Over the past year or two there has been a palpable surge of interest in using Web 2.0 in the public sector, and in most cases that’s a very positive thing. The added value that such platforms can bring to the services we deliver is obvious, opening new channels of outreach and improving engagement and involvement.
During last night’s election count, the City of Edinburgh Council were putting Web 2.0 to marvellous use by keeping citizens bang up to date with progress of the count taking place over at Meadowbank Stadium.
The following is a summary of what the council did on the night.
Disclaimer: I had no direct involvement in this – on the night I followed these channels as a local resident and any comments are my own personal views.
Perhaps the most visually impressive part of the coverage was the Twitter map, a Google Maps mash-up which displayed the latest geo-tagged tweet for each of the 5 constituencies. A relatively simple effect, but one which gave a very relevant, localised slant to the proceedings.
Powering this was, of course, the Council’s own Twitter account (@Edinburgh_CC) which was used throughout the evening to tweet both localised, geo-tagged updates, as well as more general information and links to the blog referred to below.
For me, the people behind this did two things particularly well when using Twitter. Firstly, they managed expectations by posting the following statement on the website:
We’re sorry that we can’t enter into any real-time discussions about what we’re doing, but we will be keeping an eye on the feedback on Twitter to see what people think and what we can learn from the experience.
City of Edinburgh Council Elections page
This was a really important, preemptive move which meant that hopefully not too many people were trying to start a conversation with the team and ending up being disappointed.
However, early on in the evening they did respond to one tweet, relating to the use of geo-tags, so I thought I’d send them a quick question too:
@Edinburgh_CC Is it just the two counts?
To which, sure enough, they replied:
@prettysimple two counts; five constituencies – blog post on the count process coming soon
This is a great demonstration of the power of Web 2.0 – the immediacy of response married with high availability and reach make Twitter and its ilk potentially ideal platforms for speaking to your customers and citizens, and can deliver a positive experience not only to the individual concerned, but also to anyone else who happens to be watching (I intentionally asked a question that I thought others may be wondering too).
The Council’s emergency and news blog was used to great effect to post updates throughout the evening, not just on the results, but also on the process itself, including:
- A nice collection of stats, including the number of registered voters, polling places and postal votes. These were posted at a time when the updates had ran a little dry, thus keeping the interest of those following the progress
- A step by step guide to the count process, giving details of how each stage works, from the first and second count and the adjudication of doubtful papers, through to the final declaration
- A useful who’s who, listing the roles of the key players on the night
- A statement on the timing of the results from the Returning Officer
Finally, a handful of images were also uploaded to the Council’s Flickr photostream, providing citizens with a glimpse of the controlled chaos.
This added a wonderfully human touch to the process, and I’d have liked to have seen more photos (in the end there were only about 20). But it again shows great potential. One of the more appealing elements of count night is the very British scene of people pitching in and working together, often against the odds, and this kind of coverage does a great job of capturing that.
All in all, a triumph for Web 2.0 advocates and hopefully a continuation of what we’re seeing across the UK – a long-lasting, relevant and fruitful use of social media tools to engage and involve citizens and position them at the heart of everything we’re doing.