Public Services in the Twitter Age

Public Services in the Age of Social Media

As an active ‘tweeter’, I have become increasingly aware of how many people are using Twitter to express their views on the services they have just received. So, poor service in the restaurant results in a tweet and the name of the restaurant is attached ‘@’ so that it is automatically alerted to the publicity. This is fast and not only is the response immediate, it is also very public. Everyone on a ‘Twitter feed’ can see the ‘tweet’ and those who aren’t can have the message ‘Retweeted’ by someone else. The result is that the customer is giving immediate feedback to the producer of the service and it is their view on it. No external verification is required.

Transfer the simple idea to public services, and we can see that when we have had our medical consultation or been to the library, or have experience of the school, for example, we can tweet afterwards and comment on the service. Our positive and negative experiences can be publicised. The names of the clinic, the library and the school can be quoted in the tweet. Taking this a stage further, the name of the consultant, the librarian and the headteacher/teacher can also be made public.

These are very different times.

There are key issues here about ethics, consumer power, the use of the data, professionalism, quality of service and above all, about accountability.

Questions that come to mind include:

• Will this impact on positively on quality? Will the consultant who is attached to a negative tweet seek to improve his/her delivery?

• Will the feedback impact on individual performance appraisal?

The speed of change in the use of social media is fast. Public services will need to become even more aware of the technology and see to keep up!

The identity of the public servant, which until now has been within the service, will become more public.

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