Anti-social UK Government failing to engage public online

Nice busy day in the office yesterday following the publication of our research into how Whitehall departments are using, or not using, social media.

Both Gorkana and PR Week have given the research a nice big write-up, though the video clip we did with PR Week, including the all-important comparison between myself and Justin Bieber, is no longer availiable online.

Here instead then is our MHP press release:

Anti-social UK Government failing to engage public online

The research study, undertaken by MHP Communications, shows that Facebook is the social media channel least well used by Government departments, despite the network’s enormous audience base and engagement potential.

YouTube is used by the majority of departments, but numbers of viewers for videos, many of which are highly or professionally produced, are low – raising significant questions about the return on investment for expensive resources that contribute to the creation of Government social video content.

Meanwhile, Twitter is broadly used by departments it its basic ‘broadcast mode’, rather than making full use of the platform’s opportunities for consumer engagement and mobilisation.

The research ranks departments in league table and examines core, or ‘corporate’ use of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, rather than individual channels used for specific campaigns.

The research compiles data on the amount of social media activity undertaken (i.e. amount of videos uploaded, number of tweets and posts) the quality of that activity, and amount and type of engagement from external audiences (i.e. number of followers, ‘likes’, video views).

The Department for International Development comes out on top of the rankings, due to a relatively strong performance across all three social networks. DFID makes particularly effective use of Facebook, which the department uses as part of its integrated communications function to broadcast news and ongoing development projects. As a result, the department’s Facebook page has amongst the highest levels of interaction and positive response from the public.

Other stronger performers include the Department for Education, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Surprisingly, departments with normally high levels of public interest, such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Department of Transport and Department for Work and Pensions, make relatively poor use of social media channels. DWP use Twitter predominantly as a press office function, rather than as a broader engagement channel, with relatively little amounts of public interaction.

Mark Pack, Head of Digital at MHP Communications said:

“The Government is yet to make full, effective or innovative use of social media, and is predominantly in ‘broadcast mode’ – pushing out press releases, brief comment and public information.

“This tactic can work successfully for some. For example, some of the most popular, most ‘followed’ Twitter accounts only broadcast headlines. But the departments’ communications teams are missing a trick, and failing to capitalise on both the power of social media – in particular, its use as a channel to effectively and innovatively engage with audiences – and their unique position as a vital influencer of public opinion.

“Social media is fast becoming a big missed opportunity for Whitehall to support its corporate communications. Used more effectively, social media could have a major positive impact on the reputation of Whitehall departments.”

The league table

1 Department for International Development

2 Department for Education

3 Foreign and Commonwealth Office

4 Ministry Of Defence

5 Home Office

6 Department of Health

7 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

8  HM Treasury

9 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

10 Department for Transport

11 Department of Energy and Climate Change

12 Department for Culture, Media and Sport

13 Department for Work and  Pensions

14 Department for Communities and Local Government

15 Cabinet Office

16 Ministry of Justice


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