Study: Cantons on Social Media 2016

The cantons are relying more and more on social media for their official communications. The experience with social media so far has been positive. Twitter is the most popular channel, ahead of Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.


The social networks are fixed components of the cantons' communication strategies. If a canton is not officially represented on Twitter or Facebook, it is at least present with individual offices. Certain cantons have deliberately chosen a decentralized communication concept. A few cantons are still cautious about social media or are in a test phase. Cantons for which social media is the norm appreciate the advantages of citizen-oriented communication. 16 cantons have a Twitter account, 15 cantons manage an official Facebook page, 13 cantons have a YouTube channel. The business network LinkedIn is more in demand than Xing for the cantons in Switzerland. Google+ has become insignificant, while Instagram is gaining value for the cantons. And in the canton of Vaud, the police are venturing onto Snapchat. The study was written by social media consultant Jürg Kobel,

The networks

Twitter and Facebook almost on a par

16 Swiss cantons are active on Twitter, the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Uri since 2009. 13 cantons also announced the voting results via Twitter this weekend. As a rule, the cantons tweet regularly, respond to queries, retweet little and interaction remains scanty. The cantons of Fribourg, Graubünden and Vaud, which have verified their Twitter accounts, have done their homework. The blue verification sign on Twitter shows users that an account of public interest is authentic. If a cantonal administration communicates spontaneously and entertainingly - which is rarely the case - these tweets lead to a relatively high interaction rate. Twitter is often used as an additional dissemination channel for media releases. This is usually done automatically (for example, via Buffer or Hootsuite). Automation offers advantages, especially time savings, but it also has dangers. Not surprisingly, the most populous canton, Zurich, also has the most followers. If you calculate the number of followers in relation to the number of inhabitants, the canton of Basel-Stadt leads this ranking, ahead of the cantons of Uri, Nidwalden and Glarus.

15 cantons manage an official Facebook page. Visual communication seems to have reached the administration as well. Many Facebook posts are convincing with attractive and appropriate images. Facebook is used more for "soft topics". In this way, an attempt is made to address as large a population group as possible. The canton of Aargau has the most fans, ahead of Lucerne and St. Gallen.

Interesting fact: The total of all fans of the Facebook pages of the cantons and the total of all followers of the Twitter accounts of the cantons is practically the same (around 45,000 people).

YouTube has more potential, Google+ to forget about

YouTube is still neglected by many cantons. 13 cantons have their own YouTube channel, but the number of uploaded videos is low. The marketing of the videos also seems to have room for improvement, as the number of views, ratings and comments are low. Likewise, subscriber numbers are modest. They range from 24 (Canton Nidwalden) to 239 (Canton Graubünden).

The Google+ social network has become meaningless for the cantons. Eight canton pages can be found on Google+. However, some of them never made any contributions, and others have ceased operations. The canton of Bern, for example, said goodbye to Google+ last year because the circle of interested parties remained modest.

Business networks vary regionally, sluggish start with Instagram

The cantons of Glarus and Zurich maintain a free profile on Xing, while the cantons of Aargau and Lucerne have opted for a paid employer branding profile. In French-speaking Switzerland, the cantons rely on the international business network LinkedIn. The cantons of Geneva and Vaud surprise there with a high number of followers (over 11,000), although hardly any news is published on LinkedIn.

Many cantons are flirting with a launch on the photo and video platform Instagram. The cantons of Jura, Lucerne and Solothurn have dared to take the step so far. Solothurn was only able to gain 7 subscribers with 32 posts.


The added value of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube - what the cantons say

The cantons that are reluctant to communicate or communicate decentrally

The canton Appenzell Inner Rhodes takes a rather critical view of the use of social media. "The maintenance of social media would require additional resources, which are quite high in relation to the presumed benefits. An increase in the number of positions for such a purpose would probably not be welcomed by the public either," says Stefanie Sutter of the Council Chancellery.

Also the canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes is - with the exception of individual offices - not active on social networks. This was decided by the government council. However, the decision comes up for discussion again, says Georg Amstutz of the cantonal chancellery.

The canton Geneva leaves it up to the departments to decide whether individual service units are active on social media. Provided that communication via social media is part of the communication strategy and complements other media. For example, the cantonal police share news on Twitter, as does the integration office. Other offices have a Facebook page, according to the communications and information service.

Andreas Luig from the canton Schwyz reports that individual offices that expect concrete benefits from this are active in social media. However, there are no plans to introduce social media across the board.

The canton Wallis has official accounts on Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, but these are not linked on the website. Various services are also active on Facebook, explains the head of information André Mudry.

The canton Train has a decentralized communication concept and communicates decentralized on social media as well, according to Marilena Amato of the Communications Office.

Cantons in the discovery phase

The canton Basel-Landschaft opened a Facebook page a good year ago as part of a pilot project, explains Nic Kaufmann of the state chancellery: "The plan is to evaluate the pilot and then work out a social media strategy."

Also the canton Neuchâtel is in the pilot phase. The "Office cantonal de l'orientation scolaire et professionnelle" has had a Facebook page since April 2016. According to Pierre-Yves Jeanneret, the canton's web manager, a review at the end of the year will show where the social media journey is headed.

Individual offices of the canton Obwalden work with social media. Matthias Küchler of the State Chancellery of Obwalden says: "In principle, the use of social media must be in line with the guidelines on information and communication of the government council and cantonal administration. It is also important to consider the cost factor (human and financial resources) in relation to the expected benefit (added value for the public). The State Chancellery plans to use Twitter as an additional dissemination channel for information from the government and cantonal administration. This step also serves to gain experience in dealing with social media. The findings will be incorporated into the possible further development of the basic communication strategy."

In the canton Schaffhausen individual offices are present on social media platforms. The canton has so far been rather reserved, particularly for resource reasons, explains Christian Ritzmann of the State Chancellery, adding at the same time that the canton is currently drawing up a social media strategy. As part of the adoption of the strategy, it will be decided how the canton will be active on social media platforms in the future.

The canton Ticino has been active on social media since 2014 and, with its posts, has eight Facebook pages and three Twitter accounts. This is a pilot phase and the Government Council will decide in the coming months on the continuation of the project (which so far has been positive). The evaluation for the use of other platforms, especially YouTube and LinkedIn, will be carried out in the coming months, said Ivan Vanolli.

Cantons that have had positive experiences with social media

In 2011, the government council of the canton of Aargau the social media strategy. It is based on the four pillars of integration, image, information and interaction. The experiences are basically positive, says Nina Rothenberger of the State Chancellery. The integration into the existing communication works very well. LinkedIn and Xing were also recently added to the social media portfolio as part of the overhaul of the employer presence.

Christian Kräuchi, Head of Communication Canton Bern: "We have had consistently good experiences in connection with the use of social media. We use the Twitter channel primarily as a supplement to the other dispatch channels for news reports, Facebook more for soft topics. The social media channels are also important for us for crisis communication and for major events such as elections and votes. Especially in the case of the fire ban due to drought, we were able to reach more than 100,000 people via Facebook in July 2015. That is important in times when fewer and fewer people read newspapers. We can expect to expand to Instagram in the next few months, because this channel is becoming increasingly important after all."

The canton Basel City uses Facebook as an everyday channel and Twitter as an information channel for journalists and politically interested parties. Likewise, they publish videos on YouTube and individual offices operate blogs. "Basically, our experience has been good," says Sandra Eichenberger of the State Chancellery.

Marie-Christine Müller of the State Chancellery of the Canton of Freiburg confirms that the experience with social media has been very positive: "We can connect with a wider audience and disseminate our information very quickly and easily." The Guide for the use of Sociel Media is available online.

Also Werner Kälin, as PR consultant for the canton Glarus is pleased with the interim social media balance sheet. Facebook is managed most actively, Twitter is used primarily for political information. This summer, the canton called on Glarus residents to submit cinematic contributions about their favorite places. The videos were subsequently shown on the YouTube channel. Furthermore, the canton has a Flickr account where pictures are made available for download.

The government of the canton Grisons has already in 2014positive balance communicated over the trial year with social media and henceforth on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. When using social media, contact between active participants in the canton is important, explains Tamara Kobler of the Graubünden Registry Office. "Findings from direct contacts with the participating departments and members of the government are processed and implemented on an ongoing basis. This includes, for example, improvements in the formulation of messages in terms of entry, scope, comprehensibility, illustration and periodicity."

Very positive, is the conclusion after two years of presence of the canton Jura on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn. Furthermore, Pierre-Alain Berret of the "Service de l'information et de la communication" announces that the interactions are numerous and the feedback is used to improve the citizen service.

Also in the canton Lucerne the experience with social media has been positive. Philipp Berger of the State Chancellery: "For us, these channels are a good and unbureaucratic way to inform the population about activities of the cantonal administration and the cantonal government and to enter into a dialog with them. That the offer is appreciated is confirmed by the comparatively high interaction rates."

Similar sounds from the canton Nidwalden. They use social media channels to reach citizens. "Our experience with this has been good and we will continue to use these channels in the future." Noémie Schafroth of the State Chancellery emphasizes.

The canton Solothurn publishes on social media, with few exceptions, especially media releases, sometimes enriched with pictures. Facebook and Twitter in particular are well followed, says Beat W. Wyler of the State Chancellery, adding: "We are open to gaining experience in other social media channels as well. Instagram, for example, we have only been using for a few weeks. We are constantly monitoring developments."

The canton St. Gallen operates Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Raouf Selmi of the State Chancellery explains: "Our experience so far has been consistently positive. The platforms offer the greatest added value in reducing communication barriers. The low-threshold nature of the platforms is very much appreciated by our users. They regularly seek contact with us in large numbers and inform themselves about the administration, government, cantonal council and politics."

Bettina Kunz of the Cantonal Information Service also takes a positive view of the Thurgau the experience with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The social media channels are used and paid attention to especially during elections and votes.

The experience of the canton Uriwhich has been communicating on Facebook and Twitter since 2009, are quite positive. "A little later, the YouTube channel was also added," explains Adrian Zurfluh. "Google+ can practically be neglected from our point of view, we do not maintain this channel. In general, we use Facebook as a contact opportunity with the "broad" audience. Twitter rather serves the traffic to media professionals. We post our media releases 1:1 in the social media. This is in response to necessity, as our personnel capacities for maintaining social media are limited."

The canton Vaud communicates primarily via Twitter, but is also active on LinkedIn and YouTube. During elections and votes, the canton provides live information on Twitter, which is very much appreciated. A new social media strategy is currently in the works, according to Leïla Bouanani from the Information and Communications Office. Some departments are active on their own, including the cantonal police, which has a Snapchat channel.

In the 2015 social media report of the canton of Zurichwhich was written by Roger Zedi of the State Chancellery, contains the following introductory words: "From the point of view of the cantonal social media presences, the past year has been gratifying. The existing channels have continued to grow and there have been no gross inconsistencies. In a certain sense, social media has now become the norm, also at the Canton of Zurich." This year, the social media concept from 2011 is due for review and adaptation.

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