From the TUC

How are union members using the Internet?

02 Mar 2013, By

Using Twitter on a union demonstration

Unions that want to communicate with their members using the new technologies face a problem. And the problem is that we don’t actually know very much about how our members use the Internet.

Of course there are general surveys and studies which show that masses of people use Facebook and Twitter, that smartphones and tablets have come to replace desktop PCs as a way to access the Net – but is that the case for union members?

After all, union members in the UK and elsewhere are not typical – we tend to be older than the average, for example.

The only way to know how our members use the Net is to ask them, and this year for the third year running, LabourStart is doing exactly that.

In last year’s survey, we learned that a very large of number of trade unionists had started to use Google+ and LinkedIn, in addition to Facebook. And yet unions were not really responding to this, and had done little or nothing on those social networks.

Nearly 42% of the nearly 3,000 respondents last year told us that they accessed the Net with a smartphone and a third that number were already using tablets (like the iPad). But less than 6% thought their unions had apps for these devices.

We learned that nearly two-thirds of the respondents rated their national union websites as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, but that number dropped dramatically when we asked about local or branch websites.

These numbers and many more like them can be very useful for unions in Britain and around the world. We should, for example, invest more in training local and branch unions to do better and more useful websites. We should learn which social networks our members use (such as LinkedIn) and exploit the possibilities there, rather than solely relying on Facebook. We should be designing apps for smartphones and tablets which are increasingly becoming the primary way our members access the Net.

This year’s survey will run through 18th March – and the more members of trade unions participate, the more useful it will be for all of us. We don’t just want those who love new technology to respond – it’s also important to know how ordinary members of our unions use the Net.

Please spread the word in your union – you can take the survey online here.

GUEST POST: Eric Lee is the founding editor of LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement.

4 Responses to How are union members using the Internet?

  1. AJBM
    Mar 6th 2013, 11:12 am

    I think, moving away from the social media discussion, union activists and local branches get a lot out of wordpress as an open source site building option.

    It has the blog function, it has plug-ins to twitter and other things. But I don’t see much in the way uptake. It can be completely free if there is no money to spend too. It’s worth a look.

  2. Prakash Neupane
    Mar 6th 2013, 11:15 am

    Yes, in Nepal, we started to our union leader to use the technology in their activities, we have continuously supporting them for adopting technology. We are in planning phase to starting e-Learning for unions and proving free website(unionpress). But the problem is the difference of status among union organizations and union activist.

  3. George Wright
    Apr 30th 2013, 4:34 am

    I’m in a local branch of an autonomous teachers union in Italy, outside of the 3 main union confederations. The branch secretary says we don’t have a blog because a couple of years ago in Rome, a union was fined about 50,000 euros in a libel suit arising from a blog.