Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Pinterest provide the public with a range of different ways to comment, learn, organise and manage their interactions and interests related to forests and woodlands. This has significant implications for the Forestry Commission and other stakeholders facilitating public engagement.
A rapid evidence review (Stewart, Ambrose-Oji and Morris, 2012) showed social media use by public and civil society organisations successfully improved:
- Public engagement and democratisation processes although significant differences exist between public engagement in government versus civil society initiatives
- Spatial decision-making processes using data volunteered by the public
- Technology-mediated citizen science monitoring
- Pro-environmental and other behaviour change related to woodland management and recreation.
Public bodies continue to be challenged by social media. Issues include:
- Quality and security of content and data
- Processes and procedures able to accommodate new digital technologies
- Digital literacy within organisations
- Understanding social media use amongst different audiences
- Resourcing and managing interactive relationships via social media.
A survey of 153 Forestry Commission staff (Stewart and Ambrose-Oji, 2013) showed that:
- 71% used social media, and 38% did this as part of their professional role
- The majority of respondents were generating social media content as well as passively consuming it
- The most popular platforms were YouTube, Wiki, Facebook, photo sharing applications and LinkedIn
- Some staff felt uncomfortable using social media as part of their working practice because of
- Difficulties managing personal versus professional identities
- Risks around confidentiality and organisational reputation.
These resources were used by the Forestry Commission to improve understanding of the potential of different kinds of social media, inform the development of social media strategies to engage the public, and identify staff training support requirements.
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