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Social media: Our survey of senior management

In April 2013, we sent a survey to chief executives and senior managers throughout the public sector (our senior management survey) as part of our work looking at entities' use of social media. We sent our senior management survey to 210 organisations. We received 150 individual responses, from 53 chief executives and 97 senior managers.

The survey's objective was to explore the awareness and appreciation of social media among senior managers in the public sector. We deliberately chose this group because our early work indicated that senior level commitment and "buy-in" was a key factor in the successful use of social media.

Survey profile

Summary

About two thirds of the senior managers used social media for personal and business reasons. We found a statistical relationship between users of social media for personal purposes and users for business purposes. This suggests that respondents who engage in social media for personal reasons have a greater understanding of its business potential.

Most respondents believe that social media presents opportunities, such as the wider transformation of an organisation's business model. Around a third of entities told us they were making changes within their organisations to try to harness social media's transformational potential.

Most respondents thought social media was a business risk to the organisation, but there was work under way to mitigate those risks.

About half of entities reported that they had a social media strategy. Of those entities, nearly all thought the organisation's social media strategy had a direct link to, or bearing on, delivering business outcomes. But only about half of our respondents thought the senior leadership team owned and drove the organisation's social media ambitions.

Most entities use social media for less sophisticated forms of public participation, such as providing information to service users. Only 15% reported using it for empowerment, the most sophisticated form of participation (such as involving the public in decision-making).

Despite being highly regarded, there is scope to increase the public sector's awareness of the Department of Internal Affairs' social media guidance and for the Department to be more involved in leading social media.

Social media use

The survey results show that senior managers have high awareness of social media, with 63% using it in their personal lives.

Those who use social media for personal purposes tend to engage in more reactive activities, such as reading updates from friends (98%), sharing updates with friends (76%), watching videos (64%), and reading blogs (58%).

Nearly two-thirds (66%) of senior managers use social media in their work lives.

Those who use social media for business purposes tend to engage in similar activities to their personal use of social media. For example, reading updates from friends (67%), reading blogs (63%), reading online forums (58%), and watching videos (52%).

Organisational responsibility for social media use

Slightly more than half of entities (55%) report that organisational responsibility for social media sits with the communications function. The next most frequent functions were marketing (16%) and IT (12%).

Entities assign lead responsibility for social media to a reasonably senior level manager, with about half (49%) being a level 2 manager (such as Deputy Chief Executive or Deputy Director General) and 37% being one level further down from this.

Strategic approach to social media use

About half (51%) of the entities told us they have a social media strategy. A further 10% said that their social media strategy was contained within another strategy.

About 85% of respondents thought the organisation's social media strategy had a direct link to, or bearing on, delivering its business outcomes.

Around two-thirds (67%) of the entities reported that progress of the social media strategy was monitored by the senior leadership team.

Just under half of the entities (48%) had adopted a formal social media policy.

Transforming potential of social media

Social media has the potential to facilitate a conversation, as well as being a broadcast medium to inform interested parties. Most survey respondents (88%) believe that social media presents opportunities beyond marketing and communications, such as the wider transformation of an organisation's business model.

Of those 88%, around a third (31%) responded that they were making changes within their organisations to harness the transforming potential of social media, with similar proportions planning for change (29%) and thinking about change (29%).

We asked respondents about the senior leadership team's approach to social media. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) regarded social media as a business risk to the organisation and a similar number (64%) thought that the organisation had a way to mitigate those risks.

Most respondents (78%) regarded social media as a business opportunity for their organisation but only half (49%) thought that the organisation currently had a way to realise those opportunities.

Current social media use

There tends to be more use of social media for less sophisticated forms of public participation. Most of the entities (90%) were using social media to provide information to service users, with 15% using it for the most sophisticated form of participation – empowerment (such as involving people in decision-making).

Around three-quarters of respondents (72%) thought that the senior leadership team had at least one member who could act as a "champion" or sponsor for social media. But only about half (48%) thought the senior leadership team owned and drove the organisation's social media ambitions.

About 40% of entities report that they rarely or never discuss social media as an agenda item at senior leadership team meetings. Just over a quarter (27%) report that they discuss social media frequently, such as five or six times each year.

Just under half (46%) of respondents stated that they had, on behalf of their organisation, used social media to make a public announcement or to engage with stakeholders or service users.

Our survey showed that 28% of respondents were aware of the Department of Internal Affairs' guidance, which suggests that more promotion is warranted.

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Report details

CoverLearning from public entities' use of social media

ISBN 978-0-478-41031-0 (print)
ISBN 978-0-478-41032-7 (online)