Friday, August 17, 2012

Using Social Media in Local Government

The University of Technology Sydney have released "Using Social Media in Local Government: 2011 Survey Report" by Karen Purser (June 2012). As well as the full report, there is a summary available.
Table of Contents

2. About the Survey
2.1 Methodology
2.2 Sample
2.3 Questionnaire
2.4 Coding
2.5 Statistical significance
3. Executive Summary
4. Detailed Findings
4.1 Understanding of social media
4.2 Use of social media by councils
4.3 Ownership of social media inside council
4.4 Social media policy
4.5 Staff use of social media
4.6 Councillor use of social media
4.7 Social media evaluation
4.8 Opportunities and effective use of social media
4.9 Barriers and risks of using social media
4.10 Use of social media in an emergency
4.11 Social media tools
5. Conclusions
Appendix - Survey Questions ...

3. Executive Summary
Social media has really only been around for ten years. The year 2002 saw the launch of the first significant social networking site, Friendster. Myspace was launched in 2004, followed by Facebook in 2006 and Twitter in 2006. Not much is heard of Friendster or MySpace nowadays, but according to research conducted by Sensis 2 in 2012 - Facebook dominates as the most used social networking site, being used by 97% of social networking participants or 6 out of 10 Internet users. This was unchanged in the past year. Facebook is used by more than 95% of social media users from both sexes and at least 93% in all age groups. LinkedIn was the next most popular social media platform, being used by 16% of social networking users, up from 9% last year. Twitter was used by 14% of social networking site users, up from 8% last year, and Google+ was used by 8%.

This represents a massive change in the way people communicate with one another, and with the organisations they interact with, including local government. ...

In considering future use, councils are most likely to intend to use Twitter, followed by mobile apps like Snap Send Solve and the Youtube and Facebook.

Interestingly, while some rural/remote councils felt that social media was not relevant to them or their communities, one rural/remote council had found that they were able to communicate much more effectively with their residents via social media as they were too geographically dispersed to support a local newspaper.

As might be expected, the strongest drive for a council to use social media came from staff responsible for communications (41%), and communications staff “owned” councils social media initiatives in 61% of cases.

The majority of councils were developing (50%) or had in place (26%) a social media policy of some sort – in most cases (84%) the policies were based on an existing policy of another organisation and either adopted with little change or used as a framework for a more tailored policy. This suggests a need for the development of standard social media tools and resources which can be easily tailored to suit individual councils.

Just on half of all participating councils who are using social media confined its official use to one or two staff members, most likely the in the communications team, where one exists. A further third of councils expanded their use of social media to key personnel throughout the organisation. ...

Few councils (21%) provided social media training for their staff, and even fewer (9%) provided social media training for their elected representatives, although many supplied them with smart phones and tablets which can be used to access social media, and 64% of participating councils had one or more elected representative who used social media to comment on or discuss council business. ...

Interestingly, 14% of those councils who were using social media had also found it to be useful to manage controversial issues, address public misconceptions and build positive reputations, and a further 10% had found it effective for emergency management. ...

The most significant barriers to the use of social media were to do with a lack of resources and a lack of knowledge. In particular a lack of sector wide guidelines and education was cited as a barrier – coupled with a lack of understanding of social media inside the organisation. ...

Significantly, much of the perceived risk associated with social media use clustered around information management and record keeping issues, suggesting a lack of clarity around state record keeping regulations as they relate to social media and commensurate uncertainty within the sector as to their responsibilities.

Further uncertainty was evident when councils were asked about the extent to which they
might consider using social media in an emergency, following on from the experience of Queensland councils during the floods and cyclones of 2011.

Importantly, a key finding of the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry Final Report was that Councils that have not already done so should consider how social media may be used effectively to provide accurate information about flood levels and local conditions to residents during a flood event.

From: Purser, K. (2012) Using Social Media in Local Government: 2011 Survey Report, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, University of Technology, Sydney, Retrieved from:

Government: 2011 Survey Report, Australian Centre
of Excellence for Local Government, University of
Technology, Sydney

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