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List and status of UK Local Council Twitters

This section was last updated on 10th February 2009

Reasons for conducting this observation

  1. To create better practices when using twitter for local gov.
  2. To create a ring of network between local councils to share information and solutions for improvement.
  3. To understand how and why we choose a certain methods and not others.
  4. To allow other councils to learn from each other and add on to the list if they wish to be apart of this ring.
  5. To develop a standard of practice that we all can follow that is tested and proven.
  6. To conduct a content analysis for my citizen engagement online research.
  7. To demonstrate to colleagues and other relevant individuals of the potential or benefits of this approach to engage citizens, if any.

UK Local Council Hall of Fame as of 18th December 2008

  1. First Council to start using Twitter:St. Helens Council 13th June 2007
  2. Newest Council to start using Twitter: Fenland Council
  3. Council with most no. of updates to date: St. Helens Council 1,203 updates
  4. Council with most no. of followers:   Barnet Council with 210 followers
  5. Council with most no. of followings: Barnet Council 243 followings
  6. Council with web link other than main council website: Barnet Council- http://friendfeed.com/barnetcouncil & Leeds City Council Press Office – http://www.leedsvirtualnewsroom.co.uk/
  7. Council with no followings: Leeds City CouncilDerby City CouncilSalford Council , Medway Council
  8. Most used update methdod:Twitterfeed
  9. Most least used update methods: Twitterfox (used by BCCTransport), Twittermail (used by Medway Council) and the Web
  10. Council using Twitter for particular service updates: Birmingham City Council Transport,Lichfield District Council Planning Applications and Leeds City Council Press Office
  11. Councils with contact details on Bio info: Devon City Council, St. Helens CouncilLincoln Council and  Medway Council

* As I am researching citizen engagement online, the variables might not make sense but my approach is to look at the variables from every angle and hopefully create a framework that will increase the likelihood of public participation online. In this case, on twitter.

Questions arising from this observation. Please answer on comments section, if you possibly have the answer for this. 😉

  1. Why do some councils choose not to follow anyone and some choose to follow many?
  2. Why do some councils put their contact details on their bio info and some don’t? How do citizens get in touch if they had further questions to the twitter ‘update’? Can they ask questions on twitter and are the staff authorised to respond since it is a twitterfeed?
  3. Since most ‘updates’ are controlled by twitterfeed, does it act more as a news ticker? Is there no engagement or participantion involved in twitter?
  4. What caused the first council using twitter to decide to use it?
  5. What caused others to follow? Is it pressure from peers and the social media movement or does Twitter really create value for citizens and councils?
  6. What did Barnet Council use friendfeed on the web link and are there any benefits from it?
  7. How did Barnet and St. Helens Councils gain the most followers? Any marketing done? – Answer received from St. Helens Council – Gain followers through social networking links on main homepage of St. Helens Council
  8. Why do some councils decide to open a Twitter Account for a specific service such as transport and Planning Applications? Is this the way to go?
  9. Why is TwitterFox and TwitterMail the least used update method?
  10. Why do some councils create webteam accounts and not others? Are there any benefits?

I welcome any comments and will be doing further observation and analysis on who they are following and who are their followers.

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.

35 comments

  1. Really interesting stuff, I set up the LDC Planning Applications Twitter account to provide people who already use Twitter with a quick way of seeing when planning applications have been listed.

    As a Twitter user myself, I find myself checking my account quite regularly (it’s embedded as a widget in my Netvibes page), and as planning applications are something that impact quite heavily on residents’ lives, I thought it would be great to be able to see at a glance when applications have been submitted without having to visit our site.

    It’s definitely more of a ‘news feed’ approach than a full on conversation approach, although this might be something we will look at in the future. Twitter’s definitely taken off big time in the last 12 months or so, and, as it gets more ‘mainstream’, will definitely be a useful tool for councils to converse with residents.

  2. I’d be interested to know how many followers each council had excluding other council/government generic accounts. Out of our (Pembrokeshire) 16 followers, 7 of them are other councils or government bodies and 4 are other council developers. Leaving maybe 5 real followers / possible members of the public.

    • Hey nat, its funny that you mention that coz that is what I’m doing right now. I wanted to include in this post but it takes a long time to look through all followers. But will update you when I have the results. I’ve done one council that has more than 70 followers and I found that only 28% are possibly genuine members of the public, same percentage as followers who are social media specialist/enthusiats and other councils and web developers. There are also suspended and spam accounts on the list of followers… so its quite difficult to measure twitters performance.

      • Thanks for that link Lizzy, that’s a really interesting approach, it’s a shame that Twitter have suspended the mobile service in the UK, although hopefully they’ll come to an agreement with network providers soon (another thing that will probably come with Twitter becoming more mainstream)

  3. What I think might be interesting would be to see if there’s a correlation between councils and councillors twittering. As someone who is experimenting with social media I tried to identify other councillors and councils to see how they were using tools like Twitter. What was interesting is the variety – just like councils, some are just using it to promote blogs, some seem to have a personal Twitter that occasionally mentions their council or council work.

    I wouldn’t suggest my list is anything like exhaustive, but there are some interesting questions that arise. For example Barnet, who seem to have a strong social media strategy only seem to have one twittering councillor – and that’s the Leader’s official feed. On the other extreme, you can find at least six Lambeth councillor Twitter accounts, all from the controlling group, but the council itself doesn’t seem to have an account.

    The reason I think this is interesting is because it creates two different models. One in which the council officers are the ones who are available and accessible through social media, and one in which the councillors – the democratic leadership of the council – are available to answer questions. I’m very much looking forward to getting my first tweet from a resident, but I wonder if I would be happy if, for example, policy questions started to be directed through web-teams rather than the councillors responsible? And if I was a resident, who would I want to take my problem to on Twitter or facebook: the council officers directly responsible, or my councillor?

    • Hi James,
      Thank you for your comment. I definitely agree with you. It would be interesting to see if there is a relationship, if any between the two. I think the problem surrounding the issue of using social media in local government is the lack of acknowledgment. I’ve seen more and more local council twitter accounts opening but most of them do not advertise this service on their main website. And the same goes for councillor twitterers. Why aren’t their twitter account publicized on the main website like blogs?

      I believe there is still alot of room for improvement when it comes to social media and local government. And I also believe that alot of improvement is happening in certain councils like St. Helens, Barnet and Stratford DC who have a clear social media strategy. Sometimes, its just a matter of acknowledging their social media presence; it can create a correlation between councils and councillors twittering. In fact a council twitter accounts can create dialogues by forwarding citizen questions onto the respective councillors therefore becoming a catalyst between citizens and their councillors.

      I believe you’ve made such a good point about the two different models and possibly onto something that can be put into practice. Say if Twitter was defined as a channel for a service such as the 1stopshop, local councils and citizens can both definitely gain a lot from twittering.

      I will be doing a thorough investigation into councillor accounts to see if there is any model/social media strategy currently being implemented and report this back to you. Be sure to check up on this website regularly for updates.

  4. Hiyah Liz, can you add Camden? #camdentalking? cheers, Martin

    martin’s last blog post..House of the Ju Ju Queen

  5. Hi Liz,
    Hope you’re feeling better and are basking in your futuregov win glory?

    Medway Council’s now actively using twitter:
    http://www.twitter.com/medway_council is the main account with all info

    http://www.twitter.com/castleconcerts is our test of a campaign specific use of twitter – to see how it works if we segment our twitter audience, rather than expecting everyone that signs up to want everything

    cheers
    sw

    Simon Wakeman’s last blog post..Forthcoming conferences – social media and local government communications

    • Hi Simon,
      It took a while to get better and take it all in. Am really excited to go to Washington DC now! Cant wait to network like crazy 😉 Thanks for the links. How is the Castle Concerts working out so far. I will add it to the list. Hope you’re doing well and the training is going good.

      Cheers,
      Liz

  6. Hi Liz

    Yesterday North Lincolnshire Council set up a Twitter news feed @NorthLincsCNews or http://twitter.com/NorthLincsCNews

    We’ve been testing it over the last few weeks linking our web RSS feeds e.g. jobs, news.

    We’ve decided to use Hootsuite to manage a number of accounts – thinking that we would have one for different interests and campaigns.

    Still getting to grips with it – so we’ll see how it takes off.

    Thanks

    Adrian Capon
    Strategic Marketing Manager
    North Lincolnshire Council

    • Hi Adrian,
      Thanks for the link and well done for taking the leap into Twitter! I’m interested to know how you guys progress in time. I will add you guys onto the list. Good call to use Hootsuite to manage your accounts. I like the idea of using Twitter accounts to engage with different interests and campaigns. Having a specific topic to talk about will certainly be more useful for followers or the public. Do you have your own personal Twitter account? If you’re not following me yet, please do @liz_azyan . Look forward to seeing you on Twitter.

      Liz

  7. It’s a great shame that there are not more local councils joining in with social media. However, I can foresee a day when all public bodies will have a Twitter account. Rgds Vince

  8. I’m a little concerned by the lack of proper naming conventions emerging here. There is potential for confusion amongst citizens as to which accounts are genuine, and the risk of cybersquatting is significant (see my blog post about this at http://www.prettysimple.co.uk/blog/?p=515).

    James Coltham’s last blog post..Cybersquatting 2.0 – protecting your name in Social Media

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  11. Great post! Is there a more recent version/resource/list anywhere? Would really appreciate knowing 🙂

  12. Josie – you’ll also find updated details of councils with twitter and RSS on http://openlylocal.com/councils

    bob

  13. Aberdeenshire Council have just started twittering …. http://twitter.com/aberdeenshire. Started with updates from our school closures system but intend to hook it into a number of other alerts and “human” updates very soon.

  14. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the link. I have now added Aberdeenshire Council to the list. Look forward to see what your “human” updates are going to be.

    Liz

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