Going GaGa for Bono?
I browse a bit on t’interweb for interesting things to look at and/or read. Sometimes I come across vaguely interesting concepts hidden within huge and complicated arguments, other times I’ll read a single phrase that will resonate one way or another.
Today I was reading up on social media and the difference between influence and popularity. This is a big issue for many businesses, and one that I think local government will be looking at increasingly over the next 18 months to three years. It’s the argument that just because a lot of people ‘like’ you doesn’t mean much at all – it’s about turning that popularity into something productive and mobilising people to do things.
That’s when I came across this phrase:
Lady GaGa is popular. Bono is influential.
This got me to thinking: should local government be more like the meat-wearing weirdo that is Lady GaGa or the glasses-wearing weirdo that is Bono tm? In other words, should local government be popular or influential?
Let’s look at the former theory. We live in a world of measurables: under the previous government this was perceived to have gotten a little out of hand, but for better or worse we got used to measuring anything and everything that could be found.
What easier way to measure success therefore with regards to social media than by seeing how many friends you have, or how many people say they ‘like’ something you have posted? You can in an instant see how many people are signed up, and how wide your reach actually is. Offline this can be done too; how many people does the Council newsletter or paper get circulated to? How many people give positive feedback at engagement events and public meetings?
Except, what is that actually telling you? So what if people attend your events or read your online content, if it makes no difference to the way they think or do things then you might as well send out messages about what you had for breakfast or who’s going to win the X-Factor.
This is where the world of Bono comes in (on an unrelated note, do you know that you’ve ‘made it’ when your name isn’t highlighted by a spellchecker?). The argument here is that it doesn’t matter about the number of people you reach if those that you do get to are the right people. Yes, people might not always agree with everything you say or how you say it, but they do listen and react. You also have access to some fairly significant ears who might actually be able to do something about what you are trying to achieve.
Local government isn’t generally trying to change the world – half of us have trouble changing our minds even when they are wrong and the other half get sent on regular change management courses. With this in mind, perhaps Lady GaGa might be the way to go, getting the positive word out there to as many people as possible in the hope that some might read it and of those some might change actions or perceptions.
However, in ‘real life’ we don’t rely on the masses when we do offline engagement – more often than not we will also engage those who are known as key stakeholders in the community (yes, I know that’s jargontastic but it’s what they are often called); people who are linked in with several different groups of people and who can help get the word out or get the community activated. It’s not about selling the positives of the Council to them, it’s about influencing them to come on board and help us do or change something.
To my mind, local government is not doing things for the popularity; this isn’t a contest to see how many people we can get to like us more. Okay, well in some respects it is – Councillors are the ones who get voted in and out every now and then if they are unpopular, although more often than not it is the work that they do or do not lead that is voted for rather than personalities. To the unwashed masses they don’t care or even know much about the personalities of most of their local councillors, but they will have very strong opinions on the work they are responsible for. I know I don’t worry about whether I personally like or dislike a councillor where I live; it’s results that I’m voting for, not throw-away lines and clothes choices.
Maybe this is where the line will always lay; to Councillors, the GaGa approach is king whilst they are trying to get a bunch of Bono’s to do their work.
Basically I think we should all stop worrying so much about what local people think about us and spend more time making things actually happen. Which is why I’ll probably never be able to go into politics.
That and the ASBO I was given…