What is social media for ?
A comment from a public sector organisation which has recently decided to venture into the social media world caught my eye. The organisation in question is the Legal Services Board (LSB), which oversees legal regulators in England and Wales.
It is now on Twitter, and you can follow @LSB_EngandWal (sic) to keep up with statements from this independent body, established by the Legal Services Act 2007, which plays a key role in the regulation of our legal profession. That such a body considers it beneficial to have a Twitter presence shows the extent to which this social media site has become central to the way people interact via the internet.
That said, it was surprising to see this in the Board's document explaining the way it manages social media. "Replies or comments to our postings on any of our channels are not sought and will not necessarily be acknowledged or responded to," it says, while encouraging feedback via a contact form on the body's web site instead.
A spokesperson for the LSB explained this anomaly. "Given the nature of what we do (oversight regulation in the legal services sector) there is a feeling within the organisation that the possibility of responding in the appropriate and most likely detailed way is perhaps somewhat limited on Twitter and as such we will look to respond in other ways," he said.
Twitter's 140 character limit can be frustrating for sure; but a policy of not entering into public discussions is not a social media policy, since public interaction is the essence of social media.
Organisations that treat social media as a broadcast platform are entitled to do so, but will not get the benefits that come from genuine engagement. In general, Twitter accounts that either ignore comments, or provide only canned responses, will not win an enthusiastic response. It is users or customers who encounter meaningful interaction via social media who are more likely to become advocates that recommend the service or brand with which they engage.
"Our use of Twitter is a small steps first approach (intended to allay the fears of some about the using Twitter to begin with) which I hope will change over time," said the LSB's spokesperson. A hopeful sign; and given that Barristers are calling for the LSB to be disbanded, winning a few advocates via social media might be no bad thing.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Howard Lake