The Daily Mail is reporting today – with typical vitriol – that Downing Street is seeking out a Director of Digital Engagement to help the government connect to the citizenry via Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
What has really got the Mail’s goat is the salary reportedly on offer: up to £160,000 per annum.
'It defies belief that ministers are faffing around on Facebook and Twitter,’ Tory MP David Davis told the paper. ‘It is a grotesque amount of public money to waste on a pointless job.’
It certainly seems like a lot of money – especially as the most qualified candidate is probably under 25 – but the PM’s office is right to put a high value on social media.
The government’s responsibility to engage with the public is inarguable, and Web 2.0 sites present an unprecedented ability to find out what people are talking about, what they are worrying about, and what they want their government to do about it.
Unlike the money that Downing Street spends on old media (and we might guess that it is rather more than £160,000), social media spend creates – in theory at least – a two-way dialogue between the state and the people, not one-way propaganda. Of course, whether Brown takes any new ideas on board is another matter.