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How to Make Gov Content That Matters and Boosts Engagement

When I say, “social media,” what words come to mind for you? Perhaps positive words like “fun,” “innovative” and “creative.” Conversely, it could be something less positive if you’re tasked with managing your agency’s social media channels. If words like “hard,” “annoying” or just plain “UGGGGH” came up for you, I understand!

The good news is, whether you love it or hate it (or a little of both), you’re not alone! Whether you’re solely dedicated to managing social media, or it’s part of your many other responsibilities, you may find yourself wondering how to approach it in the ever-evolving social media landscape and make it matter. Trends and best practices are constantly changing, and it can be hard to keep track of it all.

So, how do you weed through all the TikTok trends, new hashtags and perfect filters to make content that actually matters and keeps your engagement levels high? Here are four easy things you can do to get started:

1.) Start with the WHY to make fun content

OK, I know what you’re thinking – “That’s easier said than done!” But stay with me! When you’re scrolling through your personal social media feeds, think about things that YOU like to engage with. People want to see things that feel authentic and organic, not “government” stuff.

Next time you’re on your favorite social media channel, I challenge you to take out a piece of paper (or make a note in your phone) and jot down what accounts you like and WHY. The “why” here is important; really get granular with it. For instance, you may like that cooking Instagram account because you like looking at pretty pictures of food, but pay attention to how it makes you feel. Maybe the color pallet de-stresses you, or maybe it makes you happy because you’re learning how to cook. Now, think of ways you can make others feel that way when they see your social media posts. How can you use your agency’s social media to make people feel happy, enlightened or proud? For instance, at the city of Orlando, Florida, we’ve worked to include more human-interest stories into our social media content because those stories make people feel more connected to their community. It gives them something to be proud of when it comes to Orlando. For a recent park opening, for example, we told the story of a passionate community member who helped make the park possible, instead of just posting a nice photo and a caption about the park being open. We showed our audience the “sweat, blood and tears” behind the new park and showed them not only that it was new, but how important accessibility and inclusivity was to its development.

If you’re able to tap in to the “why” of what your own audience is looking for, they will engage with your content even more. It gives them a reason to care about the content.

2.) It’s a conversation, not a bulletin board

Social media is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. After all, it’s called “social media” for a reason! If you want to post content that your audience will engage with, you should listen to the conversation, and reply, reply, reply. Not to mention, you can’t expect your audience to engage if you don’t!

The first step here is to decide how often you will check your social media to see what people are saying and to engage with your audience. Once you decide how often you will check in, decide what your reply and reaction policy is. I’d recommend only replying to positive comments, correcting misinformation and answering questions. Never engage with trolls – users who do not contribute to the conversation and only post negative things – and above all else, never get defensive.

By replying to your constituencies, you’re not only boosting your engagement numbers, you’re also showing you are a trusted resource they can reach out to (and a human being, just like them).

3.) Look at your metrics to see what works

The greatest tool you have at your disposal to see if your social media is working is your metrics. There is a ton of information out there on which metrics are best, but it really depends on your goals. Before you can hammer down which metrics you should be measuring, you’ll need to define your objectives. Do you want to boost your engagement? If so, what types of engagement are you most interested in (i.e. likes, shares, comments, etc.). Is follower count important to you?

Once you know what measurements you’d like to measure, then you can start to pull the numbers and see what may be working and what isn’t. If you choose to use social media metrics software, this can make reporting on these numbers easier, but you by no means need special tools to help you see your metrics. Each social media platform has their own “insights” feature that will allow you to see your engagement and other key performance indicators.

4.) Get in on bigger conversations

So, you saw the newest TikTok trend and want to try it on your social channels? Awesome! To stay relevant, trying out trends and hashtags is a great idea, but make sure your content still relates back to your “why.” If it doesn’t, you risk losing your audience’s trust by wanting to look “cool” and “trendy.” But there are opportunities, beside trends, to add your voice to the larger conversation where appropriate. For example, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is a popular topic right now. Perhaps you post something about the athletes in your city or state who are participating? Or you could share how members of your agency or community are celebrating. If you’re adding to the conversation in a way that feels authentic to your agency’s brand, you can’t miss!

By sticking to these four guidelines, you can help make your social media fun, relevant and interesting for your audience, all while boosting your engagement levels. Social media management is a marathon, not a race. It takes checking, adjusting, strategizing (and sometimes, a little bit of luck!), but by using the tips above, you’ll be able to create content that matters to your audience.

You may also be interested in Finding Your Voice: Social Media in Government, Keep Citizens Informed With Social Media and Slide Into Our DMs: TSA Welcomes Social Media Traffic.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected]. And to read more from our summer/fall 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort and a link to their stories.

Libby Champion is the Digital Communications Coordinator for Orlando, Florida. Social media is her jam. She oversees the city’s social media presence and works to bring a cohesive voice to each platform. She is passionate about digital communications strategy and helping residents feel proud and excited to live in the City Beautiful.

Libby is an Orlando Business Journal “40 Under 40” award winner and a former Disney cast member. When she isn’t tweeting or discovering the latest TikTok trend, she enjoys cuddling her pup, dancing and hitting up all the Orlando theme parks with her husband Stephen. You can connect with her on TwitterInstagram or LinkedIn.

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