Behind the curve
As more city and county governments experiment with better engaging residents and driving them to their central websites, many are asking how well the technology is delivering on its promise. Fortunately, most Web 2.0 applications come with built-in metric tools that enable public managers to gauge real-time use. The information might include overall use, use by area, time of day, number of postings and activities, subjects covered, and more.
While gathering business intelligence is somewhat new for local governments, businesses have been using the information for years to measure customer satisfaction and engagement. Considering that resident satisfaction and engagement is more critical than ever, some cities and counties also have been creative in developing and using technologies that bring greater transparency and engage residents in a variety of ways through web-based applications and devices, like smartphones.
To better understand where city and county governments are going on the road to Web 2.0 and business intelligence, Washington-based Public Technology Institute (PTI) and American City & County surveyed technology-minded public managers throughout the nation. The questionnaire was short, simple, yet at the same time captured valuable data and insight.
For example, when asked if their system captured use and traffic metrics from their Web 2.0 applications, more than three-quarters of the respondents (77 percent) say they do not capture metrics, and 22 percent report they do. Of those who collect metrics, 66 percent say they issued routine internal reports and shared them throughout the organization. Another 14 percent say they publish those reports on their website for the public to see.
Of the 77 percent of respondents who do not use metrics from their Web 2.0 applications, only 20 percent say they planned to implement metrics in the next 12 months. When asked why metrics from their Web 2.0 applications were not used, almost half (49 percent) say they “do not have the skilled staff to effectively utilize,” or “no one at the senior levels seems to care” (43 percent).
Of those who gathered information, most collected basic information, such as page views , unique visits, traffic, duration of visits, browser types, domain names and tracking of applications that accept payments, such as traffic tickets or business license fees.
|Do you currently have a system to capture usage and traffic metrics from your Web 2.0 applications?|
|If you do have a system to capture usage and traffic metrics from your Web 2.0 applications in place, do you issue routine internal reports or share this information with your organization?|
|If you do have a system to capture usage and traffic metrics from your Web 2.0 applications in place, do you disseminate these reports/information to the public via your website?|
|If you currently do not have a system to capture usage and traffic metrics from your Web 2.0 applications, do you plan to implement a system within the next 12 months?|
|If you do not have or plan to use Web 2.0 metrics please select the reasons why (select all that apply):|
|Do not have the skilled staff to effectively utilize||49% (34)|
|No one at senior levels seem to care||43% (30)|
|Other, please specify||17% (12)|
|Too time consuming||13% (9)|
|Too complicated to implement||9% (6)|
|Believe it may violate privacy policies or laws||7% (5)|
|Source: Web. 2.0 Metrics and Business Intelligence in Local Government: 2010|
Judging by the survey results, most city and county governments are missing an opportunity to capture useful data using tools that often are available as part of the Web 2.0 service or application. Using those tools, government officials can demonstrate the value of social media by determining which videos have been reviewed and how long, or which applications have been used the most and when. However, like any tool, the data the tools capture is only good if it is properly used.
Whether a community collects the number of page views, duration, topic, mobile app use, frequency or other metric, one thing is clear: more data should lead to better planning for future developments or improving current offerings. Today’s social media metrics go simply beyond hits and page views. Today, we can see who “Fans” are and who the “Tweeters” are. We can surmise the topics that are discussed and, as importantly, when and where.
With newer mobile media applications, city and county governments can capture data, photos and videos. Residents using their mobile devices also can contribute to local governments’ information, for example, being the first at a scene of a crime or an accident. There, they can provide public safety officials with pictures, as well as precise latitude and longitude of the event.
Local governments can gather critical real-time data as never before. With that information, they can spot trends and service needs and be more responsive. With greater scrutiny on government decision making and growing lack of trust, social media metrics should make for improved decisions used for improved planning — with the goal of greater resident satisfaction and engagement.
- Read the “Five tips on using social media metrics” sidebar to learn about some good tactics for governments.
Alan Shark is PTI’s executive director and an assistant professor at Rutgers University School of Public Affairs & Administration.
- Taking on technology: Local governments are navigating social networks, wireless technology and other Web 2.0 technologies
- Target engaged: Consultant gives tips on involving residents with local government
- How can local governments use Facebook and Twitter successfully?
- What’s hot for 2010: Top 10 policy priorities for state CIOs
- Cities lead the way to Web 2.5
- Crunching numbers: Business intelligence software can help cities and counties more accurately show financial plans