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The LGA’s Social Media Friendly Mark

5 December 2012

A useful incentive or an expensive ‘well done’ badge?

A national Social Media Friendly Mark has recently been introduced by the Local Government Association (LGA) as a logo or badge to be displayed by local authorities to make clear their commitment to using social media to communicate with the public. The initiative is being implemented on trust and the logo can be displayed on documents such as meeting papers, websites, letters or pamphlets. The scheme is an acknowledgement that if used correctly, social media is a powerful communications tool, helping to drive cultural, political, economic and social engagement.

Reassuringly councils will not incur additional expense in using the mark. Any costs incurred are funded by the LGA in devising, setting up and publicising the initiative. 

So is this simply a ‘well done’ badge for local councils or will the Social Media Friendly Mark have an impact?

What does the Social Media Friendly Mark do?

The Social Media Friendly Mark is designed to tell the public that councils are providing information through a broad range of online channels. It can indicate the availability of wi-fi in public buildings for live tweeting, blogging and uploading photos. It makes it clear that the use of social media to report meetings in real-time via tweets and status updates is welcomed.

Leading by example

Let’s face it, how many times have we heard the public say, “What do council officers do all day?” The LGA’s #OurDay ‘tweetathon’ initiative involved local authorities across the UK and provided a behind the scenes insight into the round-the-clock effort that drives hundreds of council services. Almost 4,000 local government tweeters, including chief executives, frontline staff and councillors, contributed more than 10,000 tweets which were seen by more than 760,000 people. At one stage the #OurDay hashtag was the number two trending topic in the UK. 

It seems the LGA is leading by example with initiatives designed to show local authorities how the co-ordinated, strategic use of social media can help enhance the reputation of local government, improve engagement with different elements of the community and drive efficiency. The Social Media Friendly Mark is just part of an overall strategy to increase the use of social media amongst local authorities.

Creating a two-way conversation

Over the years local authorities have spent millions in newsletters, leaflets and pamphlets trying to engage with different sectors of the community. Marketing communications have been written, revised and approved in triplicate. The instantaneous nature of social media reporting suggests a more open, transparent and regular form of two-way communication.

Tools such as Twitter are great for alerting people to real-time situations such as road closures and flood warnings. But they also give people the opportunity to provide direct feedback and may appeal to a different audience from those who receive their local news via the print media. From the local authority’s viewpoint, it can be particularly useful to those who experience a hostile editorial direction from their local press.

Will the Social Media Friendly Mark have an impact?

Anything that encourages real two-way communications in a targeted cost-effective way has to be good news.

At first glance, the Social Media Friendly Mark seems to be ‘just a badge’ to be displayed at the first sign of a tweet, but perhaps the beauty is that there are no costs to the local authority and no need for the LGA to police such a scheme.
Always the first to provide critical feedback, members of the public will have no need to ‘queue up to complain’ if their local authority displays the mark without following the ethos. They can take to twitter, facebook or the council blog instantly from anywhere in the world and make their feelings known.

Whether the local authority takes that opportunity to engage and respond is their business.

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