2014 IEWM #bestbywm local government social media survey


Social Media


In 2013 IEWM’s Best by West Midlands whitepaper and website raised the bar for local government social media by celebrating and sharing best practice.

The region continues to be at the cutting edge of using digital channels to communicate and listen better to the people they serve.

As in 2013, a survey to captrure where the region is has been conducted by comms2point0 of people working with social media in local government and the findings are striking.

Here are key conclusions from the numbers:

  • Social media use in West Midlands is getting mainstream. Senior officers  who use channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and others have almost doubled to just over 60 per cent compared to last year.
  • West Midlands local government are concentrating on the platforms with Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube the leading five.
  • West Midlands local government are missing out on the chance to communicate effectively with young people through the rise of new platforms such as Whats App and Snapchat. Both have almost zero take-up. This is worrying when they are so popular with young people.
  • Social media is getting gradually more effective on 36 per cent (up from 25 per cent) but the low rate of effectiveness may be a worry.
  • Who is using social media in West Midlands is also changing. Communications remains a bastion with 100 per cent use but frontline use creeping up to 65 per cent from just over half that  12-months ago.
  • But use amongst practitioners is dropping with respondents rating themselves as ‘high’ users dropping from 47 per cent to just 15 per cent.
  • There needs to be more resources given to using social media. Trust, training, tactics and risk are no longer the main barriers but resources with 54 per cent is now the number one factor.
  • West Midlands local government maintain their recognition of the importance of social media with almost 100 per cent thinking it is important or very important.
  • West Midlands authorities are not shifting more emphasis on social media. Unchanged too is the volume of use of social media with 40 per cent on ‘high’ use and 56 per cent ‘medium’ – figures almost unchanged year-on-year.
  • 18 channels are now being used – up three on previous years.
  • Fewer people are using internal social channel Yammer – a drop of just over 10 per cent to 31 per cent – the only major drop in 2014 when compared to last year.
  • Fewer organisations have a strategy falling from more than 60 per cent last year to 42 per cent in 2014.
  • More authorities are relaxing restrictions about sharing platforms such as dropbox which allows people to access documents stored in the cloud.


There are growing examples of good social media use being nominated including leaders regularly blogging to communicate with staff and residents including Birmingham City Council’s Mark Rodgers blog and Sandwell Council Leader Cllr Darren Cooper’s blog as well as Twitter from key officers such as head of environmental health and planning Marc Wilmott who uses Twitter.


Survey findings

There were 26 responses from 20 councils from the IEWM area including Birmingham City Council, Bromsgrove District Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Borough Council, East Staffordshire District Council, Herefordshire County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, Redditch Borough Council, Sandwell Council, Solihull Borough Council, Shropshire Council, Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Telford & Wrekin Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Walsall Council and Worcestershire County Council.


Question 1: In your opinion, how important is it for councils to use social media?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, don’t know 4 per cent.


Question 2: How important is it for you to use social media in your role?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, 4 per cent neutral


Question 3: How would you describe your council’s use of social media?

2013: High 37.5 per cent, medium 55 per cent, low 7.5 per cent.

2014: High 40 per cent, medium 56 per cent, low 4 per cent


Question 4: How would you rate your council’s effectiveness of social media usage

2013: High 25 per cent, Medium 65 per cent and Low 10 per cent

2014: High 36 per cent, Medium 56 per cent and Low 8 per cent


Question 5: How would you rate your personal usage?

2013: High 47.5 per cent, Medium 32.5 per cent and Low 20 per cent.

2014: High 15 per cent, Medium 58 per cent, Low 23 per cent


What are the barriers stopping your council from using social media more effectively?

Cost 8 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Technology 0 per cent (down from 10 per cent)

Training 0 per cent (down from 37.5 per cent)

Trust 4 per cent (down from 35 per cent)

Risk 0 per cent (down from 32 per cent)

Lack of guidelines & governance 0 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Resources 54 per cent (up from 12.5 per cent)

Time 33 per cent (up from 20 per cent)


Who uses it?

Elected members 81 per cent (down from 85 per cent)

senior officers 61.5 per cent (up from 32.5 per cent)

Frontline teams 65 per cent (up from 47.5 per cent)

Communications 100 per cent (no change)


Do you have an up-to-date social media strategy/action plan?

Yes  42  (down from 62.5 per cent)    No    58  ( up from 37.5%)


Has staff training or guidelines published ?

Yes 77 ( up from 75 per cent)


Which platforms are your council OK with you using?

Position, platform, percentage in the 2014 survey (percentage in the 2013 survey)

1 (1) Twitter 100 per cent (100 per cent)

2 (2) Facebook 96 (100)

3 (3) YouTube 81 (82.5)

4 (4) Flickr 65 (75)

5 (5) LinkedIn 46 (40)

6 (7) Google Plus 38 (22.5)

7 (6) Yammer 31 (42.5)

7 (-) WordPress 31 (n/a)

9 (9) Pinterest 19 (10)

10 (15) Dropbox 19 (2.5)

11 (15) Instagram 11 (2.5)

11 (15) Soundcloud 11 (2.5)

11 (8) Audioboo 11 (15)

11 (-) Vine 11 (-)

11 (12) Cover-i-Live 11 (5)

15 (-) Tumblr 8 (n/a)

16 (-) Whats App 4 (-)

17 (15) n0tice 4 (2.5)

18 (12) Foursquare 4 (5)

19 (-) Snapchat 0 (-)
Question 6: Please list top three examples of good social media use in your council.


Walsall Council

Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers @walsallwildlife

Walsall Council area of outstanding natural beauty Barr Beacon @BarrBeacon

Walsall Council park ranger @ArboRangerMark


Staffordshire Moorlands District Council

Engagement with residents, highlighting issues with service delivery and promoting key Council messages.


Worcestershire County Council

Crisis communications – e.g. getting quick information out to the public about road closures, weather, school closures etc, Chief Exec twitter account – to share top council news and personalise the Council as a whole and  Smaller service areas Facebook pages – e.g. Children’s Centres, Library services etc. Allows services to link up with service users to share information and build relationships with those members of the public who are harder to reach ()


Dudley Council

Facebook community forums – engagement directly with deputy leader of the council supported by comms, Flickr – over 500,000 views and huge engagement tool for the authority and Twitter customer services (comms worked with colleagues in customer service centre to create bespoke twitter handle for service requests…potholes etc – works v well and lets comms continue to do day job)


East Staffordshire Borough Council

Notification of suspended services due to weather.
Promotion of events and activities at leisure centres and arts centre
Using facebook during the redevelopment of a leisure centre. (

Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough Councils (shared service)

Social media incentives
Retweets to and from other partners.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Pinterest board created to support city literary festival,

Redirecting traffic queries via Twitter to online roadworks site,

Developing LinkedIn jobs and careers presence


South Staffordshire District Council

Twitter – customer services encouraging more people to contact them via twitter to save on phone calls
Baggeridge Country Park – continually engages with customers and enthusiasts, sets exactly the right tone
Recent site allocations consultation – first time we have included Twitter in a consultation and people seemed to like it!


Stafford Borough Council

Dog fouling – social media built upon the successful work of this ongoing campaign by encouraging people to stop offenders
Fly tipping – similar to the above in which dumped rubbish is pictured with details such as time date and location and encouraging people to give information
Torch relay 2012 Facebook – dedicated site set up to encourage people to turn out and interacted with are partners on the day to connect residents who were posting their pics to it


Sandwell Council

– Our Facebook page continues to grow in Likes and is a really effective way of communicating with residents – despite some users claiming it’s no longer flavour of the month. On a weekly basis we can reach 15-20,000 people and Likes continue to grow at about 100 a week.

– We’re quickly expanding how teams around the council use social media themselves, rather than relying on Comms. Public Health, Libraries and HR are the latest to be joining the party!

The CEO and Council Leader are regular bloggers – we’ve recently revamped the council leader’s blog to give it a responsive design and a cleaner look. Check out www.sandwellleader.org


Herefordshire County Council

Hereford Library https://twitter.com/HerefordLibrary
Herefordshire head of planning https://twitter.com/marc_willimont
Hereford libraries Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/herefordshirelibraries


Cannock Chase District Council

A Facebook campaign to get victims of domestic abuse to contact help organisations
Live tweeting from Council meetings


Shropshire Council

Corporate twitter account

North Warwickshire Borough Council

Twitter and Facebook used by our Leisure Centres.
Facebook used by the team that managed our skate park.
The past major used twitter during his term.


Coventry City Council

Tweeting live from planning committee
Posting pics of election night count on flickr
Tweeting infographic of election stats


Warwickshire County Council

Monitoring lobby groups (Siblings at same school)
engaging with campaign target audiences (ex smoker factor)
alerting people to incidents (WFRS)


Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Facebook page for new £10 million leisure centre to alert customers to class changes, new courses etc.
Elections – we tweeted all results as they happened and linked to live results page on our website. We won praise locally for that.
Working with Town Centre Partnership to encourage greater sharing of news and issues among local businesses.


Telford & Wrekin Council

monitoring and updating during periods of bad weather has helped us increase our followers significantly.
Our policy is always to respond quickly to comments/reports/questions so that confidence in our brand grows all the time.
Effective use of Facebook advertising to help grow our audience and raise awareness of specific campaigns such as fostering and free school meals.

Web casting of meetings working local voluntary group
Seeking residents views or particular issues – eg. asking them to vote in favour of one thing or another


Birmingham City Council

Local Elections coverage 2014
The corporate Google+ account 55,000 followers
Promoting live webcasts on social media. Opening up democracy to the public 400,000 views for meetings since Feb 2013


Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

1. Answering concerns – answering queries about empty buildings and potential enforcement action – Graffiti removal action.
2. 24 Tweets for Christmas – recycling reminders
3. Posting of elections results


Solihull Borough Council

Facebook posts have a high reach and usually garner a lot of feedback/comments. 2. Everyone involved with social media in SMBC meets every month at the Social Media Cafe to discuss ideas and get advice/help etc. 3.  We have a lot of enthusiasm from across the board for social media, a lot of new start ups and people willing to get involved.

Will have to think about that one!


Good use of social media in the West Midlands across the public sector

  • Police/environment agency during the floods – really great to share information quickly and link up with LAs
  • Coventry – Facebook – snow = high number of likes
  • #WMGRIT – partnership we were involved in around gritting roads in the region
  • Staffordshire County Council – Ironman promotion Comms 2.0 always continues to impress me with the breadth of knowledge about digital communications
  • Staffordshire County Council – Treated Badly domestic abuse campaign
  • I am only impressed if I know the evaluation. So although it may get lots of publicity, it may be funny or people like it (ie police comments around major football matches on twitter) I would need to know if there has been a reduction in drink driving for example to make me ‘impressed.’
  • Really impressed by WMP neighbourhood policing teams’ use of Twitter – good to see the “sweets” being shared right at the frontline. They give a really good insight of what’s going on on the ground.
  • https://twitter.com/southsidecops
  • https://twitter.com/DaveThroupEA
  • Gritters. Birmingham City’s recent Hidden City campaign.
  • West Midlands Police’s use of Twitter.
  • Birmingham CEX blog and twitter
  • BCC Barbara Nice campaign – integrated mix of channels;
  • @HealthyBrum – excellent public health messages.



by Dan Slee, comms2point0

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Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

How brewcamps stir up innovation in local government


Pop-up cinema at Brewcamp

A few years ago a group of us put together HyperWM. It’s an afternoon unconference (no charge, no agenda) for people working in Local Government in the West Midlands to get together for a few hours and talk about stuff that matters to them.

It was a lot of fun to do and afterwards we were keen to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum that we felt had been initiated. We were also a bit knackered afterwards and quickly reviewed our initial thoughts of making it a three or four times yearly affair.

So instead we alighted upon the idea of running a regular event that was a little bit smaller; something that only needed us to find a coffee shop or similar venue who were willing to accommodate us and a few interesting people to talk or lead a discussion.

From this rather vague specification we came up with the idea of Brewcamps, an idea we adapted from the Teacamps that were started by Jeremy Gould in 2008.

The evenings can be quite loosely structured. They are very informal but are consistent in their themes of coffee, cake and conversation. Each camp will have three people who agree to lead a session each. This may involve talking about an interesting piece of work someone is doing; asking for help with something or leading a discussion on a topic of interest.

We don’t have many rules

NO POWERPOINTS (this is pretty much our only rule)

You don’t have to be an expert to lead a session at Brewcamp and we often encourage people who don’t think of themselves as being experts to talk. We’re very keen for Brewcamps to be listening and supporting environments where people have the chance to explore new ideas.

We’ve always arranged things online and as of writing this we’ve put on three unconferences and a dozen brewcamps without being constituted or having a bank account (although we do have a Google group, an Eventbrite account and a website or two)

One of the ways we try to keep fresh is by moving the venue around and we’ve held Brewcamps all across the West Midlands. If you haven’t had the chance to come to one yet then do get in touch and who knows, we might pitch up in your town for the night.


Si Whitehouse,

a freelance web developer and former implementation manager at Digital Birmingham, Birmingham City Council.

Picutre credit

Agumented Reality and Local Government – Talk About Local

People have often said that Local Government has a reality all of its own, now the technology is available for you to create new (augmented) realities using the data that you are the keepers of.

Augmented reality allows local governments to provide more information about objects such as buildings, visitor attractions,even street furniture than could ever be conveyed by a physical noticeboard.  The citizen or your staff can simply hold up their phone and, through the camera view see bubbles floating over objects that, when tapped on screen pull up web pages of info about the object.  Thanks to Talk About Local’s software developed with NESTA and The Nominet Trust this is quick, easy and relatively cheap to do.


Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent

With the advent of ever more powerful smart devices and a lower cost of entry to own them, Local Government can now start to look at using these technologies for the benefit their communities.

Augmented Reality still sounds very sci-fi and people may say it is a gimmick, but it is simply, being able to enhance a user’s environment digitally, providing them with an extra layer of information based on their physical location.

The extra layer of information that a user gets could be anything of a number of things, for example

Planning applications – how good would it be for a resident, visitor, council officer or other interested party, to be able to use their smart device to look down a road and see which properties currently have planning applications on them? Maybe someone looking to move in to a particular area, they could have a quick scan around with their smart device and see that there is an application to pull the old shops down and replace it with a new modern precinct. What if licensing applications were available? Your new resident could see that the bistro across the road wants to extend its opening hours, or the local pub wants a late license for entertainment on Friday Saturday & Sunday the list is endless but it puts the information into the hands of the person who needs it and allows them to make a more informed decision.

These are boring and possibly mundane examples but they are examples of information that you hold that is publically available, that with a little work you can present to people in a new, innovative and useful way.

Tourism – Budgets being cut, tourist information officer’s roles being slashed, offices being closed? Why not put your, listed buildings, places of interest and public art into augmented reality, give your visitors the tools to self navigate around your town or city. For a visitor to see where the ancestral home of Sir Joseph Fosdyke, Tripe Magnate, is in relation to their current location and then get directions to get them there empowers the visitor and allows you to control their visitor experience to some degree.

Those are just a few very simple examples of what you could do to augment the reality of people in your towns & cities; it certainly isn’t the cure all but it also isn’t a gimmick. Google Glass (and others) is coming, get your data out there and make sure your place doesn’t become the Starbucks Street.

If you have a smart device, phone or tablet, got this link http://tal.me.uk/layar to see examples of geolocated data from the West Midlands being used in Augmented Reality, we have used data from Rate My Place, Planning Alerts & Fix My Street as examples. If you are not able to see any points in the app from your location drop us a line at hello@talkaboutlocal.org with your location and we will add some data in for you, better still if you have a data set that is geolocated we would be delighted to add a sample of your data for you to experiment with.

If you have geolocated data or even if you wanted to create bespoke data for a project, adding this into Augmented Reality platforms isn’t as difficult or as costly as you may think.  Get in touch with the team at Talk About Local for more hello@talkaboutlocal.org

by Mike Rawlins

Founder of the Pits n Pots hyperlocal website in Stoke-on-Trent and  commercial and technical manager at Talk About Local.

Picture credit