Case study: Kent council's social media use boosts engagement on budget proposals

Using the world's biggest social network to boost interest in a local authority's budget proposals might seem counterintuitive to some, yet it has worked wonders for Kent County Council.

Kent County Council used social media to boost public engagement with its budget
Kent County Council used social media to boost public engagement with its budget
The council launched a budget campaign and consultation last October, to get local views on proposals to raise council tax to help the council deal with a shortfall of £64m in 2018-19.

The campaign, which ended last month, was aimed at reaching people living and working in Kent and was led by the council’s revenue and tax strategy team with support from its comms team.

It centred on a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook using short videos to encourage people to visit the council’s website and read about the consultation. 

An evaluation of the impact of the campaign, published this month, noted that while there had been a risk of "adverse public reaction" to spending public money on the consultation, the benefits of the strategy included an increased response rate and it being low cost. 

Media relations also played a part, with press releases issued and interviews given by council leader Paul Carter and John Simmonds, cabinet member for finance. 

This resulted in pieces on BBC South East Today, BBC Radio Kent and ITV Meridian, along with local newspaper and radio coverage.

The campaign resulted in almost 1,000 responses to the consultation. This was almost double the number who responded to the budget consultation in 2016, and "represents a good degree of engagement", according to the report.

There was an eight-fold rise in traffic to the council’s website, compared with the previous year, with more than 8,000 unique page views compared with fewer than 1,000 for the 2016 budget consultation.

However, quantity does not always equate with quality. 

Less than three-quarters (68 per cent) of respondents felt well informed about the council’s budget and financial challenges, something the report described as "a significantly lower level of awareness than previous years, even though we have put a considerable amount of effort into making our budget publications public facing".

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