The passion for social media

It has been an interesting week. One where I was put in the spotlight for the work Greater Manchester Police has done to use social media to support policing. This attention isn’t something I enjoy. My role is to promote others, to promote the organisation and to provide support behind the scenes, and that is a place I am comfortable with. But I took the opportunity because I believe organisations need to grasp social media and make it work for them.

The two key events I had this week were the #Commschat on Monday night where I was asked a lot of questions about how social media is integrated into communication for GMP. It was exciting to be able to discuss the relevant issues and opportunities with fellow communication professionals. The following night I took part in a panel debate about policing, riots and social media hosted by Social Media Cafe Manchester @smc_mcr. That was a different and more challenging experience where as well as support for the innovation of the police in using social media, I also had the unusual experience of being called an agent of the state. I am still wrestling with what the actually means for me.

A number of key themes have emerged from the two experiences:

  • how to gain management buy in to using social media to support an organisation
  • the risks and how to manage them
  • individual rights and whether naming and shaming is acceptable through social media
  • the role of social media in events both good and bad

Without going through the detailed responses and discussions, which I am sure are all still available through the web, one thing was evident through these events – the passion of those taking part. These people had a willingness to change, wanted to use social media and make a difference and to do it in a way that supports society and communities. People want to maximise the benefits that can be found in using social media and there were many references to the power in the hands of the ‘little man’. In short, they had a passion for social media that they wanted to share.

The real benefits for communities come from the way social media connects people with similar issues, concerns or experiences. These people can join together to address the problems in communities and can have an impact. After the disorder in early August we saw people reclaim social networks and their streets, joining together to clean up and to voice their support for the police. All this was done in a way that has never been seen before. Much of it started on social media before moving into face-to-face events.

It is important not to ignore the passion that people have for starting conversations and using social media. In avoiding social media organisations are hiding from what is happening in homes and in communities across the country and around the world. No one group or organisation has all the answers. Some are just trying hard to identify how they might be able to use these networks to support their company.

One thing that I do feel I share with all the people I have had the opportunity to talk to this week is that I share the passion for using social media to support conversations. Put simply it is about a commonsense approach, and using networks in a way that is lively, engaging, entertaining and informing. No-one wants to talk to someone who is just going to lecture all the time and that is something the police have to guard against when they are using social media.

Social media does allow organisations to be more open, accountable and accessible. The key is to harness the passion people have for using the networks and start to make the changes that will mean you can integrate social media into communication for your organisation. Embrace the opportunities, recognise the risks but the time is so right to reflect the passion of others and move your communication online.

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