“So you get paid to be on Facebook all day”. That was my friend Pete’s reaction when I told him about my new job with the Digital Engagement team at the Department of Health. As it turned out, it was a great insight into the role. The first thing I learned is that there is a huge variation about how people think about things that we can do online. In my first month, colleagues asked me to find and “plug into” nursing communities; show the impact of an infographic on Ebola; and, evaluate a tweet. If I didn’t know how to do something I asked a member of the team, or Googled it. I found myself looking up the answers on Google so much that I figured I might as well make it an official part of my job and signed up to the digital champions programme.
I had been working for the Department for two years before I joined the Digital Engagement team. I previously worked as a Care Attendant in Ireland and studied Anthropology at University. My digital skillset was far from what I thought would be required. I knew I needed some inside information so I asked my future line manager Susy Wootton, future work colleague Hong Nguyen and head of Digital Stephen Hale about what the role would involve. They told me that being open and inquisitive was the best approach to the work. There is no social media guru with his finger on the pulse of “the internet”. What does exist are some basic but powerful tools to categorise what people are saying and doing online. The job is to help policy and communications teams identify how to use this information in the best way possible. I was hooked.
That evening, I printed off and devoured the Department’s Digital Strategy. It was clear from reading it that senior management were committed to turning us into a digital savvy workforce. A couple of months and a successful interview later I can see that we are on the right path to achieving this. Since I have joined in September, we have recruited another 2 digital campaign managers and we are also currently recruiting to a Digital Insights Manager role. It proves that the Department understands that digital engagement is a long term, high priority area.
Through my work, I hope I can convince people to consider how digital solutions can help them do their job. I believe that real value comes from policy officials deciding to join existing online conversations. This will leave them open to occasionally harsh, but usually constructive, criticism. However, there is also a wealth of qualitative content and insight and potential online partners ready to be engaged. If you would like to see how I do this, follow me on Twitter.
I have been in post for 3 months and I know I still have a long way to go. I don’t expect to become an expert overnight but if I can explain to Pete at Christmas a bit more about what I do, I think I will be well on my way. As I convert to the new digital way of working in the Department I am becoming more and more excited about what will be possible for us to do in the future.