CHESHIRE West and Chester Council (CWaC) is getting interactive on the internet.
The authority’s digital communications team is making the most of social media not just to inform but to respond to residents – even if they have not been directly contacted.
CWaC e-communications manager Damian Beaumont said that, by using social media and news analysis firm Meltwater.com, the authority can communicate with residents as soon as an issue arises.
He said: “We circulate surveys to our residents to attain feedback on the council. Some people want to have their say in 140 characters, not five pages, and those voices are often left out of the debate.
“Our job is to ensure every resident has a voice that is heard. If we are talking about a particular issue of interest to residents in the borough, we ensure the debate is happening on Twitter and Facebook.
“Meltwater is one of the tools that allows us to accomplish this.
“We want to make our webcasts more engaging too – some find it difficult to get to a meeting for whatever reason, so while some councils just put the webcasts up, now we like residents to talk to us during meetings and we can have their questions answered within legal boundaries.”
CWaC is also able to monitor online conversations through hashtags and keywords, and has provided help on such topics as waste collections and last year’s Olympic torch relay.
Mr Beaumont added: “It’s all about two-way conversations and seeing where we can assist them and be proactive.
“It’s just another channel to help customers. We can explain where we are gritting roads, about job vacancies and monitor what people are saying about the council.
“A recent example was a customer mentioned about a gritting bin which had been emptied and had run out of grit. We are able to see that and make sure our highways team was out and we could relay the message so the bins were refilled.”
Pam Bradley, CWaC head of marketing and communications, said: “We can help customers access services in a quicker and more efficient way by actively listening. By doing this we can ensure people’s voices are heard and responded to.”