Have you ever checked the Facebook page of your city, departemental or regional government ? According to the Barometer of local communication*, only four citizens out of ten follow their local administrations on social networks. So why do 6 citizens out of 10 do not do so? May be because the local administration doesn’t have a Facebook account yet (it may be hard to believe, but such administrations still exist !) or simply because citizens don’t see any particular interest in it.
Digital space : new challenge for local administrations. Digital technologies are all around, including everyday lives of the majority of citizens. 31 millions of french people have a Facebook account, 12 millions are on Twitter, 10 millions on Instagram and 8 millions on Snapchat. Using these tools to join virtual spaces where a lot of citizens are active and are likely to be open for a discussion seems natural. So many administrations have upgraded themselves to 2.0 : the majority of french Regional authorities, 70% of Departments and half of prefectural cities are nowadays on Facebook.**
Do local administrations take into account the peculiarities of these changes ? Not always. According to the « Gazette des Communes », some administrations stil use social networks as a simple RSS. Yet the specific feature of social networks is their interactivity. Ask for the opinion of the citizens, start a debate, answer their questions in a comment or a private massage, share live videos…Social media can be a real tool for establishing direct contacts and developing direct local democracy. Moreover, they are an excellent means of promotion of the strengths of your territory on the international scene.
New recruitments ? The administrations that made the step towards social media, face another question : who shall coordinate and manage new social media profiles? Normally, a community manger…now the challenge is to find the right person ! He/she should be familiar with the culture of local administrations, have excellent writing skills, political sensitivity, strategic vision, innovation spirit, great creativity and perfect mastery of the tools of social network management. These public servants should also have pedagogical spirit to be able to convince decision makers to join this or that network, be able to identify politically sensible issues to be treated with particular attention…and at the same time start and manage discussions with the citizens. From which university do these « swiss knives » graduate ? These are generally « mixed » professional profiles. Those who came from the private sector and switched into public administrations or self-educated civil servants who embraced the 2.0 challenge before the others…these professional profiles are « hybrid » as they developed at the crossroads of two different but complementary worlds.
As all non-common profiles, they have an important advantage : a capacity of everyday adaptation and creativity in environments that are sometimes hostile to them. So those who invest in a « swiss knife », should use all its functions and do not limit themselves only to the « corkscrew ».
** La Gazette des Communes