WALSALL 24: Case study: 12 thoughts on tweeting what local government does in a day

Funny how an unremarkable Spring day in the West Midands can go down in history.

From 6am on March 4, an audience of 116,273 on Twitter got to hear about the Walsall 24 experiment staged by Walsall Council.

Those figures are tweetreach.com, by the way. Not mine.

Historically, this was the first time a council had tweeted a snapshot of what it was doing in real time in the UK. Quite possibly this was a world first. That’s worth a ‘woot!’ in anyone’s book.

Yet, every day local government does tens of thousands of things for its residents.

Trouble is, we rarely tell people about the bread and butter things leaving some people ignorantly thinking ‘all I get is my bins collected.’
It was this lazy myth we looked to explode with Walsall 24.

There’s a blog post one day in the brass tacks of how the event was done.

By the way, this is an idea I’m proud to have played a role in amongst quite a sizable cast.

Statistics


1,400 tweets

116,000 potential audience

10 per cent rise in @walsallcouncil audience

9 Twitter accounts used


But there’s also in the days after 12 things that struck me:


1. The tipping point has been reached. It’s not about whether or not local government should use social media it’s how.

2. The internal battle has been won. People who 12 months ago were sceptical were keen to get involved. How do we channel that?

3. It’s not about network access. In the opening minutes of Walsall 24 we tweeted on a Blackberry because the network decided it didn’t like Twitter.

4. It’s ALL about network access. ‘This is great,’ one member of staff said, ‘but I couldn’t log on to my PC to follow it.’ Opening up social media internally would have been a powerful way to tell the story to the staff.

5. This could only work through collaboration. It was a neighbourhoods officer Kate Goodall that did much of the groundwork to get people on board and head of comms Darren Caveney that secured very top level buy-in. Without this it would have looked threadbare.

6. People like being told how their council tax is spent. No matter how routine. One person said that they didn’t like the updates. That was after the event.

7. Having people in service areas savvy with social media is a good thing. Spread the joy. Don’t hog it.

8. Getting people together in a common cause makes a bigger noise. The noise made by more than a dozen is more than an individual.

9. Innovation is a good thing. It makes you look at things in a different light. In the old days something like this may have been bought in from outside. Not any more.

10. This is the future. It’s not a hypothetical theory. It’s real and it’s here.

11. Free is good. Doors opened because there was no charge to this.

12. I never knew local government had people out at dawn investigating noisey cockerels. But we do.

Blogs

Sarah Lay ‘A Day in the Life.’

Carl Haggerty ‘Even More Determined’

Adrian Short ‘#walsall24 – Whats the Point of a Tweeting Council?’

Resources

The Guardian ‘Walsall Council Live Updates.’

Walsall Council @walsallcouncil on Twitter

Walsall Council Walsall 24 diary