Almost all councils now allow some access to social media…

So says a new SOCITM Insight, Social media goes mainstream – but in the right way?  The report is available only to subscribers so I’ve not been able to see the detail but our own survey of social services practitioners – Blocked or unblocked –  suggests that access is still a problem for many. The findings of our survey will be published in the next couple of weeks but for now here are some examples of the practical and cultural difficulties reported by front line practitioners. One reported that while many sites weren’t blocked,

the firewall creates significant buffering issues, and very few if any NCs [Network Computers] are enabled for sound.  So, you may be able to see a video on a website, but you will not hear anything and to all intents and purposes it will be unwatchable

Further, it appeared that the organisation was reluctant to accept the validity of internet based resources, including social media, being used for learning:

The length of time spent online is monitored which makes some staff nervous accessing the internet.  This creates a hidden barrier and perhaps sends a tacit message that internet usage is not acceptable.

The SOCITM report is based on surveys of CIOs, Heads of ICT as well as web, communications, customer services, service and policy managers.  Our anecdotal evidence points to a gap between the perception of managers on the one hand and frontline staff on the other. One head of ICT reported his council operated a flexible arrangement which would enable access for all practitioners on request.  In practice the process turned out a little more bureaucratic:

… as the process says I phoned the helpline to get access to this [Vimeo, a streaming video service used by IRISS].  I had to give the web address and confirm that this was for work usage – no problem there.  However, I now have to get my line manager or above to email IT to confirm that my request for access is approved.  If I want this access to be for more than myself I have to give a list of names – hence to have everyone in social work able to access video clips on IRISS I would have to list all 2,000 staff names…

The problem of course is that this creates hassle for users, line managers and help desks alike.  While SOCITM’s new report suggests some progress since its 2010 report Social media: Why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it, people on the front line still face real barriers, rather than being actively encouraged to embrace social media.

If you haven’t already taken our survey, which tests whether your organisation allows access to services such as Twitter, Vimeo, Delicious, Flickr, Doodle, there is still time: