Part 2: About the eight social media case studies

In choosing eight case studies of social media use, we sought to include a wide range of entities. Our shortlist of eight case studies includes a range of:

  • agency sizes – from the Law Commission (which has a budget of about $4.2 million) to the New Zealand Police (which has a budget of about $1.5 billion);
  • entity types – from a state sector agency through to a local authority and a district health board; and
  • sectors – including local government, health, welfare, justice, culture, and science.

Figure 1 sets out the entities we looked at, the project or purpose for which social media was used, and a summary of the entity's view of the lessons learned and benefits gained. It also includes QR codes that link to the blog posts we have published about each case study (see

Figure 1
The eight case studies of social media use

Project Entity Main benefits, scale, and lessons
Share an Idea Christchurch City Council Main benefits
Had a direct effect in shaping the draft plan for rebuilding the central city. Has also been used in planning for the "Suburban Centre."

City-wide consultation, more than 100,000 ideas submitted.

Main lessons
Clear leadership can make difficult things possible. Talk to people using simple and "real" language. Be prepared to have a conversation and listen to people rather than trying to guide them into a response.
Consultation on the New Media Review Law Commission Main benefits
Reached a new audience – many people who submitted had not participated in previous consultations. Online contributions increased the quality and quantity of participation.

Public consultation on whether the legal rights and responsibilities applied to news media should be extended to some digital media publishers.

Main lessons
Be clear about why you want to use social media. You may find new and/or different audiences compared with more traditional forms of consultation. After a successful project, the challenge is to get the organisation to think of social media use as "business as usual" rather than a once-only project.
"Business as usual" social media MetService Main benefits
Weather forecasts available when and where people and organisations need them. Especially important in New Zealand, because the weather is changeable.

MetService had more than 11,000 followers on Twitter and around 19,000 Facebook "likes".

Main lessons
Good, basic management practice is all that is needed to mitigate social media risks. Building up use gradually allowed MetService to monitor the resourcing implications. Support from senior leadership is crucial.
Breastfeeding NZ Facebook page Ministry of Health Main benefits
Contributed to an increase in breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding rates improved by 5% in last 10 years. Among Māori and Pacific Island mothers, rates increased by 2% over the last three years.

Facebook page had almost 16,000 "likes".

Main lessons
If using external expertise, a good relationship with your contractor is vital. Monitor the use of social media and use this information to direct further action. Use your moderators to seed information to your audience, to keep the conversation going. Don't be afraid to learn as you go.
Crowdsourcing images New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga Main benefits
The Trust maintains a register of New Zealand's heritage places. Since 2009, 401 images on Register Online were sourced from a pool of Flickr images. Social media contributed to the increased proportion of entries in the Register with an image (rising from 54% to 90%).

Five years' Flickr subscription cost about $120. All of the images were donated, with contributors being credited as the photographer.

Main lessons
Find a balance between the informality of social media and the public service's legal and process requirements. Crowdsourcing can be a useful way of engaging the community in the entity's mission, raising awareness, and leveraging small entities' limited resources.
Recruitment New Zealand Police Main benefits
Sought to recruit a workforce more representative of the population. Recruitment target was met and the cost of attracting each recruit was 29% lower than the previous three years' average cost.

New Zealand Police needed 600 new recruits, especially women, young people, and people from specific ethnic groups.

Main lessons
Social media can be a more efficient way of doing things. It needs to be a long-term investment. Be true to your audience, be clear about your purpose, and moderate posts to best serve that purpose.
Delivering immunisation and public health messages Waikato District Health Board Main benefits
Contributed to containing the spread of a measles outbreak. Raised awareness of other health messages.

Promoted health messages to social media users among Waikato's 375,000 people.

Main lessons
Partnering with others can enhance the effect and reach of your message, but you need to ensure that the message is not lost. Not all feedback will be positive, so be resilient and decide how you will deal with this.
Fundraising and awareness raising National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges Incorporated* Main benefits
Since Women's Refuge introduced a social media element to its campaigns in 2011, contributions have been 10-15% higher. Messages to its email address asking for help increased by 25%.

More than 55,000 Facebook users saw the 2012 campaign message appear on their own page.

Main lessons
Reflect on what went well and what could be done better. Refine the approach as soon as possible. Target service users and key stakeholders using the same communication methods they use.

* The National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges Incorporated (Women's Refuge) participated voluntarily in this piece of work. Women's Refuge is not a public entity but a non-government organisation that receives much of its funding from the Government. We invited Women's Refuge to be included among our case studies because people we spoke to often referred to the approach Women's Refuge was taking – Women's Refuge was using social media in ways that other public entities we were talking to had not yet attempted.

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