Take the Fear out of Using Social Media for Government

It is typical for agencies and businesses alike to be a little afraid to get involved in social media.  Adding a Facebook or Twitter page to your overall web presence can sometimes feel like you are opening your agency up to chaos. You’ll have people jumping on and following, making comments both positive and negative, and the truth is you really have no control over what they post.

Image courtesy of TopRankBlog

Embrace it.

Tara Hunt in her book, The Whuffie Factor, reminds us to use the comments you’ll receive on your pages as a way to turn unhappy people into brand ambassadors. Yes, you will get some negative feedback along with the positive, but if you have a both plan and trained social media personnel in place to deal with these comments, you’ll be ready to deal with these comments constructively.

Social media allows you to develop and foster relationships with potentially hundreds or even thousands of people. Your citizens are already talking about you and your services, and they’re probably doing it online. Taking part in those conversations allows you control over the outcome and the response. Decide these things in advance, and you’ll have a plan in place to embrace the chaos you’ve, up until now, been afraid to let loose.

What are you planning to communicate?

Some ideas might include sharing meeting agendas, community events, crisis notifications, or program highlights. Are you going to implement mostly a broadcast strategy, or are you going to design your posts for comments and communication? Are comments going to be turned on or off? Decide these things before moving forward with a strategy.

Decide who will be responsible for posting.

Someone will have to monitor and implement your strategy every day. Is this person or team properly trained and able to respond quickly to posts? Do they have access to the correct information and can they make quick decisions with or without approval? This is crucial, so make sure the person you put in charge of posting has the authority and the knowledge to post relevant material and to respond appropriately to comments and questions.

Who is your Audience?

Decide in advance and create a picture in your mind of your typical audience member or fan. What are they interested in? What issues will resonate with them? How can you add value to their lives, and their newsfeeds, with your posts? Now talk about that audience as if he or she were a real person, and keep them in mind with every post you make. Don’t fall into the social media trap of posting content relevant only to other social media or industry professionals; unless that’s the audience you’re really trying to reach.

Are you still afraid? Take a look around at other government agencies to see what’s out there and how communities, both State and Federal, are using social media to connect with their citizens. There are lots of good examples out there. Fear not!

If you have a good example of a community using social media to connect with its citizens, share it here with me or on my Facebook page. I love to see social media in action!

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About Sue Reynolds
Sue Reynolds is the founder and owner of Carmine Media, a web and social media consultancy. She is the manager of social media and web design at R+L Carriers, where she works with businesses and non profits to build their web presence and nurture brand loyalty.

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