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Interview with Lichfield Dictrict Council on Twitter Usage

Straight from the Horses Mouth

Lichfield District Council Planning Twitter: http://twitter.com/ldcplanning
Twitter stats followers: 19
Twitter stats updates: 138
Twitter Fact: Lichfield DC is one of the councils who have setup a twitter account for a specific service (Planning Apps). An interesting approach to using Twitter for local councils. Definitely one to watch!

This interview was conducted with:

Stuart Harrison

stuart.harrison@lichfielddc.gov.uk
Webmaster
Lichfield District Council
www.lichfielddc.gov.uk

  • Why did you decide to setup LDCPlanning twitter?

It was an experiment really, I’d been doing a lot of work screen-scaping our planning system to try and improve the functionality and accessibility and had already made an RSS feed myself, so using Twitterfeed (http://twitterfeed.com/) it was a five minute job to get it up and running. I’d only just started dipping my toes into the world of Twitter and I was interested to see what kind of response I’d get.

  • How does LDCPlanning updates affect residents?

Every time a planning application is listed a tweet gets posted to the account via Twitterfeed, users can then click on the tinyurl link and find out more about the planning application on our site. Planning is a very important issue for our residents (as I’m sure it is at other councils), so getting timely information to them is critical.

  • How do you measure its effectiveness, eg, genuine public followers or not.. etc?

I keep an eye on who’s following us, and it’s always exciting when I get a new follower, at first we mainly had other local government webbies following us, but recently we’ve had a few more members of the public getting on board and now the split is pretty much 50/50 between residents and local government people.

  • How do people get in touch with you through twitter if they wish to connect with you?

Our ldcplanning account is definitely a ‘one-way’ conversation at the moment, more of a live feed than anything, but I’m hoping to change that very shortly!

  • Will you be setting up a Lichfield District Council twitter account in the near future? If no, can you explain why?

We actually already have a council account (@Lichfield_DC), which, if I’m honest I actually set up a good while ago and forgot about! I haven’t publicised it, but I recently got two followers who found it without any prompting or publicity, so I’m planning to do something with it in the very near future – hopefully utilising the API.

  • Can you explain your experience with it so far i.e. challenges, benefits, etc.

Well, at the moment, I’ve recently changed the RSS feed so it checks on a nightly basis, which does mean that tweets tend to get sent through en masse every morning, so it needs a bit of work get it working properly. As soon as I clear my massive backlog of post-christmas work, I’m getting on it! As for benefits, it’s really interesting to see the kinds of people in the district who use Twitter and hopefully getting these updates will mean they will become much more interested in the planning process and engage more!

  • Any tips or recommendations?

Well, the aforementioned Twitterfeed is a great way of getting RSS feeds published via Twitter quickly and easily, it takes an RSS feed and publishes it directly to your chosen account, URLs are automatically shortened via tinyurl (although I’d prefer is.gd) so really all the work is done for you! If I could do it all again, I’d definitely make the converstation more of a two-way thing, I must admit when I started up, I was new to Twitter and really didn’t understand fully how the community worked, now I’m more ingrained within the Twitterati I’ve got much more of a handle on things and (as I’ve said before) have lots of improvements planned for the new year.

  • Any predictions on twitter usage in local government?

I really think Twitter usage will explode this year, social network fashions tend to come in cycles and I really think Twitter’s time has come, the amount of press coverage it’s been getting recently can only help matters. With more and more people getting on board it seems only natural that more councils will want a piece of the pie, but it really is essential that you understand that Twitter is about more than just microblogging, it’s a conversation, and there are loads of great ways to use Twitter to interact directly with residents in a meaningful and more direct way.

Thanks Stuart! Great stuff.

I hope this post was helpful!

Previous articles on Twitter for local government/councils:

List and status of UK Local Council Twitters as of 18th December 2008

UK Local Council Twitter Followers 10th January 2009

About Liz Azyan

Liz is a CREATIVE digital professional dedicated to helping individuals, governments and businesses realize their digital goals. She offers digital consultancy services on her website LizAzyan.com Liz is also a Google Fellowship Recipient (individuals selected based on their work and initiative in the arenas of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship), an invited expert panel on the Guardian’s Public Leader Network and has spoken at many public events and conferences on the subject of digital engagement.