I’ve long thought that the best advice is simple, straight forward and universal.
Life is simple, Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, but we just over complicate it.
In 2015, I helped write the first social media guidance for elected members in Scotland called ‘Follow Me’. It’s strength was its simplicity and what we produced was a document that stood the test of time.
Social media is conversation, the advice said, and you can listen and take part in that conversation.
Back then, just over six in ten Scots had smartphones and there was still a debate in some quarters over using social media or not.
Wind the clock forward and today social media is as embedded amongst local government as leaflets and door-knocking. There is a generation of new voters in Scotland who were just a year old when the iphone was invented. To them this isn’t new, it’s what’s expected.
Seven years on, I’m proud to have helped write updated advice for elected members in a download called ‘Follow Me 2’.
#followme2 is available from the Improvement Service here.
The advice is published again by the National Communications Advisory Group (Scotland) and Scottish Government’s Improvement Service. People can download the 26-page document that I’m confidant helps elected members to meet the challenges of 2022 and far beyond.
What’s new? It’s noisier with more channels, for one
What challenges did we face when drawing up the new document?
Well, the world of 2022 seems a lot more complicated than 2015. Back then it was all about Twitter and Facebook. Online abuse then was a whisper not the angry roar it of a problem it can often now be.
‘Follow Me 2’ takes the promise of social media but sets out clear advice with eyes wide open. Yes, there are opportunities but there also risk.
The document gives advice on a far more complicated social media landscape that sees Twitter and Facebook joined with Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Nextdoor, WhatsApp and Messenger as potential tools for elected members. We explain each.
We’ve drawn on data to show what age groups are using what channel. Over thirties are using Facebook, for example, over 55s can be found on Nextdoor and WhatsApp can connect and mobilise supporters across the ward.
We’ve also shown how traditional media have adopted Facebook as the default way of reaching people and how Facebook groups in the community have grown in importance.
What’s new? It handles threat too
We’ve drawn from the good advice COSLA and the Local Government Association offer to elected members. Their advice on setting standards for users on an elected members’ profile is excellent. Yes, engage with people who disagree but only if its done with courtesy and respect. Harassment, abuse and threats should not be tolerated. Neither for transparency should anonymous accounts.
We’ve also offered advice on what to do if you’re in the crosshairs of trolls. Don’t let on that the abuse is getting to you, switch off alerts and feel free to block or mute. Take a screenshot of offensive comments.
Follow Me 2 feels more mature than the first edition but that’s exactly how it should be. Social media has matured and is no longer the new kid on the block. Has it replaced leafletting and meeting people face-to-face? Not at all. Social media is an extra. But its an extra that can make a sharp hardworking elected member understand better what’s going on in the ward. It can also let people know what you’re doing about it.
‘Follow Me 2’ is good and simple advice that I hope will be a benchmark not just for Scotland but for far wider, too.
I’m taking part in a webinar for elected members with the Improvement Service to go through the guide on 23.8.22. You can find out more here.