Facebook Pages: Local or Topic?

Home Forums Citizen Engagement & Customer Service Facebook Pages: Local or Topic?

This topic contains 21 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Jed Sundwall 8 years, 3 months ago.

  • Author
  • #167422

    Scott Horvath

    In thinking about the ways which people use Facebook, what appeals to them, and how Facebook encourages people to use their service…what do you think is a better focus for a Government agency to take in running their Pages? Do you believe it’s better to have local pages on Facebook for your agency? Do you think it’s better to have more topic based pages for your agency?

    Is there more benefit to having state-based pages with information about your agency so people living in that state can connect with your agency in a way that appeals to them personally…or do you do have a topic based page where people can follow topics they’re interested in regardless of where they are locally?


  • #167464

    Jed Sundwall

    The question, to me, is one of resources and audiences. Does your agency have large enough audiences in each state/region/city to justify the resources required to maintain a Facebook page in each one? Also, do the services provided by the agency vary widely by state? If the answer to both of these is yes, sure, have localized pages.

    Otherwise, think twice. You’ll be multiplying your management and governance costs and risk providing inconsistent customer service and you probably won’t get much out of it.

  • #167462

    Scott Horvath

    No the services don’t differ so much by state, but it’s more about the specific science, research, and results that happen in that state that directly affects the residents. So while it’s not a “service” it is relevant to the people living in and around the state.

    I do agree that expanding the Facebook presence will multiply management and governance costs. But that’s where you need to have good performance measurements in place to constantly evaluate how the Page is doing…but that’s a whole other question that I need an answer to (what key metrics to watch, how to determine a baseline for metrics for a Page that’s never existed, how long to measure before making decisions about future “life” of the Page, etc).

    Thanks for the comment Jed.

  • #167460

    Steve Ressler

    Great question and I think would vary a little by agency.

    For example, I think location is key for national parks – people really care about yellowstone, glacier, etc VS topics

    But for EPA I think the average citizen doesnt care about EPA region 8 – they care about EPA Air Water, brownsfields, etc

    Also depends who your core audience – is it general citizens? Scientists? State/local gov’t employees? Non-profit / grant recipietns? I’d put it in the language they understand. For example, if it’s more of later state/local/non-profit it may be in weird language for an average citizen but that’s fine if thats your core audience

    Last part – I know you can actually target Facebook posts to now so may not need a whole fan page but can say this post only shows to people in X state or Y region (I think this is new)

  • #167458

    Scott Horvath

    Regarding the targeting…yeah, that is an option. However, the downsides to the localization of posts from a central Facebook page are:

    1. You run the risk of accidentally sending out a post to everyone if you don’t remember to select the local option

    2. People that only want to see the localized info for a state can’t do that through Facebook, they have to see everything that the main Page posts. Although you might want people to see everything, that may go against what they really want to be seeing…just localized info.

    3. It would require adding additional admins to the Page management just so they can post localized updates only. That increases the potential for problems in Page management.

    These are great suggestions and I hope people keep them coming. All of these are helping me wrap my head around the local vs. topic issue and I appreciate your reply and others.

  • #167456

    Lindsey Tepe

    I have seen both strategies work, but the key component to making either a success is ensuring there is compelling content. Having sorted through many, many government Facebook pages, there is a lot of duplicated information. I would just make sure that you don’t take both approaches – for example, the Fish and Wildlife Service has (at last count) 43 different Facebook pages, one for each region, one for each program, one for each refuge, and one for each field office. They have a great deal of overlapping content.

    Being more strategic at the outset can limit this duplication of effort.

  • #167454

    Steve Ressler

    True – targeting can be cool but requires a level of sophistication (staff/procedures) that may be unrealistic in gov. Could see more in say ecommerce where pizza hut has a whole team on social media and want to give a special coupon to cincinnati bengals fan since they just won/etc….or a new topping/look that being demoed in a market

  • #167452

    Scott Horvath

    That’s a good example of localization.

  • #167450

    Scott Horvath

    Yes, and that’s something I want to avoid. There were always be some level of overlap…that’s just natural. But I do think that it needs to be kept to a minimum as much as possible. Part of that overlap has to do with organizationally-based Pages (offices, programs, regions, etc). That’s one thing that needs to be avoided. Not only that, but it goes completely against the Digital Government Strategy which is very much “topic focused” and not “organizational” focused.

    So if Pages are created in the light of topic focused is it better to have your topic be a category of content (like Climate Change) and then use localized content to target specific states for specific content…or is it better to have your topic be a state-based location that shares all variety of topics that are relevant to that state?

    The first is probably more resource intensive than the later. But both require big planning.

  • #167448

    Nancy Heltman

    Resources and doing it well is key. We have 35 Virginia State Parks and like the National Parks we have fans committed to individual parks. But we do not have the resources to properly manage all those pages. So we developed a page for Virginia State Parks and manage that one well.

    Having said that I also claimed all of the mace pages, set them up with a cover photo and info. People can check in there but we send folks who see the page to the main page.

    If an agency is not location centric it is fairly easy to set up a tab that has location based info for folks who might need local contact info. Check out Lujure.com as with their tool you can make any URL a tab in FB that functions completely within FB.

    I have heard that FB has rolled out support for a main page with local locations for large commercial brands so hopefully they will send that feature down to us soon.

  • #167446

    Scott Horvath

    A main page with local pages under it? That would be interesting, but would still have the problem of making sure the content is kept up to date. It might make centralized management of those pages easier to perform though…and assuming analytics would roll up into that as well to have a bigger picture view of how the entire FB presence is doing.

  • #167444

    Leslie Ann Sully

    I was mandated to have a facebook for our battalion, each of the 6 companies and all of the recruiting stations 36. I believe this is too much and have been losing the battle to just have one or 7. There is no way that my office can properly manage all of this sites daily but we do what we can. Social media needs to be social but also managed so I think less and more effective is better. la

  • #167442

    Julie Chase

    The Facebook page at our installation is wonderful. It keeps everyone up to date on things happening around the base. I happened to ask a question on it (about a news blurb regarding the base) that I couldn’t open, and I was “chastised” right there on the page about using Facebook on a gov machine during working hours. I don’t even look at it anymore during working hours and I wonder why it’s there to begin with.

  • #167440

    Scott Horvath

    This is exact kind of scenario I don’t want to have happen. I think we’ve all been there before where something just grows too fast without any real plan other than “just do it.” Unfortunately it’s not effective and not useful to most people. But you can still have a larger presence if you have a plan for how to manage it and if it suits the needs of your audience. It’s just the plan that’s needed and that’s what I’m trying to figure out right now with this discussion…so thank you for responding.

  • #167438

    Scott Horvath

    Amazing how that happens, isn’t it? Unfortunately that happens at many places and did for a few years…but I thought that was less of an issue nowadays…guess not. I have to use Facebook constantly for my job since, well, it’s part of my job. I wonder how they would feel about you using GovLoop? Same way perhaps?

  • #167436

    Kevin Lanahan

    Great discussion, Scott.

    I’m with the State of Missouri, so I’m already sort of self-limiting as far as region, but our agency’s approach is to have a centralized facebook/twitter/youtube/etc account and serve the entire state for fish and wildlife discussions.

    In addition to allowing us to monitor social media with just a few people, it provides a good information overlap that we would miss if we tried to maintain arbitrary regional pages. We know that people will travel across the state for hunting and fishing opportunities, so making them follow two or three pages to get the information they want doesn’t make sense.

    Our highway department, on the other hand is highly regionalized, which makes sense since you generally want to keep up on highway accidents, repairs, closures, conditions in your area.

    We have a couple of programs that have their own Facebook pages, but they are maintained by the programs and are only peripherally linked to us.

    My thought is that the smaller your geographic area or agency mission, the more reasonable it is to have just one channel for any social media (one FB page, one Twitter acct, etc). Depending on your agency’s mission and the behavior of your audience, you may expand this to focus on location or topic.

    For instance, it makes sense for some of the national parks to have their own social media presence. They are destinations, people are fascinated by them, and would follow them in a heartbeat. But having location-based pages for Treasury or Commerce may not make much sense.

    It all comes down to having a plan for how your agency uses social media. Part of the plan is to understand how people interact with your agency and how much manpower you can throw at it. For the feds, with a broad spectrum of programs within each department, it makes more sense to split between locations and topics, but smaller government units, as a rule, need to start with a centralized presence and expand as needed.

  • #167434

    Scott Horvath

    Thanks for the reply Kevin. Very constructive comments. You definitely have an advantage working for a state vs a federal agency. The scope of your efforts and outreach has a boundary (political and physical). That makes it much easier to develop a good strategy.

    I wish our boundaries were as clear at USGS. However, this is why I’m having this discussion because I’m trying to get a feel for how other organizations have expanded their Facebook efforts.

    Thanks again for the great comment.

  • #167432

    Kevin Lanahan

    I never thought I’d hear anyone say working for a state vs fed could be an advantage. Quite frankly, whenever I have a social media question, I always look to see what you or Levy are doing.

    I did sort of tailor my original comment to smaller government. It’s hard for me to even imagine the scope of federal interests.

    Looking at the USGS FB page, I see lots of posts on earthquakes, volcanoes, maps and animal research. I don’t see it focusing on any particular geographic area, though, and I think that’s a good thing.

    If I’m interested in earthquakes, I’m not just interested in the Pacific Rim, even though that’s where all the action is. I’m also in the Caribbean, New Madrid, Virginia, and other places where this happens. Same for maps. While I may be curious to see a map of my area, I’m much more interested in a map of where I want to go.

    The USGS home page focuses on maps, hazards and science. Each of those could probably support an independent FB page and have a built-in audience. Unless there is particular effort being made on a geographic topic (“this year, we are inventorying every rock, stream, animal and plant in Wyoming”), it seems like most of your content really isn’t limited to states or regions.

  • #167430

    Scott Horvath


    Coming from an outside perspective, you make a point that I often try to make myself with people internally…while our organization is broken up and funded based on location, the science we research and provide data on crosses all boundaries. Now, our Science Centers typically do science research that is specific to the state that they’re located in since we have, pretty much, a science center for every state. However, the science they’re doing feeds into larger topical interests like earthquakes, maps, animal research, climate changes, energy and minerals, etc….just as you pointed out.

    So it may be that topically focused is a smarter way to go…and then use targeting options in Facebook for those more local and hyperlocal updates that are specific to a state, city, etc.

  • #167428

    Julie Chase

    Scott, thanks. I can’t get to GovLoop at work, the site is blocked. I can get to most other fed news sites, like fed times, fed daily, fedsmith, government executive, next gov. Oh yeah, Big Brother is alive and well. I was pointed the order/directive/policy on use of social media on government machines. I* was totally embarrased.

  • #167426

    Gov Girl

    From what you said before Kevin, regarding having a plan for social media – it should really be a part of your overall communications plan as well, I would think.

    How do you communicate now? Where do you currently have content being developed that would feed into these outlets? Would new content need to be generated to feed these new channels? Where do these outlets make sense?

    And I agree with your assessment – topic-based seems to be the way to go here. Perhaps if there is a particular georgraphic hotspot region that is cross-topic heavy, then maybe develop a FB Page for that over time. But to start out, branch out a couple key topics as separate pages and see how it goes. Make sure they all provide links back to center (main USGS) and each other when needed.

    Since you also seem to have a healthy set of followers already Scott, could you poll them and see which topic pages they would be interested in subscribing to? That might point you in the right direction as well. Nothing like some good old user inquiry 😉

    Good luck! Will be interested to see how it turns out.

  • #167424

    Scott Horvath

    @Gov Girl, you’re absolutely right. We do have a decent number of followers and it would be worth asking them to see what they’re own thoughts are on topical pages that they’d be interested in having separated off.

    Thanks for the input

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.