Just finished reading a column by Andrew Walmsley of i-level in which he holds forth on the ‘social revolution’ brought about by online communities. If you are looking for a laugh, this is the article for you. It made me laugh, but it was also diasppointing.
On the basis of stardoll.com (a site where little girls can potter away a few hours making up celebrity wardrobes) and some sweeping statements about Facebook, Walmsley spouts forth a sort of marketing-cum-psuedo-sociological utopian hyperbole that would be more appropriate in the late-Nineties when all this stuff first hit our consciousness.
Walmsley has a narrow understanding of the meaning and manifestation of ‘community’, illustrated by statements like ‘hundreds of millions of people across the globe participate in real communities online… more real and relevant to them than their local ones’. Come on! This suggests that we all lived in a sort of primitive, mundane hunter-gatherer world fluctuating between states of boredom and fear of ‘them next door’ until Mark Zuckerberg came ridin’ in.
These principles formed one small part of a larger piece of guidance I researched and wrote with the COI at the end of 2007. I really enjoyed working on it and have been eagerly waiting to see how it would turn out after coming through the necessary bureaucracy.
They went through a number of drafts but I think that the 5 that ‘made the grade’ are sensible.
For curiosity/reference, the following are the original 10 principles as they stood when I passed over the completed guidance. They are written with civil servants in mind, but I think they’re good advice for anybody finding/sharing/collaborating via social media:
1. Be involved… The lifeblood of social media is information and interaction. You will get as much out of it as you put in.
2. Be versatile… Social media needs facilitation and leadership, but there is also a lot of value in participating and spectating as a community member.
3. Be credible… Trust is an important currency in a social media space. Trust can be developed through consistency, thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency.
4. Be constructive… A positive contribution to social media can be made through the provision of facts and figures, and by encouraging constructive criticism and deliberation.
5. Be responsive… The social media space is often informal and conversational. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. Avoid jargon where possible.
1. Be official… You should not make commitments or engage in activities on behalf of HM Government unless you are explicitly authorised to do so and have management approval and/or delegations.
2. Be legal… Do not post anything on your blog online that you would not say in public. Standard Civil Service proprietary and ethics apply. Be aware of libel, defamation, copyright and data protection (for more information on legal issues refer to ‘Appendix 1’).
3. Be a representative… Always disclose your position and interest as a representative of the Government. Unless a site demands anonymity, use your real name and provide basic details about your role, team and agency/department/office. Never give out personal details (such as date of birth, home address, home telephone number, etc.).
4. Be realistic… Don’t over-stretch. Social media is more effective and manageable as a team-based activity than an individual pursuit.
5. Be integrated… Wherever possible, social media activity should be should be integrated and aligned with other online communications and offline activity.
Now that we have these principles, let’s now have some action. And that’s where the rest of the guidance – the big bit – comes into play…
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