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.
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 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 ()
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
– 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
Cannock Chase District Council
A Facebook campaign to get victims of domestic abuse to contact help organisations
Live tweeting from Council meetings
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.
- 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