More from Manchester's web 2.0 conference

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The second morning session from the Public Sector Forums conference is now underway.

conference view

Next up speaking is Paul McElvaney from Learning Pool, along with Becka Johnson from Cardiff Council.

Paul’s talk focussed on online training – going from transactional training to deliver specific outcomes to something more fundamental in terms of how knowledge is transferred.

Something I’ve heard quite a lot this morning so far is “overstrategised” – while I’m not sure this is a real word, the sentiment is valid – it’s easy to do too much thinking around some social media stuff, especially when working with suppliers with a vested interest in a lengthy development process.

Being effective with social media is about being agile, in development and strategy terms. For councils this often means developing cultural and policy shifts to provide an effect context for being agile in.

Paul also made a really good point about getting it wrong – it can and does happen, but don’t let this make you afraid of trying something with media – just be aware of the risks and know how you’ll manage those risks. You can always make changes rapidly – as long as you’re aware of what’s happening.

Second speaker is Tim Davies talking about social media and young people.

Tim kicked off with a set of figures showing how important social networking is prevalent among young people – proving the case that this is worth looking at. He also makes a good point that information flows are changing – less through the media, more through your friends and connection – it’s worth thinking about how that impacts on the business of public sector communications.

He also talked about how social media is context aware – mapping onto your life right now – and that context is constantly shifting – which is a different communications environment to the more static traditional media-led environment that communicators are more familiar with.

Young people are using technology in their own ways – appropriating technology for things that its developers didn’t originally intend – which to me makes the case for making versatile technology rather than trying to create defined use cases for specific tasks.

Tim discussed how growing up in a digital environment changes young people – in particular how a piece of information without context (such a leaflet through the door) gains less traction that one with context (such as via a trusted contact on a social network). I think this is a really good point that gets to the nub of how marketing communications is changing right now.

Tim also set out three levels of engagement with young people:

  • Providing information
  • Providing channels for feedback – essentially two-way communication
  • Providing outreach – people on the frontline

Tim’s also talking about PLINGS – providing this information as feeds as well as on a website, so that people can take subsets of information about positive activities for young people and take local ownership of that content. In his experience these sites need regenerating every couple of years to keep the ownership fresh (as young people grow up and move onto doing other stuff).

PLINGS also enables more effective production of offline information, like posters and flyers – it’s about getting the data right in the first place, and then repurposing it. This strikes me as a really sound principle that goes beyond the context in which Tim is referring to it.

Something that Tim mentioned that I hadn’t considered extensively before was about sharable content – test out how your council content shares using the usual sharing buttons into Facebook etc. If it picks up the wrong image or no image it can affect the clickthrough rates back from the social media site to the council site – Tim quoted a figure of more than 200% increase in clickthrough where an appropriate image has been picked up in the sharing onto the social network.

Tim’s final point was about creating with young people as partners – something I’d definitely agree with – it’s extremely valuable to do – but it’s worth noting that when project planning you need to allow more time and space for this to happen effectively.

That’s if for me on the conference blogging for now – I’m speaking after lunch and then it’s into a taxi back to Manchester Picadilly for the long train ride back to Whitstable. I’ll be following things online from the train of course though – it’s all at www.psfbuzz.com and @psfbuzz / #psfbuzz on Twitter.

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