Social media ‘goes mainstream’ in councils – Socitm survey

Thursday February 23rd, 2012

A survey by Socitm Insight shows that almost all councils now allow some access to social media, compared with just one third that did so only two years ago.

The findings come from two identical surveys carried out in January 2012, one with CIOs, Heads of ICT and equivalent and a second with web, communications, customer services, service and policy managers. The 2010 data was derived from a survey limited to IT managers.

The surveys are reported in Social media goes mainstream – but in the right way? a new briefing from Socitm Insight published in February.

The surveys also show that all employees potentially have access to Twitter in 44% of councils, some of them in 54% of councils, with only 2% of councils offering no access. Facebook is accessible to a similar degree, with all employees having access in 42% of councils, some having access in 54% and just 4% having no access. YouTube follows closely behind (41%, 51% and 8%), with Flickr, Slideshare and Google Docs less accessible, but not by much.

The growth in social media access is confirmed by a complementary survey of social media activity by councils carried out for Better connected 2012, the latest edition of Socitm Insight’s annual report on council websites, which will be published on 1 March.

This survey shows that 84% of councils have a presence on Twitter, and 73% on Facebook.

Social media goes mainstream – but in the right way? shows that social media have been incorporated into the activity of almost all councils, with blanket bans on access being replaced by more considered approaches. But the briefing poses the question: as social media goes mainstream, is there a danger that its game-changing potential might be lost?

One significant change in the way social media is being managed in councils, revealed in the surveys reported in Social media goes mainstream is the fact that communications and PR functions are now leading councils’ involvement in this area. Back in 2010 as reported in Social media: why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it (January 2010), communicators were hardly engaged at all.

The briefing suggests this development is not surprising, given the potential for social media to impact councils’ reputations, and because its advent has generated a need to re-think approaches to business communications generally.

However, the briefing argues that social media have the potential to play a much wider role in changing what councils do, and how they do it. It asks whether, with the mainstreaming of social media there a danger that its game-changing potential – its ability to upset the traditional conduct of business, to stimulate management by outputs, not inputs, and to generate new organisational structures and operational approaches – has been lost.

Read the report HERE

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