of management nightmares.

But, in the new world, as we were approached about new accounts, so we began to open up our comms to the frontline. A trust exercise to a fairly significant extent – not without relevant training and support, of course, but still a nervy moment for many managers.

But I would argue that it is has become the most important signifier of our ‘new world’ and a revelation in breaking down barriers between management and the frontline – something of a holy grail in a ‘yes guv’ culture.

I can genuinely count on one hand the number of ‘issues’ our devolved accounts have thrown up and we have seen some fantastic innovation and imagination as our accounts have embraced the responsibility placed in them.

I’d happily bore anyone with the other myriad benefits it has brought us culturally, not least to people’s understanding and appreciation of comms. And which of us wouldn’t have that on our bucket lists?

Yes, accounts still need to have purpose and of course there has to be quality control, but the odd dull tweet versus engaged staff bursting with pride in their work? I’ll take that trade-off.

James Morton is external communications manager at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

image via Galt Museums and Archives

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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