Headlines: September 29th, 2009

More councils are using the social media network Twitter to interact with local people according to research carried out by ntl:Telewest Business. It has found that 42 per cent of authorities are using an official Twitter account to inform people about local events, news and job opportunities.

A further seven per cent are experimenting with Twitter for specific events and services but fewer than one in four councils have an official Facebook page. Overall councils’ use of social networking is dwarfed by the mobile phone with nearly three quarters of authorities using SMS text messages to communicate with their communities.

The company’s study says that there are now 2.6 million British Twitter users which, it says, makes it a valuable channel of communication. Facebook is used by 19 million Britons so councils which do not have a page are missing opportunities to create efficiencies and interact with citizens.

The research also looks at the costs involved and says interacting with the public via the web costs 27 pence per visitor, compared to more than three pounds per phone call and more than six pounds for a face-to-face visit. John Maund, public sector specialist at ntl:Telewest Business, said “As more and more people embrace social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, councils can use these new channels to provide information, interact with their local community and create ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders. With a clear digital strategy, guidelines and robust high speed network in place to support these tools, councils will benefit from direct communication channels to citizens.”