Local Government Magazine
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Social media: NZ councils lag behind UK

New Zealand local authorities are not as quick as their UK counterparts to utilise social media in delivering services, according to a new report. In its third annual survey on social media use in UK local government, BDO business advisory and accountancy firm has for the first time compared social media use by UK local authorities with their New Zealand counterparts.

The report, Direct Message: how social media is bridging the gap between #localgov and citizens reveals that while UK councils’ use of social media in service delivery has increased rapidly since 2012, resulting in greater efficiencies, New Zealand councils have been slower to adopt.

“While use of social media is now part of the culture of communications in local government across both countries, councils in the UK are using social media to support a much wider range of purposes with very positive results,” says BDO New Zealand associate Tim Gacsal.

In the UK, ‘appetite’ for social media among councils is much higher – ‘extremely’ or ‘moderately’ high in 67 percent of UK councils – compared to 46 percent of New Zealand councils.

New Zealand councils are also less inclined to see social media as a cost saver (46 percent) than those in UK where 77 percent of local authorities view it as an opportunity to save money.

“This could be indicative of the fact that UK councils have faced greater funding restraints from central government than in New Zealand over the past five years,” says Tim, “so are more focused on finding cost savings.”

New Zealand councils are not using social media to reduce time spent on activities to the same extent as their UK counterparts. For instance, 63 percent of UK councils have reduced production of leaflets compared to just 23 percent in New Zealand.

While councils in both countries devote a similar amount of time to social media, both find it hard to illustrate a return on investment. The majority believe there is a return – but it is hard to measure.

However, councils in New Zealand perceive social media as less risky than councils in the UK where 43 percent think it poses a risk to their council, compared to only 27 percent in New Zealand.

“It would be interesting to explore further why perception of the risk posed by social media is so much lower in New Zealand than in the UK,” says Tim.

“But certainly across both countries perceived risk is becoming less of a barrier and responsibility for social media has spread from the communications teams to service delivery, customer service and policy teams who are taking advantage of engaging in a genuine dialogue with citizens.”

Download the Direct Message report from: http://bit.ly/15hf4kd

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