Monday, 23 January 2012

Community cohesion through social content?

Last year we launched a pilot page for local news. As well as showing the news we publish it takes content from Twitter and display the latest tweet from a selection of over 25 organisations local to West Berkshire. We chose our initial group based on local, primarily not-for-profit organisations that tweet and you can see the full criteria here.

The pilot was to test whether the page worked technically, whether it updated all the time, every time and whether what it displayed looked as it should. The page passed these tests with flying colours  but it also produced some unexpected but positive results. 

For example towards the end of the week the page often becomes a what's on at local art venues and Saturday afternoons the page often displays live local football and rugby scores and if there's a fixture, racing results. These are both things we didn’t expect to happen but are a great ways to promote local cultural and sporting activities.

So where do we go from here? A possible plan of action could be split into two stages. The first, to take the template used for the pilot and create more pages for specific subject areas. An art and leisure page for promoting activities in the area, a page promoting the work of the Police and community safety groups, a page displaying information from local town and parish councils, and so on.

The second stage might be engaging with local organisations, helping those that don't use social media and talking to those that do, assisting both groups to promote what they do to citizens and providing advice through social media surgeries. As well as talking we'd listen, as it's likely the more experienced users of social media might have advice for us to improve what we offer.

Whilst these two stages would enhance our website by including an increased amount of community based content, because the content is taken from social media the added benefit is that district as a whole might profit from organisations not only engaging with us but with each other and the people who use or have an interest in their services.

Ultimately, through the desire bring community content to our website we may be able to create a more vibrant and engaged community not just digitally, but beyond. Perhaps this is too idealistic and as a result unachievable, whatever you think I'd value your feedback and if you'd like to know more of have any comments you can find me on Twitter.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.