https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2020/03/30/shadowing-scottish-parliaments-social-media-team/

From Westminster to Holyrood via Instagram

Panaramic view of the Scottish Parliament buildings in Edinburgh

Image by Graeme Pow using Creative Commons Licence 2.0 

With over 2.5 million people from all around the world, UK Parliament’s social media channels are some of the biggest and most successful in the global politics and democracy space 

I head up the PDS Social Media Team and it’s our job to work closely with all communications and social teams around Parliament; giving them advice, best practice guidance, and technical input. We are also responsible for running, growing, and analysing the success of the UK Parliament social media channels.

One thing we’re trying to do more of is connect with other Parliaments to learn about the challenges they face, the things we have in common, and to share ideas. 

This month I took some time to shadow the web and social media team at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The team were so warm and generous with their time, and hopefully later this year we’ll be able to return the favour. Here are a few things I learned on the shadowing trip. 

Celebrate the special moments 

Managing social media accounts for any democratic institution can be challenging as politics is so polarised and there will always be people who want to express anger or frustration on your social media channels. 

Issues of Brexit and Scottish independence create a lot of discussion on the Scottish Parliament social media channels, and the team spends a lot of time managing comments and moderating. This can be stressful and upsetting, and is certainly a challenge our team has experience with too. 

There is a lot of positive engagement as well. The Scottish Parliament team has a ‘wall of fame’ in their office, showing all the famous faces that have interacted with their channels. The faces of campaigners like Greta Thunberg, experts like Professor Brian Cox, and international political figures like President Trump all feature on the wall, alongside a host of Scottish cultural icons. 

Having somewhere in the office where we can celebrate the shares, likes, and comments from big names across politics and the wider world could give us a little boost on the bad days, and be a talking point with other teams. 

Give the team freedom to grow 

My role at PDS is to lead, so I don’t do any frontline social media management and moderation, and I’m doing less and less content planning and creating too. We have talented and professional people who manage our channels.

I trust them completely and every week I see things on our channels that are benefiting our audiences. But sometimes I feel nervous that I’m less connected to our schedules or what our channels looks like. 

When I talked this through with the Scottish Parliament’s Instagram team, made up of more junior team members – who have near complete freedom with planning content – their advice was reassuring and simple.  

Be transparent 

Having ownership of the channel means the team are invested in it, care about it, and they hold themselves to a high standard. They know that if they make a mistake, it will be their responsibility, so they introduced standards and processes to make sure that never happened.  

Their Instagram planning board is open to all team members including the head of the team, so they work transparently, and if there ever was a question or issue it could be dealt with easily. 

Instagram HQ in California have been in touch with the team to ask if they could use ScotParl Instagram as an example of a Parliament doing Instagram right. So that freedom, trust, and taking responsibility is really paying off.  

Get out of the office 

One of the perks of working in PDS is the amazing buildings and architecture on the Parliamentary estate. The Palace, the Elizabeth Tower, and Portcullis House are all stunning.  

But getting out of the office and into a new physical space really helped me think about approaching problems in new ways. And having Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat on the doorstep of the Scottish Parliament reminded me of the need to take breaks away from my desk and get out to St James Park or the River Thames during lunch breaks. 

I’d really recommend taking time to shadow teams in similar roles at other Parliaments in the UK and around the world. It helped me find some new perspectives on how we can build a stronger team and achieve a better work-life balance.  

Want to come and shadow our team? Get in touch! 

Explore our Instagram stories: 

UK Parliament 
Scottish Parliament

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