Local authorities on TwitterPosted: July 13, 2012 | |
This is the fifth in a series of posts on local authorities’ use of Twitter. We’ve been counting down local authorities according to the size of their following – this post reviews the results and offers up some thoughts.
As we’ve suggested here before, social media is a cheap and easy way to engage stakeholders, for think tanks, central government, trade 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 councils appear to be using social media, in this case Twitter, the most?
We’ve looked at the corporate Twitter accounts of all 434 UK local authorities – district, county, metropolitan borough and unitary authorities. This shows that 91% of local authorities have a corporate Twitter account. Of these that don’t, Northern Ireland is disproportionally represented, with 15 authorities out of the 39 not having a Twitter account. The 91% figure represents a significant expansion of local authorities’ use of Twitter since 2009 (at that time, a study by LGEO Research showed that only 124 councils were using Twitter, now this has grown to 395 authorities).The total Twitter community around councils is 941,610, whilst local government has tweeted 646,755 times.
The top ten authorities are:
|No.||Local authority||Twitter name||No. of followers||No. of tweets|
|1||Glasgow City Council||@GlasgowCC||24,016||1,765|
|2||Edinburgh City Council||@Edinburgh_CC||13,054||2,527|
|3||Newcastle upon Tyne City Council||@NewcastleCC||11,992||5,521|
|4||Belfast City Council||@belfastcc||11,639||6,444|
|5||Manchester City Council||@ManCityCouncil||11,313||2,962|
|6||Cardiff City Council||@cardiffcouncil||10,054||4,926|
|7||Nottingham City Council||@MyNottingham||9,374||2,694|
|8||Leeds City Council||@leedscc||9,161||1,838|
|9||Brighton and Hove City Council||@BrightonHoveCC||8,718||7,573|
|10||Kent County Council||@Kent_cc||8,664||2,782|
Nine of the top ten councils are large cities, with only one traditional county council represented – Kent. None of the top ten are district authorities, in fact only two appear in the top 50 – Oxford (no.25 – 5,688 followers) and Preston (no.46 – 4,747 followers). Both are large towns with populations of approximately 140,000 to 150,000. No London Boroughs appear in the top 20, although 7 appear in the top 50 with Lambeth (no.21 – 6,434 followers), Lewisham (no.28 – 5,411 followers) and Westminster (no.29 – 5,392) leading the way.
Six local authorities have more than 10,000 followers. Whilst 38 have more than 5,000 followers, representing 10% of councils. 28% of local authorities have less than 1,000 followers. So whilst this expansion has taken place, this is not universal. Our research points to both an urban connection and the use of Twitter and the number of followers.
A slight aside, we also observed the Government’s policy to rationalise back off functions in councils manifest through their social media presence. Adur and Worthing share a joint Twitter account. Whilst in Dorset, a number of authorities are sharing a Twitter account @dorsetforyou.
In our previous research on think tanks, we only looked at the number of followers. In this case, we also included the number of tweets sent. We didn’t analyse the quality of tweets, or separate out broadcast tweets from those that engaged in dialogue with local citizens. Nonetheless, we found that 203 local authorities have tweeted more than 1,000 times. Meanwhile, seven authorities with a Twitter account have never sent a tweet. Clearly, resourcing social media efforts matters. Walsall Council for instance has a team of five people who are named as their tweeters on their feed.
Top ten tweeters are:
|No.||Local authority||Twitter name||No. of followers||No. of tweets|
|1||Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council||@WalsallCouncil||5,214||12,949|
|2||St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council||@sthelenscouncil||3,886||9,514|
|3||Sunderland City Council||@SunderlandUK||8,202||7,835|
|4||Brighton and Hove City Council||@BrightonHoveCC||8,718||7,573|
|5||Monmouthshire County Council||@MonmouthshireCC||4,109||7,044|
|6||Winchester City Council||@WinchesterCity||3,151||6,963|
|7||Stoke on Trent City Council||@SoTCityCouncil||4,603||6,877|
|8||South Ayrshire Council||@southayrshire||3,097||6,628|
|9||Surrey County Council||@SurreyCouncil||4,534||6,585|
|10||Belfast City Council||@belfastcc||11,639||6,444|
There also seems to be a connection between activity on Twitter and the number of followers. Of the 106 councils with less than 1,000 followers, only eight have tweeted more than a 1,000 times.
|Position on top Twitter list||Local authority||Twitter name||No. of followers||No. of tweets|
|283||Allerdale Borough Council||@allerdale||997||3,785|
|288||Mole Valley District Council||@MoleValleyDC||949||1,747|
|291||Copeland Borough Council||@copelandbc||911||1,169|
|298||East Staffordshire Borough Council||@eaststaffsbc||855||1,578|
|312||Surrey Heath Borough Council||@Surreyheath||717||1.572|
|316||Melton Borough Council||@MeltonBC||657||1,127|
|328||Derbyshire Dales District Council||@derbyshiredales||502||1,427|
We also found some interesting examples that further point to this connection between activity and presence on Twitter. Fenland District Council who were an early adopter of Twitter appears at no.65 on our list (4,234 followers) compared to neighbouring South Holland, which appears at no.389 (24 followers). South Holland and Fenland have many common similarities. Fenland and South Holland have similar population sizes (91,000 and 76,000), demographic and economic make up. The difference does seem to be connected to their investment in social media. South Holland has never tweeted whilst Fenland has tweeted over 500 times.
North Devon, Mid Devon and Torridge also offer up a further interesting comparison. All are neighbouring rural district authorities with similar population sizes ranging from 65,000 – 91,000. North Devon appears at no. 78 on our list (3,796 followers) compared to Torridge at no.373 and Mid Devon at no.377 both with less than 200 followers. North Devon has however tweeted nearly 5,000 times and has dedicated tweeters compared to 220 and 26 tweets sent by Torridge and Mid Devon.
Fenland and North Devon, both with small rural populations demonstrate the possibilities of increasing reach in a cheap and easy way using social media. Our recent blog on 5 top tips for think tanks using social media has many transferable lessons for local government. Some lessons from this piece of research for local councils could be:
- Actively use social media – the more active you are, the more likely you are to build a community;
- Engage in dialogue, don’t just broadcast;
- Promote others and not just yourself. A good local council account is a repository of a range of community information and news;
- Social media is personal – individuals who work for local councils are critical in extending reach and impact;
- Think without limits: social media offers up endless possibilities.
Of course, only looking at the number of tweets and number of followers on the main local authority feed doesn’t provide a broader analysis of the effective use of social media by any authority. It doesn’t take account of quality of engagement or local population size in particular – and these are factors that we could incorporate into future analysis. Even so, it still provides some indication of local authorities’ take up of social media and offers some interesting insights and lessons. Your views on the results – and what further questions and analysis should be conducted (by us or others) – are welcome.