At GovDelivery’s October 19th event in Washington, DC, 300 attendees received some valuable tips on Facebook usage by government agencies from Adam Conner, Associate Manager of Public Policy at Facebook. His engaging, fast-paced and helpful presentation included his top 10 “musts” for governments using Facebook to get their message out. Here’s a summary of those tips:
- Speak with an authentic voice. Government agencies and organizations often tend to converse (both in-person and online) in a formal tone. No one actually talks like that anymore, and, more importantly, the average citizen would probably tune out if you did. Social networks, especially Facebook, are designed to be virtual hangouts. If you want to be where your audience is, you need to talk like you belong there.
- Deliver your message. Before you post something, think about how your content will appear on Facebook or other social networks. You’ve got one shot at delivering your message, so enhance what you’re posting with a pithy title or headline. Add an appropriate image; be sure to hit on your key messages; and offer a link for more information. Adam noted specifically on this tip that “a click is a bonus,” which is a great point. As long as your message is out there, someone will see it and consume it.
- Be timely and informative. Part of being a part of a social network is the immediacy of the channel. Let’s face it: people pay attention to breaking news, because it’s new and different. Providing timely information through Facebook means more people will pay attention.
- Comments are here to stay. Many government agencies and organizations ask Facebook if it’s possible to turn off the Comments feature. They’re hesitant about receiving negative feedback or inadvertently breaking the law by having a citizen comment inappropriately on Facebook. But, alas, the Comments function cannot be turned off on Facebook. Adam stated in his presentation, “Facebook doesn’t work without comments.” His point is that Facebook’s Comments feature is integral to the activity within the social network, allowing people to voice their opinion, confirm their interest and show their personality. What you can do is provide a Comments Policy that spells out the commenting behavior that you expect from the public. You can also use a profanity or moderation filter to give you a little more control over the kind of language posted to your updates. Or, as another option, you can turn off your Wall – but then getting your message out becomes much harder.
- Multimedia. Use photos and videos to help deliver your message in an impactful way. This doesn’t mean you need to have professional photographers everywhere. You can tap your archives for historical content that is relevant today. For instance, Adam noted that the US National Archives posted a photo of the destruction Hurricane Katrina made on the anniversary of Katrina, while the East Coast was dealing with Hurricane Irene. This was timely, relevant content – even if the photo itself was 6 years old.
- Words can have power, too. Multimedia is a huge part of social media, but don’t forget that words can have power. If the activity or moment calls for a dialogue or discussion, then words are helpful. Adam used an example of US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, and one note he posted denouncing the Syrian regime while answering questions and responding to comments that others had made about his stance on Syria. This generated intense buzz and was an interesting communications vehicle for the ambassador to get his key messages out to the public to generate support and interest.
- Use Facebook Insights. Facebook recently revamped their Insights feature, the analytics tool that helps you track your “Likes” over time; interactions with your page; messages with the most impressions and feedback; etc. We also recently blogged about the new and improved Insights tool. Read more on Reach the Public.
- Facebook is more than just facebook.com. Facebook isn’t just your agency’s page or the number of likes you have. With the immense growth over the past few years, you can now leverage Facebook on your website via Facebook widgets, mobile integration so you can update your status with a text message, and customizable
apps. Adam pointed out San Francisco’s 311 Customer Service Center app, hosted on their Facebook page, as an example. They created an app for Facebook that leveraged their customer service request forms so the citizens of San Francisco could report a pothole to the city on Facebook. The main point: Facebook helps you create interactions and engagement across the web.
- Secure your accounts. Adam was insistent on this point and emphasized that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. His main point was simple: do not use the same password. Do not use the same password for your Facebook account as you would for Twitter or YouTube or your government email address. It’s not secure, and being in government, security is extremely important.
- Resources for Government. Adam provided a number of additional resources for government.
- State & Local governments. Facebook provides an amended set of terms for State & Local government pages. View these terms here.
- Security with DTM-09-026. The Department of Defense (DoD) outlines their policy and guidelines for the effective use of social networking. This DTM applies to all agencies within the DoD. If Facebook is blocked for your agency, this will tell you why.
- Archiving capabilities. There isn’t an archiving tool within Facebook, but Adam offered up two options: Backupify, which backs up and restores data from popular online services (Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and Nextpoint, which develops “cloud-based technology for legal and compliance needs.”
- Interagency cooperation. Government agencies and organizations should remember that interagency cooperation on social networks can reap great rewards. Like with the unique GovDelivery Network, which allows different agencies and organizations to cross-promote their content and subscriptions to broaden their reach, interagency cooperation on social networks can help your agency increase its effectiveness.
Such great takeaways, don’t you think? You can download Adam’s presentation from Slideshare.
And stay tuned. We’re hoping to get some videos from Adam’s presentation up soon!
Facebook is a privately held company that is partially owned by a Russian investment company, among other issues of privacy. The LAST thing that comes to my mind is using facebook for government dialogue of any kind. Not all of us believe the facebook hype, especially when the company spokesperson is the one doing the hype and has a vested financial interest in more users.
Hi Mark! I don’t disagree with your thoughts: Facebook is definitely a privately held company, and they have goals that may not always sync with the public’s goals or with government’s goals. But I do think that Facebook is a communication vehicle that has broad appeal by simply being able to reach millions and millions of people nearly instantly. I like that you’re skeptical and consider the source of the information, but for those public sector employees who do see Facebook as a communication tool they can use, some of these tips can be helpful.
Most if not all social media forums tend to the same (Collect Information)
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Maybe we should have government/public “bridge” type social network. A government version of Facebook, but where the public can access it to address the government and also where the public can address what they need to without the government sacrificing security and without the public not having to worry about reaching the government.