Getting personal: Why organisations should encourage their staff to use social media

Before starting my role at the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Exchange, I’d always kept work related tweets separate from my personal account.

I always felt uneasy that I may bring shame upon my work colleagues by tweeting something inappropriate. But when I was fortunate enough to get this job, I realised that I faced losing a few contacts because this project didn’t have a Twitter account at the time (but does now). I decided to take the plunge and mix business with pleasure.

When I worked at WCVA I admired how my then-colleague Michelle Matheron managed to do what I’m just getting my head around now, by tweeting about the implications of Welsh politics for the third sector and (in her words) “girlie nonsense”. But the girlie nonsense she tweets gives a great context to her work. Working around politics isn’t just a job for Michelle, by following her it becomes clear that it’s an interest and a passion. The authenticity of her tweets adds weight to what she says, and also reminds you that you can engage with her directly.

At this point I still wasn’t entirely sure that I could be personal in a professional context and vice-versa, but since taking that step I’m very glad that I have. Having never previously worked around auditing, I’ve got a lot to learn. Twitter’s given me the chance to learn more about what Wales Audit Office staff do, and also to get to know them as individuals. There are lots of great people worth following, but just for two examples it’s been great following Huw Lloyd-Jones, who’s been great at highlighting good practice in tweeting from local government in North Wales, and Mike Palmer, whose passion for sustainable development really shines through from his tweets.

Social media also gives people the opportunity to develop relationships with others, which poses some quite exciting possibilities for how public services relate to people.

By being on these platforms personally, we’re better equipped to know what effective tweeting looks like. The great thing is that there are lots of public services who are already using social media in this way, who are both personable and helpful. Organisations like Torfaen County Borough Council are interacting quickly, efficiently and in the medium of the person’s choice (in this case Twitter).

It’s become clear that organisations can’t continue to work the same way they did before social media. It’s clear that the way people access information from us is changing, as is the way we communicate. This great blog post from Comms 2.0 outlines why we need to change — because people want to hear from us in a language they can understand and relate to, in a personal way, where public services are people too.

Using social media personally is a great way to get to grips with what’s expected of an organisation. But more than that, by being on there as individuals, we’re also letting people know how our organisations work and how we reach the decisions we make and why we do what we do. As Tim Lloyd says in a great blog post for the Department for Business and Skills, “a face and a name, and a deep knowledge of a specific policy area, is far more appealing to our audiences than anonymous statements from a corporate account”. Whether this is true for everyone I’m not sure, but I can certainly say that personally I follow far more people than organisations.

This post orginally appeared on the blog of the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office.