Monday 14 November 2011

We need to talk about content

I'm sorry, but we do.

I've hitherto avoided commenting on such things because at work this is not my area, and so it is absolutely inappropriate for me to step on other peoples toes and comment either negatively or positively on something I have no control over and no input into.

But someone has made it my issue. That someone is Looking Local. This morning they emailed me to tell me that they had relaunched their Facebook app which allows content from Council websites to be imported en masse and displayed on Facebook - and pointed me at Bracknell Forest as an example of how it could be used.

It's a pretty Facebook page. Down the left hand side, nice and neatly ordered are all the options from Disabled Guides to maps, virtual tours to Twitter accounts. There are car park maps, polling stations maps and schools maps. Maps galore. A plethora of maps. Click on the car park map and it's been viewed over 8,000 times. The leisure centre map 540,000 times. The play areas map 4,000 times. Not inconsequential for what is, quite clearly also demonstrated by the maps, a relatively small Council covering a relatively small area.

I am impressed. No, really I am. It's a cohesive, justified and obviously well used social media hub in the place where people evidently are (though I'm sure traffic is driven to those maps from elsewhere as well - like the Council website which will appear first in a search engine search).

So I delve a bit deeper. Friend activity reveals a blank - the Council has obviously decided it does not feel it is appropriate for them to 'friend' their residents. A quick scan down the wall reveals that almost every post is 'Liked' but that it is one 'Like' on average and that the comment rate is not as high as those viewing figures of the maps might indicate they should be. And strange to see as it's quite obvious that quite a lot of either staff or consultant time and attention has been lavished on the Facebook account - and yet the return on investment seems to be so small.

However, all soon becomes clear.

Click on the Looking Local option on the left hand side and you discover the reason for much discussion on my Twitter account this morning. What appears to have happened is that the entire contents of the Council's website has been dumped into a self contained app within Facebook. This means that a web 1.0 broadcast only content clump has been unceremoniously dumped into a web 2.0 interactive environment - but that all opportunities for adding interactivity have been firmly removed.

It would perhaps be cruel of me to point out that clicking on Social Media in the top level menu and then selecting Flickr - your images results in an error. Or that a picture of a sign with Byway written on it is perhaps a strange thing to be viewing on a Council Flickr stream without the context which undoubtedly goes with it - as the app doesn't seem to display context. It is a shame that all interactivity has been removed even from Flickr via the app as you cannot either see comments already made on the photographs nor add your own.

So I click on the Contact Us section. Surely this will be better and there will be links to email contacts or Twitter streams?

No. I am told I can walk in to a walk in centre or make a phone call. On Facebook. In an app on Facebook.

The discussion on Twitter revolved around whether:
a) the content being there where the eyeballs were was good enough, no interactivity was required
b) the content being there was a complete waste of time and money and all that content could have been linked to
c) the content wouldn't feed into peoples feeds so no one would ever know if a change had been made so what was the point?
d) Facebook is where the eyeballs are, for some people it is all there is to the internet and we should pander to them and duplicate content there because if we don't we're excluding those people
e) duplicating content to the prima donnas who refuse to go anywhere else costs money - people need to JFGI
f) should local government ethically be encouraging people to use only Facebook with the accompanying potential alleged privacy and data protection issues
g) the irony of putting none interactive content on a platform completely revolving around interactivity killed them

I looked forward to your views. You can probably guess what mine are.

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