Guardian holds online discussion on council websites

The live debate included a panel of experts

The Guardian’s Local Government Network held an online debate on Wednesday about what the purpose of a council website is, how councils can improve them and how useful council Twitter and Facebook accounts can be.

“In reality, some authorities are only just getting the hang of targeting the information they serve to specific users and understanding the importance (and cost reduction) involved. Some have yet to pay much attention at all to their online presence,” read the introduction of the discussion, noting that “Twitter is a platform much more suited to human interaction and response than for use as a static noticeboard.”

Anyone could participate in the live debate, which had a panel of experts such as Helen Reynolds, digital and social media manager at Monmouthshire county council and Glen Ocskó  community involvement and innovation manager for the London borough of Sutton, and co-founder of the We Love Local Government blog, amongst others.

The discussion can be viewed here.

Some points raised included:

  • Surely the best service is a responsive service, rather than councils deciding they know what’s best for the public” – colebagski
  • The Twitter ID which is used to tweet out service related communications should be maintained by the customer service function. This part of the organisation handles telephone calls, why then should it not deal with the social media communication also? Rather too many council PR teams fail to ‘get’ Twitter or Facebook as a channel for delivering great customer service. – x333xxx
  • Digital engagement is definitely right, but we should be going where the conversations are already happening, and not expecting people to come to our websites – they aren’t the be-all and end-all of online. – Kate Bob from Lambeth Council
  • Too often social or digital media is the shiny pretty thing that people lust after. Online content whether it is a Twitter account, an app or a website  needs to fit within some form of strategy. Online should be part of a wider engagement and communications mix that uses the right balance of offline and online, traditional media and social media to achieve the task. Asking for a Twitter account or Facebook page before knowing who the audience is and what the aim is will just be another case of putting the cart before the horse. – Surrey County Council representative


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