The overall purpose of the government is to better their citizens. The government is BY the people, FOR the people – right? How does this apply now in the time of social media and digital communications? (We discussed this in a recent Government Social Media Workshop.)
The impact of Social Media has significantly changed the way ‘the people’ live, work and communicate. This change in the last decade has caused those in government to adapt how they communicate, broadcast, serve and hear from ‘the people’ in their community.
Social Media has also created significant concerns on how governments engage with their citizens. The volume of communication has greatly increased, as has the expectation for government officials and departments to respond to and support their communities.
Sound overwhelming? It can be. Most governmental offices have limited staff and demanding roles in maintaining the quality of life that residents expect. How can government officials and departments utilize social media for the good of their organizations and citizens? Here are 5 Guidelines for Government Officials/Organizations using Social Media:
- Determine your Government Social Media Policy and Strategy – Don’t jump on the social network on behalf of your government organization until you’ve first determined your Social Media Policy. A government Social Media Policy defines who can use Social Media for your government organization/official, what staff can/can’t do on social media, disclaimers, etc. There’s a lot to consider and legal issues that must be determined before taking that leap. Then it’s time to determine a Government Social Media Strategy. Social Media requires that you have a solid understanding of goals for social media, who your audience is, your online voice/brand and much more. (See those posts for more information on these key elements for government social media plans.)
- Train your government personnel in Social Media – Training should not just include the PIO or the head of the communications team – but the staffers, and maybe even the official, such as the Mayor or Police Chief. If they want to be in touch with the public, they need to know how to use Social Media correctly. The risk for miscommunication is high in Social Media so the team – from the top down – needs to know how to use social media and when to consult with the lead of your organization’s social media efforts for advice or final approval.
- Go where your People are – Often government organizations/staff get overwhelmed by the number of social networks and all the time that they require to post quality content, respond to people, etc. A realistic Social Media Strategy is based on the social networks where your constituents are and where your involvement/impact is aligned with your goals. Don’t try to be on every social network. Do what is good for reaching your community and achieving your Social Media goals.
- Be active – Extending your government personnel/organization on Social Media requires a commitment – a long-term commitment. People using Social Media have high expectations on using it for accessing others – like government officials and government organizations, receiving customer service/information, finding out timely information and much more. Come up with a plan for your government agency/official that is do-able. And keep that commitment. An inactive Social Media account is actually worse that not being there at all – it implies that you’re not really interested in being accessible and communicating.
- Be Transparent – People on Social Media expect authenticity, and this definitely applies to government personnel/agencies. Deleting negative comments, giving the PR ‘line’ instead of an honest response or pushing your agenda (especially while not listening) are instant ways to lose support and all the goodwill that you’ve done in previous updates/posts. However, the opposite is also true. By honestly responding to negative comments, even with just ‘Thanks for your thoughts! We’re working to make this better,” shows that you’re listening and that your government agency cares about people in your community.
Need to create a Social Media Policy for your government agency/organization? Interested in learning more about Social Media and how your government organization can use Social Media to grow your influence in your community?
We’d love to work with you. Boot Camp Digital has worked with various government groups – from Parks Boards, to Mayor’s Advisors, to Emergency/Law Enforcement organizations, etc. We lead Social Media Policy workshops, assist government groups in creating their Social Media Strategy and train government employees on how to use Social Media to communicate and support their communities. Contact us today to find out more or plan your government social media workshop!