“We don’t need another website thingy. We have a Facebook page!”
I’ve heard that. A lot. There’s a tendency to assume that one online thing is basically the same as another, and as long as your residents can get something to you via their computers, that’s good enough, right?
Then, after the wide-open, uncontrolled nature of the Facebook page comments generates the nasty comment from Crazy Troll Land, the next thing I hear is “Oh! We can’t do online engagement! It’s too scary! We’re going back to our old ways. Hand me my quill pen.”
We have rules in any kind of public setting — we want to think that people behave because they are all nice and civilized, but that’s foolishness. We behave because if we don’t there will be consequences. But if I can make inflammatory comments with relative (or real) anonymity, then there’s no consequences, right? Time to rumble!
That’s a Cliff-notes version of the argument in favor of the kinds of online public engagement tools that this site presents (I wrote a more detailed version at the Wise Economy site, and a version of that is also in the Local Economy Revolution book).
Granicus, which provides a broad platform that ranges from document management to video streaming of your meetings, understands this issue very well – and more importantly, that the quality of our public engagement depends on having a robust structure. Granicus wrote recently:
Social media is an effective part of many government agencies’ citizen engagement strategies, but it has its limitations. While sites like Twitter and Facebook make for great avenues to get the message out, they don’t do quite as well cultivating the quality of feedback that government agencies are looking for.
In order to develop a richer conversation with citizens, it’s important to have an online platform that encourages thoughtful conversations rather than the quick and short responses of social media. It must be a place where feedback is heard by government officials and it is constructive, focused, and actionable.
Last week, we held a very popular webinar on this topic: A New Level of Public Feedback: Going Beyond Social Media, featuring Jordan Gilgenbach, the Communications Coordinator for the City of Edina, MN, myself, and Thao Hill, VP of Sales at Granicus. We discussed why social media sites for government agencies are best used as informing tools, and what it is that makes a dedicated online engagement tool more effective for generating insightful citizen feedback.
You can learn more about what Granicus discussed and hear a recording of the presentation here.