Headlines: February 22nd, 2010

Councils are starting to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to put out information to residents and businesses when local emergencies arise. This move of local government into social media is reported by The Society of IT Management in ‘Twitter Gritters’.

The Society’s survey looked at how councils were publishing information about service disruptions during the period of snow and ice. It found a growth in the use of social media with 30 out of 121 surveyed with Twitter accounts linked from their home page. There were fewer links to Facebook, with 3 out of 121.There was a marked difference between the least and highest users of these media for emergency information, with Coventry City standing out for its timely and responsive updates.

Over the past year leading councils are becoming quick and adept at publishing emergency information on their websites and getting this out to local people via social media. This is a significant change from the old methods of waiting for the public to call them, which often led to overload in the call centre, or working through intermediaries like the local news media.

The survey also revealed the use of social media in 2009 when there was severe flooding in Cumbria and in the coverage of local elections.