Social media is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it, embrace it or shy away from it. But used well, it can help professional planners and their careers.
However, it depends how you use it. Successful social media is about getting ‘clicks’ so the more interesting, even controversial, your subject matter the more clicks – or the bigger audience - you are likely to get and the more your profile will surface. So what can you as a planner do or say to get those clicks?
Well, keeping it clean, you have to make people want to hear or read what you say….a juicy enforcement case, a controversial appeal, a new development with quirky design concepts, something that says planning is interesting and ‘alive’ is an ideal way of drawing colleagues and fellow professionals into your social-media realm.
The most successful use of social media reaches out to people who may be interested and then draws them in. So the first question is what form of social media should you focus on, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp – non-professional platforms that many planners nevertheless use highly effectively? Or do you target something more career focused like Linkedin?
This in part will be determined by who you choose as your audience and how you aim to reach them. Once you have identified them, how can you then make them interested in you and what you have to say – it's not just what you say but how you say it?
I always try to keep it short, vivid and factual to appeal to my fellow time-short planners. And I always stay clear of the intricate minutiae of planning processes. Few people want to hear how you didn’t validate an application because the applicant didn’t sign a certificate B for the land edged in blue. Yes, that can happen, but virtually no one will want to read it on any social media platform.
Chris Weetman is an independent planning consultant, an associate of Trevor Roberts Associates and a former head of planning.