Agenda Item No 10
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 10 September 2013
Report of the Managing Director
Purpose of the Report
1. To update Members on the Council's use of social media.
1. That Members consider the work undertaken to make best use of social media to communicate with the Council's stakeholders.
Reason for the Recommendation
1. To ensure that the Council demonstrates best practice in its use of social media.
2. Cabinet agreed a Social Media Strategy in September 2011. Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee requested an update on the use of social media by the Council at its meeting in January 2013.
3. The popularity of social media has increased significantly over recent years and its use by businesses and private individuals continues to grow. Facebook is the most popular social media site, with Twitter and YouTube also among the most popular social media sites. New social media applications and sites are introduced regularly, including Keek and Vine, both video clip sharing applications ('apps'); the photo sharing apps Instragram and Snapchat; the content sharing sites Pinterest and Tumbler and AskFM, the question and answer social media site. The LinkedIn site is popular with business people, including council staff and elected members.
Relevant Issues and Options
4. The Council concentrates its limited communications staff resources on the most popular sites Twitter and Facebook. These sites both offer the advantage of being interactive, creating an opportunity for two-way communication between the Council and its stakeholders.
5. The Council's Twitter account (@VOGCouncil) was introduced in May 2009. The account was introduced as a 'back up' for the website. Twitter can be updated from any computer or smart phone, allowing the site to be used should the Council's website be unavailable for any reason, particularly useful during an emergency situation.
6. The Council was one of the first Welsh councils to actively use Twitter and now has more than 6,000 followers with the number growing everyday. This is one of the highest follower rates of the Welsh councils - only Cardiff, Swansea and Monmouthshire have more, and all these councils have dedicated Social Media Officers promoting their Internet presence.
7. Twitter has proved invaluable during emergencies, particularly as it has grown in popularity as a medium. Recent periods of severe weather have seen the Council engaging with the public and receiving compliments on its use of social media.
8. The majority of posts on the Council's social media sites include links to further information on the Council's website, enabling the Council to promote its website and achieve the channel shift to the web for services, linked to the Council's Channel Strategy.
9. The Council's Facebook account, Vale of Glamorgan Life, was started in November 2010, in response to the Council's 2009 Public Opinion Survey. The survey found that 60% of those with Internet access questioned for the survey were Facebook users.
10. A decision was made to not brand the Facebook page as a 'council' site, but as a 'community' site, which is hosts the public's comments and promotes community events and news. Creating a community focused site also ensures that our pages fit in with Facebook's predominant use as a 'leisure' site.
11. The Council's Facebook site has nearly 2,000 likes; however both Twitter and Facebook followers and reported 'likes' are not totally representative of the number of people who may view the information on these sites. Both are public, meaning that they can be viewed by anyone whether or not they choose to formally link with the sites.
12. The number of staff requesting and using social media as part of their work has grown over recent years. Staff only have social media access on a Council computer after they have presented a suitable business case to their manager and the Council's Communications Manager.
13. Using social media to engage with the public and is labour intensive. Any officer looking to use it as part of their work is encouraged to consider what the return on the investment of staff time will be.
14. Several Council departments have created their own Twitter accounts, including the library service (@VOGLibraries), tourism and leisure (@visitthevale and @ValeSportNews), and transport (@VOGCtransport).
15. Many Vale of Glamorgan schools are also actively using Twitter to engage with parents and pupils.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
16. The Council has two officers dedicated to the development and implementation of external and internal corporate communications. Any further extension of the Council's social media work would need to consider how the extra workload would resourced.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
17. The use of social media for communications work is highly sustainable and can help the Council to cut back on printed communications.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
18. Laws such as libel, defamation, copyright and data protection all apply online. The Council's 'Social Media Policy for Staff' contains advice for staff on copyright and data protection.
Crime and Disorder Implications
19. The Council's community safety work is regularly publicised using the Council's social media channels and the Safer Vale Partnership runs its own Twitter account.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
20. The Council's social media channels are available to everyone with access to a computer or smart phone. However, there remains a significant proportion of the population (11% in Cardiff and the Vale who have never accessed the Internet, and up to 25% who aren't online) which is unable to access communications via the Internet. This group is more likely to include: older people, people living in social housing and disabled people. A sub-group of the Channel Strategy Group is looking at how this proportion could be reduced.
21. The development of social media assists the Council in meeting the corporate objective: 'Develop and promote the website and social media to enable the public to contact and access council services as much as possible on line'.
Policy Framework and Budget
22. This matter is for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
23. There are no implications for individual Wards as a result of this report.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
24. Corporate Resources
Social media policy for staff
Social media strategy
Alison Cummins, Communications Manager
Operational Manager Corporate Policy and Communications
Sian Davies, Managing Director