In 2014, BDO’s Local Government surveyed UK Local Authorities and found that 100% were using Twitter and 90% were using Facebook. But just how effectively are Local Authorities using social media to deliver against their key objectives?
Reducing Cost and Streamlining Communications
Local Authorities who use social media well can reduce costs and increase engagement with the local public, providing a great channel to keep people informed of key local news and issues. Effectively used, social media can reduce the amount of calls into a Local Authorities customer service centre, therefore reducing call volume and staff time. Correctly used, it will also reduce the time and cost traditionally spent on writing traditional press releases.
An example a Local Authority using social media in this way is The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Their Communications Team use @RBKC and the Customer Access Team use @RBKC_CS, but they work closely with the Communications Team to ensure the tone and messaging of all outbound content is appropriate. If a question to either account is service specific the Teams work with the service directly to find the answer
Dealing and Resolving Customer Queries
Westminster City Council have digitalised their parking permit application process to enable customers to self-serve and the Council has created two simple YouTube videos to guide customers through the process both at home and at local libraries (if they do not have access to the internet).
Increasing Attendance at Events
London Borough of Bromley; Join, Maybe, Decline In the summer of 2012 Bromley spent £337.95 creating targeted Facebook adverts for their summer parks events. While the advert was initially targeted at young people in the Borough, officers were surprised to see parents were talking about and sharing the events in their Facebook accounts. Average event attendance increased from 58 per day in the previous year to 179 per day in 2012 and they saw an increase in total attendance from 863 to 6541 overall.
Basic Rules for Local Authorities Using Social Media
If you are a Local Authority, ensure that you are following these basic rules, across your social media channels:
- develop a social media strategy
- have a social media policy to coordinate your approach
- talk to residents, staff and others. Answer their questions (quickly and honestly)
- be responsible and respectful
- know your audience
- think about how you can creatively post a traditionally dull message e.g. weather warnings
- have a personality – local authority speak or just issuing standard press releases won’t work well on social media
- avoid using jargon
- share other people’s helpful content and links. Research who are your key stakeholders locally e.g. Local Constabulary, Libraries, Schools.
- listen (social media is designed to be a two-way channel, what are your residents talking about)
- ask for feedback on key local issues and share the results
- have an account for every department – residents will be interested in multiple areas of the Local Authority
- broadcast or talk at people. No one likes to feel “told”
- block comments and posts, this will only infuriate the poster, if you need guidance, speak to your Corporate Communications Team / refer to your social media policy
- try to cover up mistakes, be honest
- build accounts and just hope people will come – sometimes it is best to go to the places where your audiences are already having conversations
- assume that social media will look after itself – you will need to invest staff time to make it work.
- forget that social media is 24/7 – manage perceptions of your response time
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