A Community’s Role in an Organizational Service

I’m attending a Social Media for Government conference this week.

Yesterday, one of the sessions involved a staffer from the City of Geneva, IL named Pam (@pbroviak) and a high school student who started a Facebook page on his own for the city that eventually was endorsed by the city itself.  In their sharing, the administrator who embraced Social Media and brought Pam in to shepherd communications through those channels was ultimately replaced by a new administration that did not embrace social media.

The existing channels were left not as a public service but either to wither and die, or possibly to be repurposed for political messaging and propaganda.  This high school student’s page, however, became the landing spot for the community and the activity went from 500 to 3000 as it was embraced as *the* community page.

This got me thinking on a couple of questions:

  1. If you’re a community manager for a government or service organization, once you fight the internal hurdles to deliver a web presence for your organization or agency, you have to consider what will happen to this presence if the leadership changes and either wants to undo what you’ve enabled or, perhaps, subvert it to accomplish goals that were not intended (and not embraced by the community).
  2. Likewise, what happens if the community embraces it, but for reasons that often define logic, you as the community manager find yourself out of a job (contracts change, budget cuts, etc)?

Ultimately, my question is this: how can you ensure that the community you invite to the table that is social media can sustain itself?

Notionally, I’m thinking that the community has to have a larger stake in the effort from the outset.  Please jump in if I’m wrong (or if you think I might be onto something), but it seems to me that there needs to be at least a council that’s endorsed by the organization that is made up of the community and THEY for many intents and purposes *own* the web presence and services to ensure they sustain, remain of value, drive the direction, etc.  The organization needs to be part of this council and there’s probably some (I loathe to suggest it) process for bringing new members of the community in, keeps the organization and its community working together, etc.