Digital tips for new councillors (part 2)

We recently ran a fabulous blog by our friends Dave McKenna and Carl Whistlecraft @LDBytes all about their digital councillor session at #localgovcamp - that was part 1. We're now thrilled to announce part 2...!

Given that we are in the midst of World Cup frenzy it seems fitting that our Digital Tips for Councillors has turned out to be a game of two halves.  Our first instalment was a product of our session at LocalGov Camp.  Dave McKenna (@Localopolis) has blogged about it in part 1, taking us from 1 to 11.

Last week we had an away fixture in the Innovation Zone at the LGA Conference in Bournemouth (#LGAConf14). We were blessed with some great "players" on the real and virtual pitch. We pitched the same question - "What advice would you give to new councillors who want to use digital?"  This is a summary of that discussion:

12.  Don't be tribal - this very much builds on Tip 5 but came at it from a slightly different angle.  Don't let your political tribalism get in the way of following your "opponents" on social media.  You could learn some useful tips (and find out what they're up to)

13.  Invite citizen tweeters in - Twitter can be a great tool for quickly getting service user perspectives which can be used as part of your councillor role.  We heard a great case study from a councillor who was en route to a meeting with the local bus company who used twitter to ask what issues to raise.  Responses were used as part of the meeting.  Powerful stuff. 

14.  Remember it's a slow burner - setting up a social media account is not just a case of "build it and they will come".  It will take time to build up interest and followers - "be patient, post regularly but don't be obsessive" were the key messages.

15.  Tweets alone won't win elections - digital campaigning is another tool in the politicians box but will not be enough on it's own.  As one councillor said, "there is no substitute for shoe leather" but there are real opportunities to blend on-line with off-line.  Put your Twitter account on your election leaflets.

16.  10 Tweets don't make a policy - the consensus was that, for councillors, policy making is a serious and multi-faceted process.  Whilst digital can play a positive part in that process (Neighbourhood Plans were used an example) it should not be the main driver.  Be careful of the vocal digital minority.

17.  Make digital a part of induction - is your council allowing you to dip your digital toe as part of new councillor induction?  If not, find out why.  Officers have a part to play in supporting councillors use digital although the consensus was that social media savvy councillors are better placed to support their peers.  Councillor-led / Officer-facilitated seems to be the best mix.

18.  Ignore the trolls - all of the councillors involved in our session had their own personal troll story.  They accepted that this is an unfortunate part of being in public office.  Their advice - ignore them.

19.  Manage your own account - we heard "unbelievable" tales of corporate social media accounts being managed by councils on behalf of councillors.  Broadcasting corporate messages.  Surely not.  Be authentic and manage your own accounts.  It's really easy to tell when you don't.

20.  Develop a relationship with the local press - it's increasingly likely that your local press will have a social media account.  Follow them and encourage them to follow you - column inches will be yours.  @CllrKevin provided us with a nice case study explaining how the Doncaster Free Press now report on his work in their Twitter Round Up.

21.  Think about Standards - all councillors sign up to the National Code of Conduct.  Remember that this applies to your digital world - if you wouldn't do it in a public meeting, don't do it on line.  Don't Tweet in haste - "you get very little time to repent at your leisure".

22.  Content is King - this links to Tip 4.  Whether you choose to share content purely in your role as a councillor or mix it with some personal insights, make it interesting and engaging.  Constant broadcasting is a bit of a turn off.  Obvious, but true.

23.  Digital is more than Twitter - both of our sessions focussed a lot on Twitter (it's how the conversation went) but there are a whole range of tools out there.  Take some time to find out what you want to achieve and which tool(s) best suit you.

24.  Don't be a D**k - in the spirit of honest reporting Tip 24 had to be included.  I don't think this is specifically covered in the National Code of Conduct but the councillors present all agreed that when using digital this is sound advice.  Who am I to argue.

This is part of our Rewiring Local Democracy work - please share your examples.  Please follow us on Twitter: @LDBytes or join us on Knowledge Hub

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