What should we make of news that Scottish councils are to take part in a 24-hour Twitterathon to explain “What They Do”?
I have mixed feelings, not sure if this is a clever or naïve move.
Before anyone starts squeaking, I accept that Twitter is an incredibly useful tool around school closures, poor weather, road closures and other news that needs to be conveyed instantly. Anything that improves councils’ communications with their customers (that’s what we are, we are paying for the service) is welcome, especially as it doesn’t come with the price tag for a glossy brochure or another pointless newsletter through the door.
It’s being claimed that the 24 hour Twitter is to give residents an insight into a day in the life of our local authority. Mmm. I suppose my question is – why? What am I going to learn that will be a revelation? Or am I going to be so overcome with gratitude when I hear all that they do that I will complain to the nasty government if they touch one singly penny in my council’s pocket in the budget… Or am I the only cynic who thinks this timing is fortuitous?
In this time of cuts, which officials are going to stop what they’re doing to provide 24 hours worth of tweets? I have this vision of solitary workers being held in darkened council rooms across Scotland, told to tweet as if their life depended on it. Now I think about it, are the tweets realtime or are they being drafted in advance and approved? Who’s monitoring this – and what happens if they start getting negative comments back about their services?
It’s being done on the back of other organisations successfully holding similar events. When Walsall Council did this earlier this year, many of the tweets were humorous and well received locally. Likewise, when police in South Birmingham did it in January, their tweets were riveting as crimes unfolded and updates on arrests were posted. They received only a handful of negative tweets.
I am genuinely unsure what will happen when almost all of our councils start tweeting on the 27th. When I mentioned it in the office, the groundswell of opinion was they should stick to getting on with fixing the roads… I think it is a communications idea that’s well meant but not necessarily well thought-through in terms of potential public reaction.
Perhaps I should start a sweepstake now to estimate what time someone decides to pull the plug? And didn’t any of them notice that this week is Social Media Week around the world?