In late October, LabourStart conducted the first-ever global study of the use of Twitter by trade unionists.
Nearly 1,600 trade unionists participated, with the largest single group (360) coming from the U.K.
While all those responding were online (the survey was conducted through a website and publicized by email), less than a third used Twitter. Less than 10% of those surveyed said they frequently sent out “tweets” (short messages sent through Twitter).
Very few of those surveyed tweet frequently about trade union issues. And only a tiny number “re-tweet” trade union stories.
This is not surprising. These are early days yet for Twitter and we’re now at the stage email and the web were at a decade ago. Celebrities like Stephen Fry and Sarah Brown may be fervent twitterers, but you won’t find many delegates to union conferences tweeting away on their mobile phones. Not yet, anyway.
One surprising response was that the vast majority did not actually know if their unions used Twitter. A small number (15%) believed their union did so. As many large unions (including Unite and Unison) do use Twitter, they’re apparently not doing a great job of publicizing this fact to members.
We asked about what other social networks trade unionists use and unsurprisingly, Facebook was hugely popular, with more than three-quarters of the respondents admitting to using it. Clearly this is an important platform for trade unions to use to communicate with members, potential members and the general public.
YouTube also proved to be quite popular, though I’d guess most of the 37% who use it are consumers, not producers, of video.
The new social networking website for trade unionists, UnionBook, is used by over 18% of the respondents and is far more popular than other Facebook rivals such as MySpace and Bebo, or social bookmarking sites Digg and Delicious.
The virtual world “Second Life” which has been heavily promoted by some unions (which have invested in a “Union Island” there) is used by only 1.6% of those responding to the survey.
The full results — including over 800 comments — are available here: