Today I picked up on a brilliant initiative by Adrian Short to get UK local council websites to get wired up with an important and most basic element of web 2.0, which is the RSS feeds. I applaud this movement because throughout my research, the one thing that I always find frustrating as a user and a researcher is the fact that some local government websites do not have RSS feeds! Here is Mash the State Blog and Twitter – @mashthestate.
As a researcher and a citizen, I want to find out what new stuff is going on in your council, what events are happening or what new services are you providing. It is such a huge hassle to visit your website again and again to check up on these updates. This is a big waste of time! Whereas if you had RSS feeds, I could visit your website once and get updates delivered straight to my google reader each time your website is updated. Even if you had email updates as an option, I’d have to fill in a form which is tedious whereas if you had a RSS feed, its just a click of a button 🙂
There are several reasons why your council should have RSS feeds. Have a look…
- Provide when they’re not looking – Your website users come to your website to either do a transaction or find out about a particular service or event, then their out! No one wants to actually visit a local council website everyday. Their in and then their out! So by not offering RSS feeds, you are missing out offering services such as information and updates on services or events to your users when their not specifically looking for anything.
- Marketing tool – RSS feeds are like vouchers or coupons when you go to a store, its a simple and an effective marketing tool for you to engage and keep your customers thinking about you and what you’re doing even when they don’t need to! (Don’t you ever feel like you’ve got to use that voucher before the date runs out, or reminded of it when you need to get a gift for someone?)
- Be as agile as your threat and your opportunity – The rest of the internet is moving at a pace where RSS feeds has become a prominent fixture on any informational type website. Check out those regular websites you go to, the BBC website, your favourite blogs or even Gumtree! The internet is no longer just a broadcasting tool, it provides real-time information for real-time news and events. Don’t let your local council website be left behind in the dark ages! Considering we are all now living in a fast-paced lifestyle where we’re paying bills via direct debit and sometimes even over the phone at work, people are just racing to run their daily errands and duties in the small amount of time that is available to keep up with everything. No to mention other house chores and taking care of the kids, the modern and demanding lifestyle has citizens rushing against time. Give them an opportunity to stay in touch with you, even if its to say “How’re you doing? We hope you’re ok!” Its another avenue for you to provide customer service.
- Another reason is “Information Overload” -“Information Overload” is caused by the mounting amount of useful information (as well as crap) that is available out there on the internet. “Information Overload” is caused by inability to priortize and keep organized. So RSS feeds can saves you time and keep your information updates, priortized and organized. 🙂 RSS feeds keeps your citizens updated with information that they want and need to know based on their own conditions, rather than being force fed information that in the end is possibly just a pile of sh*t to them and has just taken away valuable time away from your day. You could do specific RSS feeds for jobs, news, events, planning applications and so on. However you’ll be pleased to know that even though most citizens I’ve talked to through my research who ‘despise’ or don’t trust their local councils, they’d be more than happy to subscribe to to your RSS feeds to keep up with your services. So they might hate you, but they know you’ve got the goods that they want! Obviously the ones who are neutral or do like their councils think its a great idea and wish have expressed their interest in subscribing to it if it was available.
- Be prepared and know where to find em when you need em – RSS feeds are a good way to make sure you get updated on information that you find is or might be important to you without forgetting about it in the future. Ever gone to the supermarket and come back just to realize you’ve forgotten to get something that you were suppose to get at the supermarket in the first place? Gosh, that’s annoying isn’t it???? :s But with RSS feeds, its like you already have a shopping list ready for you at home before you go there. Brilliant!
- Come on, its the 21st century, GET DIGITALLY ENGAGED WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS! – You want to digitally engage with your citizens right? Having RSS feeds will help to notify your citizens events that happen, WHEN THEY HAPPEN! Say if wanted to run a consultation, this is a great way to get the word out there to those subscribers of the RSS feeds without having to sit there and wait for them to come to you! Having real-time information available to citizens in a format that is easily accessible and up-to-date to the second, you can therefore engage with them when their voices can still be heard. But don’t forget to actually provide them with ways to engage and participate. Provide ways for them the feedback on your feeds with comments like what Kirklees have done with their news feeds (I’m still very impressed with Kirklees for taking such a great leap in local government! Well done! ). See bottom of image – “Be the first to make a comment” or click to go straight to Kirklees Council’s website.
Last but not least, don’t forget to educate your customers on RSS feeds once you start offering the service like the one you can find here on the Kirkless Council website.
Here are some other links that might enlighten your local council to “Get with the Web 2.0/RSS program!” I also strongly recommend you watch these videos if your local council website is still not web2.0. Make sure you watch the second video by Deloitte on that link! Its just brilliant.
- RSS feeds guide from Webcontent.gov
- Government web sites should focus on RSS, not redesigns
- RSS Workshop with Government Examples: Publish and Syndicate Your News to the Web
- Great website about Freeing Government Information!
- Mashing Up Government the RSS Way: Raw Materials
- Jadu CMS – A great CMS provider that ‘gets web 2.0’ and their local council websites scores high on SOCITM’s Better Connected report!
Here’s a couple of videos that might help.
Hope this was useful!