IN recent years, the drive to promote organisations work, provide information and engage with the public, social media has become a key communications tool.

With less people getting their news from traditional media, newspapers, television and radio, social media has become the place where organisations can get their message out to the wider public.

And Powys County Council (PCC) is no exception with a host of social media accounts on both Facebook and Twitter providing that service.

In recent weeks, the new chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner, has activated her own social media presence on twitter @CarolineT_Powys

Dr Turner joins a myriad of other senior council officers, including directors of children’s and adults (Social Services), Alison Bulman, and director of environment, Nigel Brinn on the sites.

Other useful accounts recently set up include @PowysData, which gives figures on many topics across the authority.

@Planpowysschool updates people on school projects as well as @powyshighways that updates on road closures.

While the developments are helpful for residents, journalists are also able to mine social media for information comments and source articles.

PCC say: “Used correctly social media is a powerful tool to connect the council with its citizens.

“They are key communication tools which highlight our commitment to openness and transparency and promotes the work and vision of the council.

“Social media complements traditional communication channels and opens up new ways to engage with all our public including residents, stakeholders and partner organisations.”

PCC says that the benefits of the council using social media include: “promoting the council’s work, enhancing its reputation and being more open, transparent and accessible.”

But on the flip side the council warns that the “council’s reputation could be damaged if not used appropriately”.

The Local Democracy Service has asked PCC a number of questions on social media – concentrating on Twitter.

How many twitter accounts do you have?

The council has two main corporate Twitter accounts that are managed by the Communications Team.

These are @PowysCC and @CSPowys (Welsh version).

The council also encourages services to operate their own accounts in order to provide timely updates on issues of interest to the public such as Highways.

How do you decide who receives them?

Services with information that is relevant to the public are encouraged to operate a social media account in agreement with the Head of Service.

Social media channels are a fast and effective way to share information about the council and connect with residents, businesses, and other stakeholders.

 Are they just for information or is there a remit to engage with the public?

The council uses social media channels as another way to share information and engage.

For example, the two main accounts are used to publicise news and information as well as to respond to what people are saying and to answer inquiries.

The council uses lots of different ways to share information and engage such as media releases, webcasting, public meetings and consultations as well as social media channels to reach as many people as possible.

Do staff have advice or training from members of comms on how to use them?

The communications team provides support and training to help staff use social media channels.

Do they use Powys CC devices for the accounts or personal ones?

Staff are provided with Powys CC devices for professional accounts.

There is no expectation to use any personal devices.

Is there oversight from anyone (ie comms officer) before staff tweet anything?

Staff are trusted to use social media accounts appropriately and responsively according to the guidelines and training is available to support staff and clarify expectations.

It would not be feasible or a good use of staff time for the communications team to approve every tweet.

Is there a social media policy guideline for staff?

Yes there is.

A list of social media accounts, which is being updated can be found on the Powys County Council website .