In the social media team we’re always looking to reach new audiences with a vested interest in statistics and while we’re open to trying new approaches a tried and tested way of reaching a wide audience engaged around our statistics is tweeting along to the annual Budget announcement.
As part of our commitment to inform debate and encourage greater use and understanding of our stats, we decided to tweet along live again this year, monitoring the Chancellor’s speech and signposting to our statistical content using Twitter. Keeping up with the tradition from last year, this year’s Budget announcement once again fell on Labour Market day and the social media team was back down to a team of two, but with four successful live tweetalongs under our belt we were prepared for the challenge and keen to go even bigger than before.
Our social media presence continues to grow; we reached the milestone of 200,000 followers in January and the growth rate has been huge with our mentions, queries and engagements continuing to increase each month. The ONS Twitter channel has a strong and engaged follower base and we try as much as possible to shine the spotlight on our tweeting statisticians as experts in their fields. We decided to use the Budget this year as an opportunity to really bring them to the forefront. We’ve trialled slightly different approaches when we’ve tweeted along to previous Budgets/Autumn Statements and we’ve found striking a balance between using the corporate Twitter account alongside our statisticians’ works well, with a mixture of pre-prepared and live content. We reached out to our ever growing list of tweeting statisticians and gave them the option to either prepare content in advance with us or to actively tweet along live and compiling tweets on subjects as they’re mentioned. We had prepared over 100 tweets before the event, thanks to experts across the organisation we had a good idea of topics that were likely to come up during the speech. We’ve found having these experts and our statisticians in the room with us extremely useful for compiling tweets on the fly and reactively tweeting areas as they were being discussed- it helps us to get relevant statistics and charts quickly with the people that know the stats inside out.
We did some promotion before the tweetalong, including some tweets and email promotion that included a nice image pulling together our tweeting statisticians’ Twitter profiles; showcasing their usernames and tagging them in the image so people could easily follow them. For the week around the Budget our tweeting statisticians had a combined total new followers of 311.
Our Visual.ONS site recently passed the 100 articles mark so we’ve got a strong back catalogue of easily digestible articles and interactive pieces aimed at the citizen user that continually perform well on social media. We find there is a clear demand for ‘explainer’ type content around Budget day, and as terms like ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’ are being thrown around, so we try to aid understanding of these terms and put them into context for people.
The most popular piece from our Visual website that we tweeted was our ‘How is the welfare budget spent?’ interactive with 413 total page views throughout the day
Metrics for the site showed 32% of users that clicked through to this navigated to more than one page on the visual site meaning it was a useful signpost to the site to expose other content. The metrics for page views for the site as a whole on Budget day also showed a clear peak in traffic at 1pm with 358 page views when our tweetalong was in full swing. 82% of visitors to the visual website that day were new visitors while 18% were returning visitors, demonstrating that we reached a new audience with interesting and relevant content. Of the top 10 visited pages on visual that day, 6 were ones we’d directly pointed to during the Budget.
We launched the new ONS website in February and Budget day was an opportunity to highlight new features such as individual topic pages for each area so we pointed to these as the general areas came up. A lot of our engagement stays on Twitter although we still to drive traffic to the main website. The website referral metrics showed 665 visits to the ONS website came via Twitter on Budget day.
There was a real buzz around the office ahead of the tweetalong so this time around we invited colleagues in other areas to observe in the ‘control room’ to see firsthand the impact that our statistics can make and live engagement and reactions to what we post to the ONS Twitter feed. As we’re so closely involved and it can be manic on the day it was nice to hear the perspective from areas that don’t usually get involved in this type of thing and we received some great feedback. Comments from colleagues who came along included:
“Wow – what a (very organised) statistical whirlwind! The team worked at such a lightning fast pace yet so cohesively, it was a treat to see. As soon as key words left Mr Osborne’s mouth (internet, house prices, sugar tax), the word was picked up, the relevant statistics discussed and promptly tweeted”
“The amount of preparation for this event was evident, I did not bear witness to a single fumble over finding a relevant survey to use! It’s one thing to know your own survey like the back of your hand, but to be able to reference so many in the space of half an hour is something else entirely. A range of statistics, graphs, infographics and retweets were thrown into the mix to keep things varied and followers engaged. It was fantastic to see not just how the team works like a well-oiled machine, but how the data we work with gets packaged and presented to the public via social media. This isn’t something I would have had the chance to do get involved in had the opportunity not arisen, and I’d like to thank the team for letting me sit in, you were brilliant!”
“The team worked so well together and it was exciting to watch such fast paced, innovative work within the office. It proved to me the use of our data in the real world and has improved my perception of our organisation because of it. Keep up the good work guys. Impressive work, buzzing atmosphere and positive working environment”
“Having never attended events such as this before I was completely unaware of the amount of preparation that goes into ensuring their success. Not all tweets came from the central ONS account, instead many came from but the statisticians within each business area which the central ONS account could retweet. This created variety in the twitter timeline, allowing users to engage with the statisticians directly. As a previous user of twitter to inform me on budget day this is exactly what you want. I would like to thank the social media team and statisticians for having me along.”
We also received a good amount of external feedback from users who engaged directly with our statisticians:
We sent out around 120 tweets in the hour and a half and tweets from the ONS Twitter account received a total 445 retweets throughout the day while the total retweets for our tweeting statisticians was 398. It was a real success in widening the awareness of our valued experts and promoting our statistics in current debate.
Social Media Manager