Social media and elections

Bench, Nuneaton

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council’s Communications Team entered the social media world in 2009, initially with a Facebook page that only dipped its toe into the pool of potential with news bulletins, event details and occasional photograph uploads.  In early 2010 a Twitter account followed, but again very little initiative or time was given to maximising the potential, as the mentality at that point was ‘we should have a social networking presence because other authorities do’.

Later in 2010 we decided to look at ways of increasing our usage and so developed an initiative called Real Time Results which was simply a live update service from the local election count.  The launch of Real Time Results was supported by a communications strategy that included coverage in local media, our residents’ newsletter, online and through local Community Forum meetings. The campaign centred on the fact that although the vote count and some of the announcements would take place late at night and into the early hours of the morning, people could find out what was happening at the touch of a button- from the comfort of their bed, whilst at work, whilst out socialising or from the other side of the planet (we did have many ex-residents from across the world keeping up with the feed).  As well as offering a service to people who already follow politics we were also targeting a new younger demographic to try and get them interested in politics at the request of elected members and our Democratic Services team.

The delivery of the initiative itself was incredibly simple; a communications officer was present at the vote count armed with a Smartphone and would offer regular updates from the venue.  The brief was to include not only statistical and factual updates, but also photographs of candidates and observations of the atmosphere, as well as humours tweets, in order to keep our followers engaged.

The initiative was well received by service users and overnight increased our number of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’.  We have repeated the service at every vote-count since, the most recent being Warwickshire County Council’s election which took place in May 2013.

by Dan Coates,

Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council

Picture credit

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