What are social media and Web 2.0 – and why are they significant to councils and NGOs?

Most people have now heard of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, probably the most prominent examples of social media. The take-up of these applications is rapidly redefining the social landscape and changing forever the way we communicate.

The impact of social media is now being felt by companies, governments, NGOs and other organisations who are rethinking the way they deliver services and manage their own operations. These changes have in turn encouraged and been facilitated by the development of “Web 2.0” applications which are increasingly being used by some organisations to deliver services.

Wikipedia offers the following definitions of social media and Web 2.0:

Social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialogue (many to many) and is the democratisation of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers.

Web 2.0 refers to a perceived second generation of web development and design, that facilitates communication, secure information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and applications; such as social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies.

In effect, the term Web 2.0 generically covers the range of developments in the web that facilitate the delivery of interactive technologies and applications which are now known as social media.

Whilst a small number of councils and NGOs have dipped their toes in the social media/Web 2.0 waters, it is interesting that the take-up has not been more widespread. This is partly because of the suspicion that many organisations harbour that social media is at best a waste of staff time and at worst a potential breach of security. This is both short-sighted,  in terms of recognising the changing expectations of both organisation staff and the wider community, as well as representing a failure in understanding the potential that these technologies can bring to small organisations to deliver better services and to interact with their clients and/or community members.

In later posts I will expand on this discussion as well as review some of the social networking and Web 2.0 tools that councils, NGOs and other small organisaitons might find useful. For the time being I’ll highlight some recent posts on blogs that also discuss these issues:

This entry was posted in Community Sector, Introduction, Local Government, Social Media, Web 2.0 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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