Social Media for Local Gov: Six Tips for Success
by: Maggie Kerr-Southin, Senior Communications Consultant
If we’ve learned anything through our work with local government clients over the years, it’s the importance of communicating with citizens clearly, transparently and in the right places. If you want to get the word out to the public, social media is a great tool for reaching out, spreading news and for taking the pulse of your local community.
Based on our experience, we’ve put together some top tips for local government communicators to keep in mind when planning your social media presence:
1. Listen first
Before you plunge in, take some time to listen to local audiences. What are your citizens and other stakeholders talking about online? What do they need to know? Are there opportunities to contribute to existing conversations, or gaps to fill? It’s important to contribute thoughtfully, not just create more idle chatter.
2. Choose the right tool for the right audience – and draft content accordingly
If you’re trying to reach busy young adults, there’s a good chance Instagram will be successful, while their parents are likely on Facebook. Trying to attract the media or a business audience? Twitter and LinkedIn might be your best bet. There’s nothing like asking your constituents what the best tools are to reach them.
Then create different posts for each channel – if citizens follow your organization across multiple channels, they’ll get tired of seeing repeated content. Posts should reflect each channel’s purpose, and speak to your audience there.
3. Engage with people
It’s so easy to miss this important thing: remember it’s called “social” media. While it wasn’t developed to be a marketing tool, sometimes social media feels like that. Engage with your audience by answering questions or referring them to the person who can help. Show that you are real people who care about their lives and want to hear what they have to say.
4. Be authentic and transparent
While the majority of government communications are formal, your online presence can be warm, friendly and authentic. It’s also important to be honest and transparent, or your audience will call you out on it. That said, don’t engage in arguments or delete negative opinions unless they are abusive. Deleting dissenting voices can be perceived as censorship. Interestingly, audience members often moderate each other.
5. Address the rumour mill
There is nothing like the unknown to get rumours flying about what is happening in a community. Help shape public perception about projects by providing the truth, addressing myths and stopping the rumour mill. Like all good communications, supplying information proactively can prevent anger caused by fear. Your audience may not like a decision, but it’s much easier to accept when you understand it.
6. Keep it visual
People absorb information in different ways and many will rely on an image to flag information important to them. Highlighting road closures or construction? Include a map in your post. Trying to direct your audience to an external survey? Catch their eye with an interesting visual that they can’t help but click on.
What do you ZINC about these social media tips for local gov? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts/ideas.