Strategic social media

12 strategic steps to help your council get the most from social media.

Almost all UK councils have at least one Twitter and Facebook account now. The argument over whether to use social media across local government has long since passed.

These two platforms are now referred to as ‘traditional social media' – they have been around for 12-years plus – but that doesn't mean we have necessarily mastered them or that we're getting the most from them. Having Twitter and Facebook accounts and posting to them, whilst a positive, isn't on its own enough to get the most from social media.

The priority now is to use social media more strategically to ensure good engagement with residents, better customer service, and wider sharing of information on the services most important to customers.

To do this effectively, social media needs to be well researched, well planned, regularly monitored and closely evaluated to ensure that it's working.

This 12-step resource, developed with comms2point0, offers top tips and a range of all-new case studies to help local government, and the wider public sector, develop our collective use of social media and take it to a more strategic level.

Social Media in the UK – the current landscape

The Ofcom communications market report August 2016 pinpoints the UK follower numbers by major platform:

The top 10 most popular platforms

1 YouTube 41.3million users
2 Facebook 38.7million users
3 Facebook Messenger 22.5million users
4 LinkedIn 21.8million
5 Twitter 20.9million
6 WhatsApp 16.7million users
7 Instagram
16.5million users
8 Google+ 12.8million
9 Pinterest 11.5million
10 Snapchat 7.5million users


Of course, the activity and frequency of individual users on these platforms can and will vary wildly, from those ever-present and highly active every day, through to those who are more occasional users and watchers.

These latest figures do however build a useful and telling picture of the current state of social media usage in the UK. The picture will continue to change too. For example, Facebook users have fallen since the same report published in 2015, whilst platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat have grown quickly over the past 12-months.

Why social media punches above its weight

Whilst the numbers for social media users in the UK are, on the face of it, huge it's important to dig a little deeper to understand how we interact and engage in real terms. It's important too to remember that other non-social media channels and platforms still have big user numbers – broadcast media, for example, still plays a crucial role and offers significant reach.

Having 10k followers to your Twitter profile really is a positive as it provides a very useful opportunity to potentially connect with people and organisations who want to know more about what you do. However, the chances are they will not see much of what you post and share on a daily basis unless they are committed followers and if you're smart getting around issues thrown up by algorithms. So we have to be savvy in our use of social media to ensure that we're doing all we can do engage and grow our reach and impact and achieve some ‘cut through' in what's becoming an ever-noisier world of online messages, competition and distractions.

Social media is not a silver bullet to solve all of your communications and engagement challenges

This is true and always worth remembering. You still need to have great web pages, use email effectively, engage positively with the media and manage your corporate identity well. You also need an integrated approach to communications where the elements of your organisation's comms mix work together and not individually. But social media is important and influential - it's where conversations take place, it's where reputations can flourish or whither, and it's often where emergencies and crises first hit.

Social media has changed the way in which we can communicate and engage – it's opened up access and provides us with a wealth of opportunities to talk to people in a very human and non-corporate way. In these times of smaller teams and resources, challenged by increased demands and growing internal and external expectations, social media can significantly help organisations communicate effectively.

Using social media well is way beyond simply sending out a tweet and moving on to the next task. Equally, social media can be a large ‘time-suck' – getting the balance right between the two and resourcing your social media accounts appropriately is the target for communicators now. That balance is slightly different for us all, depending upon your role, your organisation and the number of accounts you manage.

The overriding aim is to be strategic in your use of social media – to focus your time and effort on the areas of social media which will help you meet your organisational objectives and help your residents and customers' best access and use your services.

This 12 strategic step resource aims to help you make the most of social media.

Good luck, and don't forget share your successes and lessons with us @LGAcomms.