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An in depth survey by GOSS Interactive and iGov Survey, has thrown new light on how UK public sector organisations use social media.  Over 400 senior executives from over 300 public sector organisations participated in the survey entitled Public Sector Social Media Survey 2013, giving  a detailed look at the role that social media plays in communication strategies; their preferred social media activities and channels; and how they plan to use social technology in the future.

This study builds on a similar survey run by GOSS Interactive in 2011 and provides interesting insight on how the use of social media in the public sector has increased.

Social is part of most comms strategies – and engagement is the main focus

Of the organisations surveyed, 87% said that they have incorporated social media into their overall communications strategy. This is up from 70% in 2011, underlining the increasing importance that public sector organisations are placing on social media.

When asked about the purpose of social media within their organisation, respondents indicated that its most important uses were creating online communities and getting service user feedback. This may be interpreted as organisations shifting their focus towards engaging in conversation with their service users to help them improve service in the future.

Twitter rules the roost – but customers may be elsewhere

Twitter is the most popular social media channel, with 21% of organisations already using it, and a further 9% planning to use it in the near future.

However, the survey reveals an alarming disparity between the channels that organisations use and the ones their target audiences are using. For example, 52% of service users actively use Facebook, compared to just 18% of organisations. Public sector organisations have to be aware that customers choose the channels they want to use, and as such, organisations must be prepared to engage with customers through their networks of choice.

Better social media management and tracking are a priority

19% of public sector organisations are already budgeting up to £500 per month for social media, and this is projected to increase as the use of professional social media tools continues to improve customer service and service user feedback in the public sector.

Currently, only 12% of public sector organisations use paid-for social media tools, but 57% see improved social media tracking as a priority for the next 12 months and 25% say they would pay for extra social media management features. This shows that public sector organisations are beginning to realise that professional social media management is essential to getting the full value from their social media engagement activities.

Without proper analysis and reporting, organisations will struggle to prove successful engagement and justify budgets, which will limit their ability to enhance service delivery and make the most of the social opportunity.

Dont miss our Customer Engagement in the Public Sector Forum on 17th July in London

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