Once upon a time a consultation exercise was just a box ticking go-through-the-motions thing involving a village hall for an hour and maybe a couple of clip boards in the street. Why would you do that when you could do something that worked?
by Mike Hammond
Working in local government you’re frequently reminded of the varied quality of digital engagement in the sector. At Kingston we don’t yet pretend to be pioneers but we are striding keenly towards the frontier.
So, what have we discovered? Good content helps, obviously, but just as important is proper application. Social media is about conversation. Posting announcements is all well and good but if you’re not engaging in dialogue then you’ve missed the point.
Obvious, right? Well, according to research by Brunel University, 71 per cent of council tweets are announcements, whereas only 22 per cent are engagements.
We recently completed our biggest ever public consultation – a borough survey designed to help us plan services for the next three years. Given an ambitious response target, we knew social media would be vital to the campaign.
The survey was built around the headline question ‘What one thing would you change about your local area?’ But more than a question, this conversation starter shaped the publicity campaign and our social media engagement.
Through polls, hashtags and targeted messaging we encouraged collaboration amongst our online community. The result was a five-fold increase in Facebook activity, a 61 per cent daily average boost on Twitter engagements and campaign content receiving up to 26 times our everyday standard. Consequently our Klout score rose six points in as many weeks.
Offline we live retweeted to the digital ad displays in our busy town centre. Our permanent Twitter board has become a vital tool in increasing our reach since its April launch but the dedicated ‘change one thing’ ads saw their true potential. Across the eight week campaign, 68 per cent of engagement came following their week six introduction. Their first week alone saw a 400 per cent increase in daily campaign engagement as contributors got wind they could see their tweets ‘in lights’.
As well as for its own sake, we hoped generating a campaign buzz would drive traffic to the survey. And it worked – 60 per cent of online surveys completed came from social media links. This helped drive up our response rate by three-fold on past annual borough surveys.
In conclusion, it’s clear – to use a tool effectively you need to know what it’s for. And if you want to take Starship Social Media into warp speed then in the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard – just one word in fact – engage.
Mike Hammond is senior communications officer at the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames.