Derbyshire County Council elections – a social media experiment.

Above is Sarah Lay from Derbyshire County Council talking about her recent experience of using social media to tell the story of  the council elections of 4th June 2009.  As SOCITM the organisations which represents the folk who run council websites, puts it:

County Councils saw their web traffic double last Friday and Saturday thanks to their provision of a sophisticated online election results service coupled with use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and email alerts.

Sarah describes how the council announced the results straight onto twitter (followers trebled), plus offering an election map and a virtual council chamber.  They also used a Facebook fan page (yes 74 people claimed themselves fans of a local election) where people were able to have their own conversation about the results.

In effect they by-passed mainstream media.   This system treats journalists just the same as any other citizen, offering us all the same information at the same time and space to talk about it.   However this is also good news for journalism, because it allows the professionals to spend increasingly precious time checking for truth and getting to the bottom of the implications of the election, rather than simply shoveling fact.

Sarah has written in much more detail on her own blog.  In the first of two posts, on election day itself, she wrote with great passion about preparations:

All of this has been going on for a number of months (not full time) and has been a learning curve and exciting project for this team to get into. For the first time we have had a significant presence internally in promoting and reporting on elections. It’s provided an opportunity for us to raise awareness of our work internally and work with colleagues in other departments to enable everything to happen.
Our results system will hopefully be the jewel in the crown of what we’ve done so far. We won’t know until the dust settles tomorrow and we have some feedback from Derbyshire voters, councillors, other officers and colleagues in the public sector who are kind enough to take the time to have a look.

After the elections she said:

I am still a little emotionally charged from the adrenalin of working at such pressure yesterday and giddy with the joy of how well our team worked together on the day and in the run up. Now we just need to decide what to tackle next!

Simon Wakeman at Medway Council was one of a number of people who gave support and encouragement to Derbyshire and other councils embarking on this path. He has written about how a variety of local authorities used the social web on election night.  Also on Sarah’s list of supporters was Al Smith in Newcastle.

All the above was recorded at the truly wonderful localgovcamp, held here at Fazeley Studios in Brum

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