Social Media Review

The Plan and Why

We took some time over the past three months to research our users on social media.

We needed to understand our users better to make our work more efficient and ensure we are sharing content on the right platform, in the right format, at the right time. There are three key reasons to review the use of social media:

  • Usually teams or people working closely to a product share views and/ or perspective which can hinder innovation or development.
  • We are not our users so cannot think like our users- it is important we meet their needs and not our own
  • We can forget why we are ultimately doing something. Getting stuck in the way things have always been done can lead to wasted resource with little outcome.

Our plan was simple- to identify our user groups and research their needs, expectations and behaviors. We wanted to learn if different social media channels have different audiences and how these audiences fit with our user personas.

Before we started, we networked with user research professionals and our methodology team internally. We researched best practice from the service manual and user research blog.

Social Media User Groups

We grouped different user types and discussed where each group fits within our user personas. We prioritised these groups to focus our objectives for social media. In practice, a better understanding of our audience will allow us to create clearer messages.
Sticky notes of user groupsTo prioritise these user groups, we discussed how each group would access information- we discussed our communication channels and which user groups would use social media as a primary way to get information. Then we ranked the user groups in a chart to show how likely they are to get their information from social media and how influential they are in the digital space.

social media user groups prioritisedHere is the axis we used….


We recognise the role internal stakeholders have in this project so identified three main user groups internally we would need to engage with to understand how they interact with people outside of the organisation. These internal stakeholders could share with us extended knowledge of communication channels.

Interested Staff
Past social media event attendees, digital ambassadors and daily summary subscribers would be able to offer experience of using our social media channels.

Our extended team
The communications team (media relations team in particular), Hootsuiters and the wider digital publishing division understand how the ONS does social media so could offer constructive criticism to our content and processes.

Our line management and senior leadership team are important in making sure the work we do on social media fits with the direction of organisation and meets organisational objectives.

Gaining insight

Having identified people we wanted to engage with both internally and externally, we used a blended approach to gain insight into our performance.

  • We held internal focus groups with our extended teams
  • We shared an internal survey with all staff with specific invites to people in the interested staff category above. Messages to reach staff were published on the intranet and via the ONS Yammer page.
  • We engaged directly with our leaders
  • We shared a survey with other government departments using the GSS network
  • We sent an email to all subscribers to the GovDelivery service
  • We sent a direct email to all local authorities
  • We shared a survey on our social media channels
  • We looked at the analytics of our social media channels to identify some familiar characteristics

Once we had collected the information, with help from our methodology team, we grouped all feedback into key themes and summarised what people said as short outcomes.


We asked people how satisfied they are with our social media and found most users are content (Phew!). This question also demonstrated that the majority of people completing the research do not use our Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, and that twitter is the dominant platform.


The rest of the survey asked what we are doing well, what we could do better and what we could do differently. Key themes were identified. These themes were the channels used; the content published; promotion and engagement on social media; and ideas.

Feedback suggested that we need to have clearer purpose for the channels we use. The majority of feedback was just for twitter. There is confusion about why we use the channels we do. These viewpoints appear to be linked to personal preference.
There were many positive comments about our tweeting statisticians having separate twitter profiles. The comments suggest that our audience like the way our stattos tweet and engage with their audience.

An example comment: “Good use of twitter. I also like following individual statisticians at ONS.

There were conflicting opinions around the formality of the content we share on social media. Some people think our content is not serious enough whereas others believe we need to be funnier and become more human.

Below are two examples of conflicting comments about our use of social media:

  • “Present a professional approach on social media without trying to be funny with the comments.”
  • “Make it fun and retweetable”

We had many comments on the timing of posts. The feedback suggests we do not post regularly enough on Facebook however we repost the same content multiple times on twitter. Some example comments:

  • “I usually post links from your emails onto Facebook myself.”
  • “Facebook posting is not frequent enough”
  •  “On your twitter feed you often tweet the same thing more than once – the same day! This is strange behaviour”

The survey responses included positive feedback about the use of graphics and images on social media:

  • “Love the informative infographics and stats”
  • “Clear graphic representation topical and very informing”
  • “Making interesting data easily accessible”

Individuals took the time to review language and accessibility of the content we share:

  • “Keeping in plain and simple”
  • “Need to fully comply with Disability & Equality Laws”
  • “One thing is I am colour blind so sometimes when you use a graph with similar colours and the lines are close together and thin, it is hard to identify even using your key.”

Promotion and engagement

Several survey respondents that received our survey through the GovDelivery email service shared they were unaware that we had a social media presence. Many suggested we should promote our social media more widely to capture a larger audience. Below are some comments:

  • “Advertise your use of social media more widely. I hear about you on BBC R4 but nowhere else that I am aware of.”
  • “Maybe promote it? Have never seen anything from you guys”
  • “I follow a number of statistics organisations; otherwise I would not see much of your content. You don’t use hashtags to link your tweets to current events or news stories. It seems you are Tweeting only to a small community of followers.”

We invited suggestions for new channels or content. We asked the question: Is there anything we could do differently to improve what we’re doing on social media? (We would love to hear your ideas!). We were not disappointed- there were lots of suggestions. Here are summaries of the more popular ideas:

  • There is a clear demand for content that removes uncertainties about data. We had requests for Myth busters, Glossaries, Jargon Busters, Wow tweets and OMG facts.
  • We had requests to share career opportunities and jobs on social media.
  • Sharing stats from other government departments and referencing data sets from other organisations was a popular request.
  • Other suggestions included more information about methodology, increased use of photography and a question of the day for more engagement.

Overall, the feeling is that we are continuously improving our use of social media but there is still room for improvement. One comment said:

  • “Big improvements over the last few months in terms of what is being produced and then shared on twitter”.

Next Steps

In the following weeks, we will look at all suggestions and responses and implement what we can.
We will keep you updated with all changed on this blog.