What I learned from Social Media in 2010

I wrapped up 2009 with my lessons learned and personally gained a lot by reflecting on what I learned that year. I have been very fortunate to have another very successful year managing the WSDOT social media accounts and though I would share my top 11 for 2011.

  1. No matter what kind of account you manage, be a real person and show a sense of humor and compassion in your outreach.
  2. People love pictures. Curiosity drives us to look and taking advantage of that curiosity takes a lot less effort to get a message across.
  3. Be careful what you say about what is happening internally at work. It could become a news release earlier than you meant it to.
  4. Follow back, and read tweets. You can learn a lot by listening to what people have to say, even if it’s only about their daily lives. It can help you get an understanding of context when they do reply to you. It can also give you great ideas and inspiration for content to use later on.
  5. Timing is everything. Be present and relevant in emergency situations. You will gain trust by having information available when people need it most.
  6. PSA’s don’t work. You have to give advice a context that will relate to people or they won’t care. I can tell you “prepare for winter driving” but you won’t really know what that means. If I show you a picture of cars in the ditch the message will be caried further and understood more clearly.
  7. Take the time to circle back and talk to others internally in your org about what is working and what isn’t. I am a bit of an introvert and often fail to talk about some of the successes I have. Spreading the wealth of knowledge has built me a larger group of supporters that have proven helpful in providing valuable content and helped them gain a context of why I am constantly calling them to ask for answers to questions that come in through social media channels.
  8. Get to know those who re-use your content. One of the best things I did in 2010 was to take the time to personally meet the people behind the social media accounts and local blogs that provide similar information. Not only did I meet some great people, I learned something from each of them, and have found those relationships incredibly valuable in gaining a larger audience for outreach efforts.
  9. Don’t link to the same articles and reuse content from your work and personal account. It degrades your personal brand. You are more than what you do at work, and people will stop paying attention to you. I want to know who you are and if I’m interested in what is provided by your work accounts, I’ll follow them too.
  10. Take the time to keep up with new tools and what’s happening in the industry. It takes some time, but so much is happening right now on the web that some great nuggets can be found that can make you successful. Storify was that tool for me this year, even though I found it late. Empire Avenue was not that tool, but it was interesting to help me understand what can work and what doesn’t work.
  11. Stay active, you’re not going to get mentioned unless you provide information worth mentioning.

What’s next for 2011? I plan to focus much more on story telling and education. There is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes that people don’t see that is worth telling. There is also an enourmous lack of understanding of what government agencies do and why. I hope to use the large audience that has tuned in to our social media accounts to help them learn more about how government works.

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Elizabeth Ban

Hi Jeremy –

Question about following people on Twitter. Do you think it’s good for a government twitter feed to follow individuals? We have a policy that we will only follow other government or like-minded organizations, but there is no real basis for this (other than it was in someone else’s social media policy so I added it to ours.) We follow those orgs that fit our description who follow us, but not individuals. I feel that I might be missing out on the folks who forward/retweet my content. Any thoughts?

Jeremy Bertrand

Being a state agency, we follow any citizen of Washington who follows us. It has benefited us greatly being able to read their tweets, it gives us a better understanding of what is happening on Twitter and whether or not it is the right time to get a message out, and has helped give us ideas for content generation. We also gain a better understanding of who our audience is and what they may be interested in to tailor content. The hidden benefit is that they can direct message you if they have a question but don’t want to say it publicly. I would highly recommend following back.