Local authorities on Twitter – 300 to 201

This is the second in a series of posts on local authorities’ use of Twitter. Over the next week we’re counting down local authorities according to the size of their following, and then considering the results.

As we’ve suggested here before, social media is a cheap and easy way to engage stakeholders, for think tankscentral governmenttrade bodies and directly elected mayors. We even think it could be used to open-up policy research and development, for example for local authorities to connect with their communities. So which local authorities are seizing the opportunities of social media the most? (Let us know if we’ve got anything wrong and we’ll correct it asap).

No. Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
201 Hastings Borough Council @hastingsbc 1,756 743
202 Eden District Council @EdenCouncil 1,751 1,066
203 Cambridge City Council @camcitco 1,747 930
204 Worcester City Council @myworcester 1,736 2,215
205 Kensington and Chelsea Royal Borough Council @RBKC 1,729 1,502
206 Guildford Borough Council @GuildfordBC 1,710 1,619
207 Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council @MyDoncaster 1,704 1,258
208 Enfield Council @EnfieldCouncil 1,689 590
209 South Hams District Council @SouthHams_DC 1,677 259
210 St Albans District Council @StAlbansCouncil 1,659 703
211 Wiltshire Council @wiltscouncil 1,648 1,223
212 Tamworth Borough Council @TamworthCouncil 1,646 4,277
213 East Riding of Yorkshire Council @East_Riding 1,634 2,050
214 East Dorset District Council @EastDorsetDC 1,629 421
215 Harrow Council @harrow_council 1,620 927
216 Brentwood Borough Council @Brentwood_BC 1,618 1,070
217 Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council @BlaenauGwentCBC 1,615 1,028
218 Bromsgrove District Council @BromsgroveDC 1,607 412
219 North Kesteven District Council @NorthKestevenDC 1,599 878
220 Denbighshire County Council @DenbighshireCC 1,587 1,106
221 Portsmouth City Council @portsmouthtoday 1,571 1,280
222 Leicestershire County Council @LeicsCountyHall 1,560 1,055
223 Crawley Borough Council @crawleybc 1,558 1,626
224 Luton Borough Council @lutoncouncil 1,552 1,387
225 Hertsmere Borough Council @HertsmereBC 1,546 2,235
226 Sefton Council @seftoncouncil 1,542 268
227 Broxtowe Borough Council @broxtowebc 1,513 2,616
228 South Lakeland District Council @SouthLakelandDC 1,512 760
229 Northampton Borough Council @NorthamptonBC 1,497 959
229 Reigate and Banstead Borough Council @reigatebanstead 1,497 595
231 Gloucester City Council @GloucesterCity 1,472 590
232 Basildon Borough Council @BasildonCouncil 1,468 1,456
233 Rushcliffe Borough Council @Rushcliffe 1,458 876
234 Bolsover District Council @BolsoverDC 1,456 406
235 Rossendale Borough Council @RossendaleBC 1,445 1,362
236 Colchester Borough Council @yourcolchester 1,441 858
237 Buckinghamshire County Council @buckscc 1,428 923
238 Dacorum Borough Council @DacorumBC 1,411 768
239 Epping Forest District Council @eppingforestdc 1,407 674
240 Chichester District Council @ChichesterDC 1,402 1,869
241 Bradford Council @Bradfordmdc 1,398 1,243
242 Stevenage Borough Council @StevenageBC 1,396 777
243 Daventry District Council @DaventryDC 1,387 682
244 Selby District Council @SelbyDC 1,368 682
245 Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council @NewsNBC 1,346 1,885
246 Eastleigh Borough Council @EastleighBC 1,321 1,172
247 West Dunbartonshire Council @WDCouncil 1,313 561
248 East Lindsey District Council @EastLindseyDC 1,308 1,582
248 South Gloucestershire Council @sgloscouncil 1,308 759
250 Welwyn Hatfield District Council @WelHatCouncil 1,299 1,353
251 Hounslow Council @LBofHounslow 1,298 1,664
252 Richmondshire District Council @RichmondshireDC 1,296 148
253 Vale of White Horse District Council @WhiteHorseDC 1,275 436
254 Hambleton District Council @HambletonDC 1,274 1,244
255 South Somerset District Council @Southsomersetdc 1,267 640
256 Ryedale District Council @RyedaleDC 1,266 427
256 Watford Borough Council @WatfordCouncil 1,266 707
258 Suffolk Coastal District Council @SuffolkCoastal 1,259 863
259 Three Rivers District Council @ThreeRiversDC 1,240 2,377
260 Shepway District Council @shepwaydc 1,239 499
261 Herefordshire County Council @HfdsCouncil 1,223 1,797
262 Maldon District Council @MaldonDC 1,193 1,275
263 New Forest District Council @newforestdc 1,192 201
264 Gedling Borough Council @GedlingBC 1,182 1,040
265 South Cambridgeshire District Council @SouthCambs 1,150 1,437
266 Great Yarmouth Borough Council @greatyarmouthbc 1,142 1,012
267 Fareham Borough Council @FarehamBC 1,132 2,902
268 Central Bedfordshire Council @letstalkcentral 1,124 3,357
269 Scottish Borders Council @scotborders 1,118 564
270 Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council @RMBCPress 1,115 2,215
271 Dumfries and Galloway Council @dgcouncil 1,114 313
272 Scarborough Borough Council @ScarboroCouncil 1,096 1,043
273 East Hertfordshire District Council @EastHerts 1,091 374
274 Angus Council @AngusCouncil 1,082 1,185
275 Wychavon District Council @Wychavon 1,080 888
276 East Northamptonshire District Council @ENCouncil 1,078 1,220
277 St Edmundsbury Borough Council @stedsbc 1,073 107
278 Halton Borough Council @HaltonBC 1,067 770
278 South Kesteven District Council @southkesteven 1,067 416
280 Moray Council @TheMorayCouncil 1,063 730
281 Conwy County Borough Council @ConwyCBC 1,052 702
282 Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council @hinckandbos_bc 1,049 752
283 Slough Borough Council @SloughCouncil 1,040 1,357
284 Allerdale Borough Council @allerdale 997 3,785
285 West Lancashire Borough Council @Westlancsbc 996 583
286 Inverclyde Council @inverclyde 978 493
287 Milton Keynes Council @mkcouncil 970 295
288 Havering Council @LBofHavering 969 500
289 Mole Valley District Council @MoleValleyDC 949 1,747
290 Bexley Council @whatsoninbexley 943 1,141
291 Ashford Borough Council @AshfordCouncil 942 370
292 Copeland Borough Council @copelandbc 911 1,169
293 Swale Borough Council @SwaleCouncil 909 248
294 Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council @WestNorfolkBC 905 548
295 Waveney District Council @waveneydc 896 901
296 Isle of Wight Council @iwight 875 508
297 Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council @NBBCouncil 870 274
298 East Devon District Council @eastdevon 862 451
299 East Staffordshire Borough Council @eaststaffsbc 855 1,578
300 Redditch Borough Council @RedditchMatters 851 576

25 Comments on “Local authorities on Twitter – 300 to 201”

  1. While there is clearly value in the ‘corporate’ twitter account I think of more value is the multiple service specific twitter accounts that we in Swindon encourage people to use. Local people will feel an affinity to the service or topic they are interested in and are more likely to follow that in our experience. So while we continue to push our SBC twitter and build on the 1900 followers it is the aggregated value of the twenty or so twitter accounts across the organisation that I am really interested in building upon. So in terms of the rankings in the table I think it would be interesting in the future to evaluate local authorities’ overall twitter presence not just the central account.

    • Thanks Gavin for this point – you’re right that a broader survey would capture overall Twitter presence. From our brief survey my sense would be that Swindon is fairly unusual in using social media consistently across its service areas, though we’d be interested in hearing about others. In a few cases we came across some local authorities that didn’t have a main corporate Twitter account but did have a more focused account, for example for tourism or local economic development – but it most cases the lack (or relatively limited use) of the main corporate account also signified a lack of use of social media generally, as you might expect.

  2. I agree that a look at all the Twitter accounts offered by a local authority would provide a richer perspective. I believe leadership is so important in supporting the use of social media and digital technology within public services and it would be interesting to know which local authority Chief Executive and senior management teams are active on Twitter.

    It remains a paradox that some local authorities with Twitter accounts are still blocking their own staff from using social media channels to communicate and engage with the public!

    • Completely agree Shirley, it does seem to be a question of leaders supporting and encouraging staff to experiment (in sensible ways) with social media – and as you suggest leading by example. We probably will do a follow-up on chief execs and senior management, though my bet would be that this closely reflects overall use of social media by the local authority. We made this point with regards to central government in an earlier post – most of the civil service leadership aren’t using Twitter, despite the head of the civil service urging staff to experiment with social media.

  3. Good to see you drawing attention to local authorities’ use of Twitter.

    Shirley is absolutely right about the importance of leadership in supporting the use of social media and digital technology within public services.

    I’d go further and say top management should be DRIVING its use, not least because of the potential to improve services and engagement and to make todays reducing resources go that much further.

    Socitm (the association for IT and digital professionals in public services) has been monitoring development and takeup of digital channels since our first survey of all local authority websites in 1999.

    We started following developments in social media with our 2008 report ‘Web 2.0: what it is and why it matters’, followed with surveys of social media use in emergencies (Twitter Gritters, 2010) and for comms purposes (a survey of social media and the 2009 local elections).

    Better connected, our now annual survey of local authority websites has tracked social media use by local authorities over the last three years, and includes commentary from practitioners on its use for engagement and service delivery. There is also commentary from Jan Britton, chief executive of Sandwell MBC, who is an active user of social media, on how it helps him in his work and why its use is so relevant for the times we live in now.

    Just one key point – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media tools need to be fully joined up with the organisation’s other digital tools and channels. If fully integrated with an excellent website, Twitter conversations can be supported with further information that can be ‘self-served’ rather than requiring a more costly phone or face to face enquiry.

    This is particularly important when Twitter is brought into play during local emergencies. Research shows that effective use of Twitter in conjunction with the council website can significantly reduce phone calls to the council, leaving these channels free for those who, for whatever reason, are not able to ‘self-serve’.

    • Thanks Vicky. (Better Connected is available from the Socitm site at: http://www.socitm.net/info/214/socitm_insight/151/better_connected_2012/1). The point about emergency use is really interesting, and I can see how appropriate Twitter and other social media could be for this. What we were especially surprised about from our own (much less considered) research on social media use is the number of local authorities that don’t appear to have a main Twitter account – quite possibly we’ve overlooked some, but even so, it appears that there are still many councils that don’t have Twitter as any part of their digital tools/channels.

      • vickysargent says:

        We’d be happy to exchange notes – get in touch on my Socitm email vicky dot sargent at socitm dot net.

  4. Louise says:

    I think judging entirely based on number of followers is a dangerous game. It means nothing at all if all that’s going out on that Twitter account is a bunch of auto-rss produced tweets generated by the posting of new news articles, for example.

  5. Phil says:

    As already mentioned by Gavin, this doesn’t take into account councils that have many Twitter accounts. For example we have @WestBerkshire, @WBerksEnjoy, @WBerksLibraries, @WBerksNature and so on.

    Twitter is similar to email in some respects and you don’t have one corporate email account, you have many relating to different departments or areas of interest.

    It doesn’t take into account size of area either. A more interesting measure would be to rank followers by population.

    It’s important to remember that not everyone uses Twitter, but by bringing the content into one’s website as we have here http://www.westberks.gov.uk/torch then it’s content is available to a much wider audience.

    • Thanks Phil, I certainly take the point that local authorities can have more than one account (and we haven’t measured this), but we expected there to be (at least) a main account for each authority. There could well be authorities that have many (well-followed) feeds but not a main account, though this would seem somewhat odd. Our rather cursory search on Twitter for this research is probably similar to what any local resident might do, and if we couldn’t quickly find a (main) account then probably neither will others – which in some cases means a missed opportunity to connect with residents. Ranking by population size would be an interesting next stage of analysis, but as we’ll see when we get to the end of the survey (next week), it seems that size of following bears little relationship to population size – some small authorities have sizable followings, which might reflect their general connection to and degree of embeddedness in the community, whereas some larger authorities don’t.

      • Phil says:

        A rather cursory search on Twitter should reveal the specific account the customer is interested in. In my view focusing on one main account rather misses the point of Twitter.

        I like what the Environment Agency have done in creating accounts for specific geographic areas https://twitter.com/#!/search/users/env%20agency and you’ll find example of forward thinking like this in both the private and public sectors.

        Any study into the number of followers councils have should take look at all the different accounts each have or it won’t reveal a true picture.

        • In the case of @WBerks… this may be true (given the common form of the account name), but we were surprised in quite a few cases how difficult it was to find a) the main authority account and b) if there were other accounts relating to specific service areas, especially since many councils don’t seem to list all of the accounts in one place on their website (and some don’t even include their main account prominently on their site). I’d imagine that most local residents wouldn’t invest that much time in trying to find ‘sub’ accounts, and would in many cases probably just sign-up to follow the main corporate account on the assumption that that would give them most of the info they need (at least, that’s what I might assume, rightly or wrongly).

  6. Birmingham City Council has a news feed (@BCCNewsRoom), which has the following stats:

    Followers: 6,345
    Tweets: 5,747

    The official Birmingham account (@BhamCityCouncil) has 912 followers according to our list. We will amend the list to reflect the news account as other authorities use such feeds as their main ‘corporate’ feed.

  7. Matt says:

    I agree with Louise (above). What is the point in measuring numbers of followers? This is dependent on so many things: purpose of account; catchment area; length of time account has existed; how it’s used. It doesn’t tell us how effective the account is.

    A useless exercise.

    • Matt, sorry you find it a useless exercise, but the point is to begin a discussion about how local authorities can use social media more effectively, especially (our particular interest) how social media could be one way to engage local communities in policy research and development. Of course, just counting the number of Twitter followers is simplistic, and this analysis could usefully be extended in the ways you suggest. Nonetheless – and despite the fact that we haven’t got to the end of the list yet – we do feel that this points to some differences in following that can’t be explained by size of local population, how long the account has been going etc. We’ll be publishing some observations about how various authorities are using their accounts, and how this appears to relate to size of following, starting on Friday. But I’d defend the basic point of the exercise in this way: any local authority that has a (main corporate account) Twitter following in the low hundreds or in some cases has only tens of people following them, and/or hardly sends any tweets (or in a suprising number of cases, doesn’t seem to have any Twitter account at all), is surely wasting the opportunity to use social media as one (cheapy and easy) communication channel amongst others – and we didn’t expect to find so many authorities in this situation before we started to tot up these numbers.

    • Phil says:

      Whilst Matt’s reply is harsh, it is however accurate.

      Take a look at Glasgow CC https://twitter.com/GlasgowCC who have the most followers of any council. Very few re-tweets or replies to mentions.

      Lots of followers doesn’t mean lots of engagement.

      • Thanks Phil, you’re right of course that lots of followers doesn’t necessarily mean lots of engagement, but I’d make two points here. Firstly, you can’t engage using Twitter if you haven’t bothered to establish an account – which we were suprised to find that quite a few authorities still haven’t done (and re. Matt’s point, we wouldn’t know this unless we did the obvious – and obviously limited – job of checking). While a large following doesn’t necessarily equate to engagement, a small following or no following at all suggests a lack of interest on the part of these authorities in investing in ‘new’ ways of engaging with their communities, which is a concern. Is this unfair? Let us know your view of what’s going on here. Secondly, if (as you suggest) Glasgow isn’t engaging in much two-way interaction via its Twitter feed, I’d be interested in what explains Glasgow’s very high number of followers compared to other authorities (and local population size can’t be the entire answer). No, a large following isn’t a simple proxy for engagement, but it surely signifies something – if so, what? Your thoughts welcome.

        • Matt says:

          I still maintain that the whole exercise is completely futile.

          So Glasgow has the most followers – how many of those followers are bots? How many are company accounts? How many are individuals? How many are suppliers? How many are spam accounts? How many live/work in the area covered by the council? What proportion of the population have access to broadband? What is the demographic makeup of the population? How many have smartphones?

          Then there are the conclusions. Who says that it is necessary for a council to have a corporate twitter account with lots of activity on it before said council can be said to be ‘investing in new ways of engaging with their communities’? How do we know that they’re not doing something for more innovative or engaging?

          Now go and do some real research.

          • To clarify, it’s not that we think that using Twitter (or any other social media or networking platforms), represents the totality of ‘new ways of engaging with their communities’ – but our ‘research’ (limited though it obviously is) does suggest that some councils could be experimenting more with social media as one method of engagement (including, for some, setting-up their first account). Some of the questions you propose could certainly be incorporated into further analysis, while others might be more difficult or impossible to get at (e.g. how many followers live or work in the area covered by the council).

  8. I think that it is really difficult to provide a definitive league-table as the population sizes vary so much- I wonder if Twitter Followers as a % of population would show which local authorities are punching above their weight?

    I just wanted to comment on the localised approach- I really like the way that many local authorities are enabling service areas to have their own social media presence. It really enables the local audience to get specific information and engage in a very niche way. Even if the fans and follower numbers are low the engagement can quite often be a lot richer. It also enables the local authority to connect with its social media audience across lots of different touch points.

    Now come the risks- The danger that comes with multiple accounts is that they spring up all over the council without any central knowledge and the comms team not having any visibility over activity- especially if it goes wrong. We have put together a risk paper on social media- if anyone wants a copy please e-mail on james.leavesley@crowdcontrolhq.com

  9. Matt says:

    Just a thought. If the number of twitter followers is a useful measure on how innovative or engaging an organisation, where does Guerilla Policy’s 504 followers leave them?

    • Thanks Matt, we actually have just under 1,800 followers – 1,288 on our original account (@newthinktankuk) and now 510 on our new account (@guerillapolicy). Without wanting to sound at all apologetic, I’d also add that we’re a new ‘organisation’ (or rather a wholly self-developed and still-developing experiment), rather than say a public organisation with staff, funding, a defined constituency etc. We’ve been pretty encouraged by the response so far – we’ve already got a larger social media following and web presence than some established and funded think tanks – but we certainly want to develop this further, and in particular we believe that the internet offers the potential engage many people and groups that otherwise tend to be marginalised from policy development. So any positive ideas would be welcome.

      • Phil says:

        I think you’ve just demonstrated one of the flaws with your study that some who’ve commented have already pointed out.

        You only look at the “main account” for each council, so given the same criteria applied to Guerilla Policy you only have 510 or 1,288 followers. You can’t add two accounts together because your study doesn’t allow this.

        • Yes it’s a fair point. I should say that having two (main) accounts derives from some technical incompetence on my part – our original project name was ‘new think tank’, but when we came up with our proper name I didn’t realise you could change the account name, hence the reason we set up another account but still use both. (We’re also learning as we go, as befits social media and our experimenting with it). Calling a list of Twitter followers a ‘study’ rather flatters it perhaps, but I do think, as I’ve written in response to other comments, that however limited the exercise it has pointed to some issues for further analysis – authorities that aren’t using Twitter at all, those hardly using it, those that have built up large followings despite very different local contexts and populations, and so on. At the end of our ‘study’ we put forward some suggested ways in which those councils that don’t seem to be using social media much could experiment a bit with it – we’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts as well.

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