Scottish Local Councils: Twitter Engagement, July 2011

Scottish Local CouncilsIn a recent post entitled ‘Walking Alone’, we showed that the world’s top football clubs were using Twitter mainly as a broadcasting channel rather than for fan engagement. Of the 800 tweets examined, 88% could be described as broadcast tweets, with only 10% or less being ‘replies’ to fan enquiries.

Using a similar methodology, we have examined the Twitter activities of Scottish Local Councils – see Table at the end of this article. Of the 32 Local Councils in Scotland, we can find 27 who are active on Twitter. While this represents good progress compared to a year ago, the results of our analysis are very similar to the football industry. Local Councils are using twitter mainly as a broadcast or PR channel rather than encouraging active engagement with local residents and businesses. The ‘mindset’ adopted can be summarized in the Twitter profile statement of one particular Council:

Thanks for your comments!
Sorry we can’t reply directly.
Information on council services can be found on our website at ……..

Twitter BirdKey points to note from the attached Table are as follows:

* 27 out of 32 Scottish Local Councils are active on Twitter (please do let us know if we have missed anyone). The case of East Dunbartonshire is very interesting. There is an ‘unofficial’ Twitter page at @EDCouncil with a message to the Council that if they ‘wish to take over this account please message us using Twitter’.

* The 27 Twitter pages are followed by 56,114 people – a very small percentage of the total population of Scotland. Over 34% of total followers are accounted for by Scotland’s two largest cities Glasgow (11,972) and Edinburgh (7,206). It will be very interesting to monitor follower growth rates over the coming months.

* The ‘follow back’ rate is very low at 8.7%. This falls to 2.8% if we exclude South Lanarkshire Council who have a very high following to follower ratio.

* The 27 Councils examined have sent a total of 26,207 tweets, an average of 970 per Council. This works out at a very poor 2.6 tweets per day on average over the last year.

* We examined a sample of 40 recent tweets per council. Of the 1,080 tweets examined, only 12 (1%) were ‘replies’ with a further 22 (2%) being ‘retweets’. This means that 96% of all tweets sent by Scottish Local Councils fall within the ‘broadcast’ category. For 18 of the Councils, this increases to 100%

Toe in the WaterGiven the very small sample of tweets covered, we would not claim scientific rigor in our research. However, the results do indicate that Local Councils in Scotland are still at a very early stage in their use of social media and twitter in particular. In terms of the Social Media Maturity Model presented in a previous post, Local Councils are still at the ‘testing the water’ stage.

Our findings may also indicate a misunderstanding or misuse of what Twitter is meant to be about. It is NOT a broadcast or PR channel!!!!!!!!!

First and foremost, Twitter is about listening to what local residents and businesses have to say. You need to follow people to do that. It is about conversation and engagement with your audience; developing ‘actionable insights’ from the dialogue that takes place. Managed properly, Twitter can be a very efficient use of public sector money, delivering enhanced customer service at low cost. But to achieve this you need TO BE SOCIAL BEFORE DOING SOCIAL.

As usual, comments and feedback are very welcome. In particular, we would welcome comments from colleagues working in the public sector. What progress do you think has been made? What are the barriers that need to be overcome? Is Twitter and Social Media in general seen as another PR channel or one for customer engagement service?

Take care

Jim, Alan, Vincent

Scottish Local Government Twitter Engagement July 2011

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3 Responses to Scottish Local Councils: Twitter Engagement, July 2011

  1. Al Bryce says:

    Interesting article, perhaps also worth noting that some Councils are using multiple accounts for campaigns – in East Lothian we have @GoEastLothian for tourism, @GolfEastLothian for golf, @BizEastLothian for business and @EatEastLothian for food & drink (as well as matching facebook pages). Agree with the sentiment of ‘broadcasting’ too. I run the @BizEastLothian account and although I always ensure any interaction is replied to, I find myself broadcasting more than I know it should be, often a time issue more than anything else.

    • Thanks for that Al. Yes we should have pointed that out in the article i.e. that we were looking at the ‘main’ account only rather than ‘sub’ accounts.

      Great that you are making good progress in this area. Nothing wrong with ‘broadcasting’ as such. We do a fair bit of that too. It’s really about trying to get the balance right.

      The issue of time and resource, as you say, can be a problem. I would guess that Council’s are in the same position as most other organisations i.e. a strong ROI case needs to be made before additional resource will be released.

      Great that you are making good progress in this area. Would be good if you could keep us posted in terms of how its going.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – much appreciated.

      Take care

      Jim H

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