Alongside Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is regarded as one of the most important social media platforms in the world. With an estimated 12.6 million Twitter users in the UK, it’s a powerful communication tool that, despite regular naysaying, is not going anywhere in the near future Local councils in particular have found the platform to be a useful means of communicating information, engaging residents and encouraging participation.
However, for the network to develop into a platform that can help local councils deliver services in increasingly efficient ways, we have to understand how to use it in an efficient manner. Here, we take a look at ways Twitter can be used and developed in 2018.
Local councils and Twitter
Though Twitter has an undeniably large user base, it’s not necessarily a useful channel of communication in all contexts. One of the biggest challenges facing local councils is the question of tailoring their online services and communications to specific demographics.
In general, public sector organisations have a much harder time convincing users to adopt new technologies than their private sector counterparts. Consequently, they need to ensure that they’re targeting particular platforms at the segment of the population most likely to use them. If they don’t, precious resources will be wasted on initiatives that the public aren’t likely to respond positively to.
Twitter in specific demographics
A key demonstration of this are statistics acquired by Inform concerning the distribution of Facebook and Twitter users amongst certain parts of the population. Comparing the number of users following local councils to those following universities, it is clear that Facebook is far more popular amongst university students than it is the general population.
On the other hand, the numbers also highlight how Twitter is an extremely powerful tool for communicating with the general public. For example, Birmingham University’s Twitter base is only 73% the size of Birmingham City Council’s. Likewise, the number of users following Glasgow University constitutes just 46% of the total number following Glasgow City Council’s.
In some ways, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Twitter is an incredibly popular business-to-business platform, and excels at delivering important information and marketing materials. In many ways, it complements local council’s core services very well.
How local councils can use Twitter
In 2018, councils will have to refine their social media use if it’s to remain effective. Twitter is the perfect platform on which to take a proactive approach that attempts to engage users. Q&As, surveys and informal referendums are useful ways to shape policy and demonstrate inclusivity. The promotion of local businesses can be achieved through strategic advertisements, the organising of networking events and the use of Twitter as an open and efficient means of communication. Twitter can also be a great tool for promoting channel shift tools – for example encouraging dialogue through Facebook Messenger. Finally, regular news updates ensure that the population recognises the work the council is undertaking and begins to build a more trusting relationship between the public and its government.
Many local councils have a good understanding of how to use Twitter to engage their constituents. However, modern social media platforms are constantly evolving, adopting new technologies, and chasing new demographics. Consequently, local government needs to constantly reassess its Twitter use. Are tweets targeted at the right demographics? Are they providing information residents will find useful? Are they assisting in delivering or enhancing the council’s key services, messages and decisions? Are they provoking responses? In 2018, local councils will need to expand the idea of Twitter as a two-way dialogue between public and government if it’s to remain a relevant and powerful communication tool.
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