Debates continue to swirl around the ‘ownership’ of social media. In government, we tend to equate ownership with resources (human and financial) but not necessarily with the appropriate insight, expertise or authority.

The ‘ownership’ of the execution of social media activities is quite simple – it involves horizontal collaboration based on the issue at hand, not which group you are a part of or to whom you report.

This became more clear to me during a social media pilot about online issues management and corrective blogging. Stakeholders working on the pilot (policy, communications, advocacy, media relations and web communications) emerged from their respective offices to participate. Who ‘owned’ it? We all did. From planning, training and online responding, we all played a part.

I recently spoke about the methodology and outcomes of this pilot at a Social Media for Government event in Ottawa. The speakers represented all levels of government and spoke on a variety of issues which provided diversity and balance in both experience and insight.

What wasn’t balanced was the audience. “How many of you are communicators or work in that field?” All but one hand shot into the air.

“How many of you are policy or program officers?” Tucked against the side wall was a lone hand reaching above the crowd.

Meet Gordon. Gordon was a policy officer working on a key file for his department. As someone from the “business side,” Gordon felt it was important for him to learn about possible uses and applications of social media.

I called on, or made reference to Gordon numerous times throughout my presentation and have continued to do so since. I was thrilled to have a policy officer in the room for it is the policy (file, service etc.) that our social media efforts support. We need to have regular contact with the people who are closest to the heart of an issue and its messages, challenges and audience in order to best know how social media might help.

Social media for, or in government needs to be about more than ownership and include discussions amongst more than communicators.

What’s your next step? Find your Gordon!

Onward.

M.

Disclosure: Gordon confided in me after my presentation that he actually wore two hats – policy and communications! If only we could all be so lucky Gordon ;)

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