Back to Hub
Featured Story | Written by Darren Caveney
  • Follow On

Top 5 public sector social media trends in 2019

Darren Caveney, creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd outlines the top 5 public sector social media trends brought to light in The Public Sector Online Engagement Survey 2019.

2 May - 10 min read

2019's Research

This year marks over a decade of my own use of social media within public sector organisations and we’ve seen a huge amount of changes during this time. We’ve seen new platforms emerge, we’ve seen some of the big players suffer repeated reputational hits. Algorithms have entered our lives, for better or for worse. And we have much greater clarity on where social media fits into our wider comms and marketing strategies.

So, it’s been fascinating to see the results of Online Engagement 2019. Much of it mirrors what I see first-hand on my consultancy travels around the UK. But what’s interesting is the subtle differences we can identify within different segments of the public sector – it’s important for us to recognise them, and for individual organisations to compare and contrast with their own findings and experiences. Here are the top 5 trends to come out of the survey this year.

Growth in inbound social media messages

Perhaps expectedly, this year’s results highlight the continued growth of social media as customer channels. Those subtle differences I mentioned though show that Twitter is the preferred customer channel overall in Local Government whilst it’s Facebook for the NHS and the Emergency Services. Central Government sees a more even split of these two big hitters.

It’s heartening to see much greater collaboration between comms and customer services teams when it comes to social media and this has improved dramatically from the position of just two years ago. I would expect to see this trend continue over the next year.

Core service information is the best performing content

I was interested to see that the best performing content is consistently around core services. As communications professionals we must continually remind ourselves that our customers, residents, patients and other stakeholders are most interested in our bread and butter services so we must not get too distracted with fancy videos and flashy content.

No crisis comms plan in place

Many public sector organisations don’t have a crisis communications plan currently outlined or rehearsed. The results suggested this is particularly prominent in Local Government, Healthcare and Charity organisations with 40% or more not currently having a strategy. In light of incidents such as Grenfell and Manchester Arena, it’s important to have this in place so each team/responding agency understands their responsibilities and can swiftly and efficiently ensure key messages are reaching communities.

Social media advertising spend increasing

With networks like Facebook becoming a more pay-to-play environment this trend isn’t so surprising with Central Government, Housing and Charity organisations who participated seeing a 50% or more increase. This indicates key pieces of best performing content such as news, PR or information on core services as I mentioned earlier, may require some budget behind it to reach target audiences.

Barriers to reaching digital maturity

It’s always interesting to see year on year what barriers are preventing organisations from reaching digital maturity. This year, a lack of funding, organisational culture and knowledge gap surrounding digital strategies are the key barriers to organisations embracing digital, particularly across Local Government organisations.

With austerity measures continuing, budget being a barrier consistently appears year on year. However, organisational culture and buy-in within the business for digital investment is a growing issue too. As ever, it’s not the technology presenting the problems, but the broader management of people, practices and perspectives that need to first be addressed if digital ambitions are to become a reality.

What does the future look like?

Finally, what next? I expect to see even more advances in the strategic use of social media within our channel choices, insight-led campaigns and content, increasing resources being given over to social media, web and email, a greater focus on consistent tone of voice across organisational accounts, and an even greater scrutiny on the return on investment from social media.

What to do next

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Online Engagement Guidebook 2019 – I hope it’s helpful in benchmarking your own digital activities. This will be available to download shortly.

I am a communications specialist, creator of communications industry resource and community, comms2point0, and founder of Creative Communicators Ltd.

If you'd like to follow them on Twitter Click Here,
or to connect on Linkedin Click Here