Having recently switched from the private sector to the public sector, I am interested in perspectives on how governments can use social media to improve information sharing and dialogue with citizens. I asked Lee de Lang, partner at video production company Flashframe Digital Media, three related questions.
1) Have you seen an example of social media integration in the public sector that you really liked?
Lee: My partner Mike and I have been impressed with a couple of programs we’ve been exposed to through our client work. One recent project that really stands out is the City of Ottawa’s launch of their green bin program in 2009. The campaign was designed by High Road Communications, who subcontracted us to shoot and edit a series of YouTube videos to help educate Ottawa residents about what should (and should not) go into their new green bins. To this day, the City continues to stay connected with Ottawa residents via their website as well as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I remember being very impressed with that campaign, and it was so much fun to play a small part in it (especially because we got to rock out with Ottawa-based band Loudlove and play music-video directors for a day).
As far as my personal experience with public institutions, I can’t say that I’ve seen any really compelling social media programs here in Toronto; however, during the recent municipal election I did rely mostly on Twitter for my election news and I followed the tweets of several candidates; I have to say, I felt more engaged and interested in a local election than ever before.
2) What is the “one thing” you think government could do better using social media, digital communications or web technology?
Lee: Oh that’s easy: more online video! Kidding.
No actually, I think that in recent years governments at all levels have made pretty good strides towards offering more information and services online. Moving forward, if governments want to build relationships and trust with their constituents, they should focus more on engaging and dialoguing with people via two-way communication channels like blogs, live chats, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
And at the risk of blatantly plugging our product, I of course believe that when it comes to telling your story online in an engaging and entertaining way, video has to be part of the mix. Create a YouTube channel, embed video on your website, send video links by email. Video is more accessible and cost-effective than ever so it’s a whole new world of possibilities.
Also, I see an increasing demand among consumers for ways to connect and do business via mobile phones, and there is no reason why this shouldn’t apply to the public sector. The day that I can pay my parking ticket by scanning the barcode with my iPhone will be the day that I pay that ticket on time – and I actually think I won’t mind it that much, ‘cause that would be just so cool.
3) How has social media helped you in your professional life and do you have any tips or tricks to share?
Lee: As producers of online video content, social media surrounds everything we do at Flashframe Digital Media; our work lives on YouTube, websites and blogs, and travels via Facebook and Twitter. For our clients, we know that social media is beneficial in to helping them monitor and measure consumer preferences and behaviour, and for building lasting relationships between consumers and brands.
As for tips or tricks: I try to do most of my online socializing through my mobile phone. Engaging online can become a huge time-suck if you’re not careful but with my iPhone apps like (Facebook and TweetDeck for iPhone) I can carve out time to read tweets or check out a friend’s Facebook page during slower moments, like when I’m standing in line for a latte or waiting for video footage to render. It’s not just about multitasking; I also find it also helps me limit my social-media screen time.
Lee de Lang is a partner at Flashframe Digital Media, a Toronto-based video production company specializing in viral and internet video for social media campaigns. Flashframe was recently named to the PROFIT HOT 50 list for 2010. Lee can be contacted at www.flashframedigital.com.
[Disclosure: I’ve worked with Lee on video projects during my time at High Road but not on the example he mentions.]