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Public Sector Digital Engagement and Social Media

The survey is an important benchmark for public sector organisations to understand current trends in digital communication and social media.

Public Sector Digital Engagement and Social Media

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The adoption and usage of digital communication on numerous channels is widespread amongst citizens. However, some councils are struggling to identify technology and implement a successful strategy to utilise innovations that enable quicker and more engaging interactions between citizens and the council.

GOSS recently published a Public Sector Social Media Survey 2011 that benchmarks public sector organisations' understanding and current trends in digital communication and social media. The insight can be used for a variety of purposes including creating a business case and to align to best practice.

The findings have been invaluable for organisations who wish to compare their digital communications and social media activity with others in the industry. It has highlighted some fascinating insights and will, I am sure, generate much debate in the community.

Social Media

Social Media should be seen as one channel in a communications strategy that covers other digital channels like websites, SEO and mobile content delivery as well as offline tools. Engaging with citizens on social media is seen as an effective way to engage in two-way dialogue in a citizen's own space and at their convenience. It can be quick and instant, though managing the resource overhead can be more problematic. For this reason most of those surveyed only reported using a few social media channels, although worryingly only 30% reported having social media in their communications strategy. There is little point in just "doing some social media" with no plan. Like all activity, objectives need to be set, a target audience identified and the necessary resources and budget secured.

It is good to see that most public sector bodies are embracing some social media activity, with social networking (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) having the highest usage at 71% followed by microblogging (e.g. Twitter) with 69% usage. However, only 43% report that they are monitoring the effectiveness of social media engagement. How do the majority, not measuring their social media activity, know if it is meeting its objectives? Whilst social media monitoring and understanding sentiment can be difficult, there are a range of solutions and training courses on the market to help with this.

Measuring the effectiveness of your digital strategy and social media activity is vital to understand how users engage with your website to improve customer journeys. You might be driving significant traffic to your website, but if they are all dropping out before completing their task and reverting to phone contact, then this can be seen as an expensive failure. These failures need to be identified so that they can be remedied. This can only be done with robust analytics and the skills to interpret them. Above all, having metrics can help prove the success and justify digital marketing.

Creating efficiencies - do it online

Delivering services online is the most efficient way of engaging with service users, as acknowledged by 68% of those surveyed by GOSS. Added to this, 76% said they were under pressure to reduce costs. There seems a clear route to resolving the requirement to reduce costs, increase online engagement and making efficiency savings - put a Digital Transformation strategy and budget in place to facilitate the delivery of more services online.

It is important to recognize the channel costs of servicing citizens. Other surveys, such as SOCITM's channel benchmarking survey, have indicated that channel costs are:

  • £8.23 Face-to-face
  • £3.21 Telephone
  • £0.39 Website

Clearly by directing people to self-serve online and ensuring that processes are as easy as possible, can create significant savings for a council receiving hundreds or thousands of contacts every day. These figures can be viewed for those light-touch services such as paying a bill, finding some information like a recycling collection day or submitting an application. For service provision where in-depth human interaction is required, beatbullying published at the Third Sector Digital Communication and Social Media convention provide the costs for 1-2-1 interventions:

  • £600 Face-to-face
  • £250 Telephone
  • £60 Online

Whilst the costs are much higher, there are clear similarities in the savings that can be made. GOSS have been involved in helping numerous businesses and organisations, who recognise the efficiency gains that can be made online by improving their operations and services on a digital platform. By doing this, website visitors will have a better experience while organisations reduce their costs and improve service delivery. Which business would not want happier customers, an improved service and a lower cost base?

The results from the GOSS survey indicate responders understanding that "do it online" is the efficient way to transact with citizens. If you are going to change one thing with your digital communications strategy ensure it includes "do it online".

Website review - get more from your digital strategy

The good news is that you don't necessarily need to throw away what you have already achieved. You can conduct a website review that will allow you to identify all you content, understand your top tasks (what people actually want to do on your website), re-organise your website structure accordingly and define improved user journeys before putting into practice a system for continuous testing and refinement.. We published a handy whitepaper to guide you through the steps needed to conduct a successful website review which contains a handy diagnostic tool to clarify your organizations strengths and weaknesses in relation to implementing the results of a full website review programme.

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