by Dan Slee
This social media thing. Are we doing it too much or too little? It's an internal argument going on in the head of many comms people.
There's been some useful research done on social media take-up by Ashford Council's Dean Spurrell.
Generous chap that Dean is he's made his 51-page document available to those who took part in the research. Not only that but he doesn't mind us sharing the key findings here too. What a man. There needs to be more like him.
There's 78 local authorities across England who have taken part so it's actually fairly comprehensive.
There's some interesting conclusions, too.
It's clear the argument over whether or not to use it has been entirely won by the 'yes' camp. A hundred per cent of those polled are using or will be using in 2012.
But it's clear that in local government, it's a communications dominated platform (88 per cent are comms managed) that overwhelmingly features news and information (96 per cent) and campaigns (89 per cent).
It's pretty clear the next battle is whether or not to engage. You can use social channels as one way broadcasting but that really misses the point. That's like having a phone linked to an answering machine. Yes, you are using it. But you're kinda missing out. To see the research reveal only 28 per cent engaging with blogs and 25 per cent using it as a strictly one way channel is mildly depressing.
It's also interesting that local government bucks the national trend with more people using Twitter as a channel than Facebook (93 .2 per cent as against 97.5 per cent).
It's also clear that while it's getting used not everyone using it is convinced it's actually effective. (Around a third rated it a four or a five out of five for effectiveness.) Maybe that's because it's not being used to it's true potential. Maybe it's because the ROI - the way to calculate reach and effectiveness - hasn't truly been pinned down.
As Dean says, social is not a fad. It's here to stay and needs to be part of the communications mix local government uses.
"The only threat," he says "is to those who don't adapt."
Much credit to Dean for carrying out this survey carried out as part of a CIPR qualification and making it available.
Social media take-up in English local government:
95.9 per cent use social media as a communications channel
88.1 per cent of social media is managed by communications
11.9 per cent of social media is managed across the organisation
95.8 per cent post news stories and information
89.8 per cent promote specific events and campaigns
28 per cent engage in forums and blogs
67.8 per cent have a social media policy
28.6 per cent say that time is preventing them from using social media
100 per cent of those that were not using social media said they'd start using social media in 2012
85.6 per cent of comms people thought that social would not replace the traditional way of communicating
80 per cent were aware of elected members using social media
25 per cent use social media for advertising
24.6 per cent use it as a one way channel
8.5 per cent use it as a two way channel
66.9 per cent use it as one and two way
34.7 per cent gave a four or a five-out-of-five for effective as a way to communicate with residents
91.5 per cent will use social media more it more
0.8 per cent will use social media less
What are the popular local government channels?
Facebook used by 93.2 per cent of those councils surveyed
Twitter used by 97.5 per cent
YouTube used by 62.7 per cent
Flickr used by 47.5 per cent
Blogs are 28 per cent blogs
Podcasts are used by 7.6 per cent
MySpace is used by 3.4 per cent
For more information about the study contact Dean Spurrell, Communications & Marketing Manager at Ashford Borough Council via firstname.lastname@example.org