5 Do’s & Don’t for Better Social Media in Government

Everyone is talking about social media, but what is the purpose of investing time in these efforts from a government perspective?

There are several reasons why it makes sense to invest time on-line. Here are three major ones:

  1. Learn what customers are saying about your services
  2. Make relationships with people in your community
  3. Allow your current customers to be advocates for you

Here are five tips to help government become more interesting online and give people a reason to engage with them.

Do say something of value. Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself.
This seems easy enough on the surface, but the most common question that I get asked is: what should we say? On Facebook and Twitter, start off by talking about lifestyle choices that would be popular with your constituents. So, talk about parks where pets can visit off-leash or how to immunize your pet. The worst mistake to make is to just send out message after message about your services, without creating a dialogue with other people.

Do listen to others. Don’t act like social media isn’t worth it.
Good social media is listening to what others are saying. Do a Google search on your agency and find out what people are saying. Look at Yelp – you may already have reviews!

Even if you aren’t ready to jump in and start creating daily web content, it is a grave mistake to ignore the online community and what they are talking about – because they will talk. You will be in a better position to respond to citizens by spending a small amount of time listening to what they are saying.

Do invest more time talking to a few people. Don’t jump into social media without thinking about your audience and where they can be found.

Another question that I am frequently asked is, ‘What’s the ROI on social media?” In my world, we call it Return on Ignoring. That being said, some of the measures that people do track include numbers: how many friends they have for their Facebook Fan Page or how many followers they have on Twitter. When I sit down with a client, I disregard these measures because they mean nothing unless those followers are part of the target demographic and are helping the client to achieve a certain goal. What stakeholders do you need to reach? Who is most likely to attack your services and what groups would come to your defense? These are the people you want to reach.

Do help promote, support and connect people. Don’t ignore your friends.
If you do something good for someone – they will remember you for that and repay your good deed. You can retweet their information, share it on Facebook and also create partnerships with them when appropriate.

Offering your own free information is critical to creating a loyal following. You can write articles for your blog, create videos or link people to cool things happening in your town. Look at every activity as a potential piece of content.

Do ask for their opinion. Don’t keep doing what you have always done and think it will be enough.
Author and businessman Seth Godin talks about taking the traditional sales funnel and turning it on it’s side – so that it becomes a megaphone. You create systems on-line so that your happy customers can tell other people about their experiences and explain what a good job your agency is doing.

Ask people to comment or post photos on your website and Facebook Fan Page. Another way is to hold a contest – everyone loves to compete against others.

The main point is that you don’t have the option to ignore social media. Fifteen years ago, very few government agencies had a web page – and now almost all of them have some sort of web presence. The next generation relies heavily on their phones for information – so digital content will be critical to interacting with your future shareholders. Social Media is here to stay. And the sooner you start talking to your constituents – the better.

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