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Engaging the Community using Twitter, YouTube and Facebook – Local Governments just need to have some fun!

Social Media can be a powerful tool for all types of organisations around Christmas. It can generate enormous goodwill from your community if you make the effort to provide something of value. Here are two simple examples from around Melbourne this Christmas.


The City of Kingston used Twitter and You Tube to engage families at its Christmas Carols event at Mordialloc, in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne.In what is believed to be a world first, children could tweet their Christmas wishes to Santa!

Families at the event engaged with Santa via Twitter in large numbers and the tweets were broadcast across the main screen at the event.

This provided entertainment for everyone at the event and helped create the positive sense of community that is essential for these events. You can still tweet santa @kingston_santa if you have any special Christmas wishes!

Not a local government but a nice use of Facebook is below…

Epicure’s Gingerbread Village

Epicure is a leading catering company in Melbourne, Adelaide and New Zealand. The company runs some of the most prestigious corporate and wedding venues, including Zinc and Federation Square, Melbourne Town Hall and the MCG.

For Christmas they created a Gingerbread Village at Melbourne Town Hall. Families could go and view this amazing creation with all proceeds going to the Starlight foundation.

Epicure created a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/gingerbreadvillage for the village and also used youtube to show the making of the village.

As marketing manager, Rebecca Coomes explains, its been a great success in assisting with the Word of Mouth marketing, with people not only liking the page but sharing it with their friends in large numbers.

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Stephen Peteritas

Man what an awesome post. I wish more governments did things like this. NOTHING and I mean nothing brings people together like a laugh. I get that the government is a very serious thing and it’s tasks shouldn’t be taken lightly but loosening up every once in a while never hurt anyone. Alas government is too risk averse that it make examples like these hard to come by.

Elliot Volkman

I have to agree with Stephen on this, and the general idea behind your post – Social media is to be social. If we water things down, take out the personality, and take out the fun are regular citizens going to really want to engage with them? Probably not. When we see simple statements of fact or news snippets that’s all we think of them. It doesn’t appear to be from a person, it doesn’t have engaging factors, and it is treated as such.

David Dejewski

I got sucked in by the title. The idea of mixing fun with government was too much to resist.

This is a great post! I believe we could all use a lot more humor! Does the body good.

Stephen Buckley

Take a plain old cake and add a little frosting, and voila, you get a much better cake.

So if a little frosting is good, then the more frosting that we add then the better the cake, right?

Not always. Everything in moderation. The trick is figure out how much is “just right”.

However, to paraphrase Robert’s concern, we all know that the frosting is the “fun” part when compared to the baking of the cake, but don’t get so caught up with the idea of adding more “fun” that you forget that it is only a complementary aspect, not the main goal of citizen satisfaction.

If you do your job and satisfy the customer, then that’s great. And if, at the same time, you can also “have fun” in doing that work, then that is even better, but it is still just “frosting on the cake”.

P.S. to Steve P.’s comment that “loosening up every once in a while never hurt anyone.” — Umm, yes, it has. It gets people fired they work in a workplace that is, as you put it, “risk averse”.


Hi Stephen, Agree with your comment – the local government in question is not focused on fun – this is just “little frosting” – social media is being used in all aspects of the organisation for engagement and efficiency purposes, there is a framework and governance structure in place and a steering group lead by the CEO.

This was just one of dozens of initiatives, but the learning was that havng some fun does engage the public and also employees, particularly those who were sceptical as to whether the community would engage with such an initiative.

Stephen Buckley

Dear fcoleman,

Certainly, social media can make it easier to increase public engagement with a particular organization. That is what “marketing” is all about.

But, as we all know, there is a temptation for the people who do the “marketing” to get customers (current and potential ones) all excited about what great work the organization does.

However, with that enthusiasm comes the danger of over-promising and under-delivering. Certainly, a catering company (like the one that you cited) shouldn’t be enticing customers with beautifully frosted cakes, etc. if they are, in fact, only mediocre bakers.

Many government organizations are still grappling with how to measure the success of their core “cake-baking”, so it only makes sense — at least in the long-run — to get a good and objective handle on that, first, before trying out different kinds of “frosting” and other enticements.

If the product or services are mediocre, then “marketing” can only create a temporary improvement (e.g., in goodwill). But, as humans, we do tend to choose the short-term “solutions” (even in government!), so there is the obvious tempation to promote social media as a marketing tool even when the organization isn’t assessing the level of satisfaction on its core work.

Oh yes, the “frosting” can certainly entice people – initially – but you will not keep them engaged if the “cake” tastes like sawdust. So first make sure that your “cake” is not lacking, then talk about what kind of frosting to add.

But I understand, of course, that most people in “marketing” think of that as heresy.


HI Stephen,

I concur with your sentiments – as i said a social media framework, a delivery process and clear goals underpin good use of social media. This allows you to deliver on your promise.

I agree with the overpromising statement – organisations complain about getting slammed on social media – often that is because they have a poor product they have overpromised on – it has got nothing to do with social media – that is just the channel people are using to complain.

It’s quite interesting that some readers seem to be seeing having fun as almost a negative; in the local government case above – it was a simple use of Twitter over the course of a short period – there was no overpromising, just a call to the community to engage and have some fun over the course of a few hours.

Of course make sure you can deliver but avoid paralysis by analysis – sometimes you have to try things out