The explosion over the past 10 years of free to use social networking, instant messaging, and live chat means we are in a very different place to any generation before us.
On paper this should have meant the housing sector would be building new relationships, and deepening conversations with customers.
In reality the digital era has exposed a decline in trust in organisations – not just housing – as we collectively fail to step up the mark of truly transparent communications.
In reality only a fraction of the sector is genuinely experimenting with new forms of digital engagement. I haven’t the time or inclination to count how many housing CEOs maintain an active social media presence. But I’m taking a considered guesstimate it’s around 15%.
In the digital age we are getting ever more astute in spotting spin, marketing and reading from scripts. The most credible sources of information are not your comms team or your CEO – but a regular employee – “a person like myself”.
However the staple roles of the sector, housing officer, maintenance operative, support worker are – by and large – missing in action and failing to embrace golden opportunities to connect with communities. Board members are pretty much invisible although there are some very notable exceptions.
Organisations that livestream or share from board meetings?
CEOs doing Facebook chats or hangouts?
You could count them on one hand.
Additionally most organisations still have the dial firmly set to Promote rather than Converse.
Do a check on any housing brand account. Check how many of their last 10 posts directly link back to their own website. There’s a prize if you can name ten that don’t reference themselves 90% of the time.
Here’s a shot of realism: UK housing is about 10-15% operational on social media. At best.
This speaks of a lack of curiosity. A lack of adventure.
Of course this isn’t true everywhere: some are setting an astonishing pace. There are a raft of organisations and people who are connecting with others and reaching beyond sector boundaries.
However , endlessly broadcasting a housing “message” just isn’t going to work.
This is a world built on relationships and connections. It involves you listening to others, generously sharing and doing more than just following everyone else in your sector.
A ‘person like yourself’ builds trust – so we need to promote the voices of those engaged in frontline services, not the hierarchy. We need to hear from more tenants and users of our services – they are the best people to promote us and secure the future.
The trust-building opportunity lies squarely in the area of integrity and engagement. For organisations that means adopting behaviours of extreme transparency, honesty and sharing learning from failure.
Rather than gatekeepers our Comms and IT teams must become enablers. The more of our colleagues and customers we hear from, the more honesty we share, the more trust we build.
We’ve never had it so good – so let’s take the opportunity that lies before us.