Sunday, 1 December 2013

Social media and the internal digital divide

There's an elephant in the room of channel shift. In fact it's knocked through to social media's gaff and is currently residing in the whole ground floor of the digital comms building. I'd been meaning to write about this for a while and Helen Reynolds post asking "Isn’t it time ALL employees were encouraged to use social media" promoted me into doing so.

Channel shift encourages not only customers to use digital, but also those providing the service to communicate with service users using digital too. That might be using social media, a Customer Relationship Management system or some other electronic means.

In my LocalGov Digital role I talk to lots of people, in lots of organisations, in lots of sectors and one thing is apparent; the standard of literacy of some delivering services is perceived as not good enough to communicate effectively using digital.

This is not in any way a judgement on their professional capability. I myself once worked with a computer programmer who was dyslexic. He was brilliant in his role and produced some amazing stuff, he just had some trouble reading and writing English.

A shift to all employees being encouraged to use digital comms scares some, it really does. It scares them because they think whilst professionally they're fine when it comes to communication, translating this into written language the public will understand might show up their perceived inadequacies, making them and the organisation they work for look unprofessional.

So what's the solution. Perhaps build digital comms into the job descriptions for new employees, and yes this might work for some roles, but would you really not employ a brilliant builder because they couldn't blog, or a consummate care worker who couldn't compose tweet?

Perhaps the solution is not to encourage all employees to use digital comms but only those who want to?

There are two problems I can see with this. Firstly you're creating a digital divide internally between those who tweet and those that don't. Secondly, customers will receive a different quality of communication depending on who is assigned to the task.

I don't know how to resolve this, I'm just starting a debate, and clearly as channel shift pushes digital comms to the fore, it'll become more and more of an issue.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.