While this winter has brought extreme weather conditions to the UK, which resulted in storms and floods, many councils have adopted social media as an additional communications tool to keep residents informed of disruption. More importantly council social media teams have joined forces with the environment agencies and police forces to provide the public with a fully joined-up picture of what is happening in real-time in their part of the country and what to expect. In many cases social media has plugged the communications gap from other media outlets. In fact, The Environment Agency had to send all warnings via twitter when its web site collapsed due to overwhelming demand.
A fine example of how this is working for some councils can be seen on the Twitter pages of Gloucestershire County Council, which boasts over 8,000 followers. It uses social media to promote events, campaigns and give advice to residents on many topics, including health and educations – as well as promoting training courses for elderly residents who have not grown up in the digital age. Haringey Council's twitter feed included all the closures caused by tree fall and informed the public when trees would be removed.
A recent poll suggested (60% of respondents coming from the public sector), showed that 81.9% expect to be using social media more in 2014. However 61.6% said the job of communicating is getting harder.
In the 2012 the survey revealed that just 10 platforms were being used. By 2013, this had grown to more than 30. In 2014, local government will need to take into account even more platforms including photo sharing sites such as Instagram and instant messaging channels, which are popular with youngsters. Direct messaging is increasingly used when a discreet and confidential channel is required.
With budget cuts expected to hit even harder this year, many councils are seeing social media as the way forward, as it has been shown that channel shifting from traditional communications to social media gives councils as huge cost saving. However it is crucial that for a shift to be successful, the public sector must take into account training and implementing a social media management platform to manage risk and keep control of multiple social media accounts across departments.
To find out more about how your organisation can save money while implementing an effective social media strategy contact us for a free demonstration and health check. See our cost savings by channel shifting document here.