Social Media and Councils: A Fragmented Adhocracy?

In Birmingham we are currently trying to find ways of measuring our usage of Social Media tools. Suggestions we have are based very much around measuring the number of times an organisation Tweets, how many followers it has, how many comments are on its blog, what the analytics are, etc.

Now, my level of interest in such things hovers somewhere around zero, to be honest. But the discussion did make me think about another way in which we could categorise our use of social networking tools, particularly in relation to other means of communication.

For instance, if we look at how widespread the adoption of a communications tool might be, we see quite a range. Most organisations right now have individual enthusiasts who have set up their own social networking presence, often without the knowledge of the wider organisation. We can compare that with a communications tool such as the telephone which is available to anybody who has contact with the public. And in between these two ends of the range, there’s another which is typified by one or more employees within each section or department being given the responsibility of using that particular tool.

I’ve then looked at the guidance which exists for using a communications tool. We start from no guidance: an employee who uses a new tool, for example, does so because of their enthusiasm for it (and so accepts the risk that they are unsupported). Next, there will be the stage where guidelines are written for all members of the organisation to follow when they use the tool. The final stage of maturity will be when the usage of the tool is covered by professional codes of ethics pertinent to the area of work rather than being specific to the tool that is used..

So, we can look at the situation that often exists at the moment; enthusiastic early adopters with no guidance or support and categorise that as a Fragmented Adhocracy (with apologies to Whitley) and compare that with the telephone which is widespread with established standards of use which is more of an Embedded Dependency.

I’ve included a table below which outlines this idea

What I think this does is to allow us to look at the work we are doing around strategy and guidance and give us a framework to describe our current position and where we want it to go. Personally, I think that we should be aiming towards Supported and Targetted for all of the Social Media tools we use.

It also quite explicitly places social media as a communications tool in a taxonomy that includes more established and accepted forms of communications technology such as the telephone or email. It takes the emphasis away from why it is new and different and shifts it to a place where similarities can be compared.

So, is this useful? Is it a framework you could see being put to use in your organisation? Or have I got the categories wrong? Or have you already seen this described better somewhere else?

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