Engagement is the holy grail of social media. It is supposedly the yardstick by which all of your social media should be measured and if you do not have engagement then you are doing it wrong — or so the story goes. So I might get raked over the coals for saying this but here it is:
Engagement on social media should not be the goal of public service organizations!
There are two main reasons for this:
First reason, engagement is a lot like cholesterol: there’s a good kind and a bad kind. You want to increase the good kind and decrease the bad kind. Bad engagement is negative, destructive, abusive, or devoid of any value. Good engagement is positive and constructive. Negative comments or criticism can still constitute good engagement if they are formulated in a constructive way that helps you improve your services.
Second reason? The public sector is not, by its very nature, a place where the public necessarily goes for engagement. In fact, most people would probably prefer not to have to engage with you if they could avoid it. When is the last time you heard someone say: “I wish I could engage more with the government over my taxes”?
It comes down to what your audience needs from you. And what the public usually wants when they go to any Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 public sector site is information that is:
easy to find,
up to date, and
easy to understand and apply.
Engaging with you usually means that they haven’t found the information they were looking for.
That’s why you shouldn’t lose too much sleep over not being “engaged” enough.
Now, just to be clear, there is no excuse for ignoring user comments or questions if they are valid and expressed in a respectful manner. In fact, these attempts from the public to connect with you should be seen as a barometer pointing to sectors where you might need to improve your messaging or your content. If users are always posting the same questions of your Facebook page, it is likely because the information is not available, or is too hard to find on your website. This is valuable information that is given to you for free — make the most of it.
So instead of pursuing the engagement mirage, concentrate your efforts on:
Making your content highly shareable so you reach wide and deep!
Target your efforts so that you reach the right audience through the right platform!
This is not usually something you will achieve overnight. You will need to work on it and refine your delivery until you get it right. You can start by:
Identifying gaps in your communications or service delivery.
Identifying your audience and finding out where they congregate on social media.
Adding value with your social media content (no rehash or content dump)
Providing context for your content (i.e. How does this help your audience; what’s in it for them?)
Ditching the bureaucratic tone for one more suited to your intended audience.
Bottom line, don’t sweat it! Don’t try to manufacture engagement. Good engagement is not a goal — it is an organic byproduct of using your social media channels effectively. Take care of your audience and engagement will take care of itself.