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Unite Scotland: 2011 in review

12 Jan

Last summer, Unite Scotland realised that we needed to speak to our members and supporters in a new way. There are crucial constitutional changes ahead for Scotland, as well as an unprecedented threat to the power and conditions of working people coming from the Tory-led government at Westminster.

The time is ripe for political engagement, and yet we felt that there was a clear lack of progressive political voices in Scotland. As Scotland’s largest civic organisation, we felt that we had a responsibility to contribute to these debates, as well as to provide a forum for people to engage politically.

Given that the mainstream media almost always fails to provide accurate, positive coverage of trade unions and working peoples’ struggles for justice, dignity and quality of life, we decided that the best thing we could do was to be the media, and to tell our own story.

We developed a communications strategy and launched this website in June last year. We also created a YouTube channel, Twitter feed, pages on Google+ and Facebook, an e-Newsletter, and we’ve taken our first nascent steps into the world of podcasting. The website and associated media feeds are run in house on a shoestring, with no dedicated staff: it costs members almost nothing. We’re amateurs, learning as we go – and we’ve learned a lot in the past few months.

Crunching the numbers

Since the site launched, we’ve had over 30,000 visitors. The You Tube channel has had almost 12,000 views, and we have over 750 followers on Twitter. We’ve posted 121 articles and 22 videos, and the busiest day of the year was November 30th with 676 views. The most popular post that day was Pensions, as members checked for updates on the crucial public sector dispute.

Most of our readers come from the UK, but we’ve also had good numbers from the US and Greece, as well as India, South Africa, Australia and Brazil. We created a mobile version of the site, and 7% of our traffic now comes from mobile phones.

What has been very interesting for us is seeing what pages have been most popular on the website. We expected you to be most interested in issues you face at work, and then in local politics: in contrast, by far the most popular article in the site is Why Greece Matters, which has had over 2,000 views. By working closely with Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis, we were able to predict many aspects of the Greek crisis, and were ahead of the mainstream media. Our first You Tube video with Yanis had over 2,000 views, and our series analysing the Greek crisis was very popular.

This shows that there is a real hunger for analysis of the economic crisis, and that many people realise that what has happened in Greece is a potential harbinger for what could happen here if we follow the logic of austerity to the bitter end. It could result in the end of the post-war social democratic settlement in Europe, and a return to a much more brutal era, led by a rampant, authoritarian capitalism.

Also a surprise was the popularity of our Culture page: it seems that you’re interested in reading book, film and music reviews from a progressive perspective.

Articles on devolution and the independence debate have been popular, as has Lifelong Learning and our page with branch website details. The popularity of the latter suggests there is an real need for more branch websites, and one of the things we hope to offer in 2012 is training for reps to set up their own branch or activist websites.

Our only disappointment is that members haven’t commented and participated as much as we’d hoped: we really hoped that the website would take off as a forum for debate, and that members would contribute articles and opinion pieces, but this hasn’t happened to a great extent. 30,000 visitors is good, but it’s still only about a fifth of our membership in Scotland. So get stuck in and have your say! This is your union.

Over the course of 2012, we’ll be testing a number of new innovations. We hope to produce a regular series of informative podcasts, interviewing leading thinkers on important issues. We’d like to try having phone in shows, film screenings, activist blogs and more – let us know you ideas.

Finally, thanks for reading and making this website the success that its been. We’d like to reach more of our members and supporters – please continue to share our articles by email, social media, or printing them out and sticking them on a notice board at work.