Social media platforms play an important role in communicating with the public and keeping citizens informed.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and online messengers are all very effective tools for sharing the latest news and important updates or giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how a public agency operates.
Although it seems like an unlikely match, government agencies and social media work well together, meaning that government accounts have a massive and very engaged following.
However, it’s worth mentioning that everything a government agency posts on social media is regarded as an electronic record. In practice, this means that every kind of communication on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media channel needs to be able to be made available to the public on request.
Therefore, to stay compliant and prevent complications or possible litigation, you should have a government social media strategy in place. This will allow you to protect and maintain the reputation of your public agency and streamline the process of responding to FOIA and other public records requests.
Create an Internal Government Social Media Policy
Every public sector organization should have an internal policy regulating how social media channels will be used and for which purposes.
Everything, including how to interact with the public and how to monitor this communication, should be addressed in this policy. Establishing these rules allows agencies to adhere to public records requirements and provide guidelines for government employees on how to interact with the public on social media.
Such an internal policy should outline the following:
- The person(s) in charge of administering the agency’s social media channels
- Whether and how government employees can use their personal social media accounts to address and discuss government matters
- What kind of details can be disclosed and shared on social media channels
- Rules for commenting on social media on behalf of the government agency
- What happens in case someone violates these rules and what consequences if they don’t comply with the internal government social media policy.
Once the policy is created, make sure to train your employees on how to implement it when using social media for business purposes. Also, it’s crucial to update and review the policy regularly and inform your employees about the latest changes.
|Related: Government and Social Media: 5 Networks for the Public Sector|
Develop a Social Media Content Strategy
Proper content is the key to a successful government social media strategy. Here are some tips to help you with it.
Identify Your Target Audience
Knowing who your target audience is and understanding their needs is critical for creating relevant content.
A government agency’s main audience consists of its constituents, so focus on creating relevant content that provides the information they need in a timely manner.
Local government agencies have a narrower scope, meaning that they use social media as a communication channel for public service announcements. But, thanks to their interactivity Twitter, Facebook, or instant messengers can also be a great avenue for citizens to ask questions and engage in conversations with their municipality.
Create Tailored Content for Each Channel
Although there are different social media channels, you don’t have to spread yourself too thin and use each and every one of them.
It’s much better to use the social media platforms your audience prefers, as this way, your posts will have a much better reach.
Every channel has a slightly different purpose, so you should adjust your content accordingly.
For example, Twitter offers a fast-paced communication model suitable for delivering short, quick updates, breaking news, and following situations that tend to develop quickly.
On the other hand, Instagram is focused on images and videos, which makes it suitable for less formal content.
Plan an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar is necessary for planning government social media campaigns.
It will allow you to prepare your content in advance and post consistently, which is essential for engaging your audience. Use upcoming events such as reconstructions, elections, or anything relevant for your constituents to come up with themes and posts.
Even if there are some changes, you can adjust your content, but it’s important to have a plan and a structure.
It’s also a good idea to create a library of resources, such as images, videos, and links, that you can use during dry spells when nothing in particular happens.
Deal with Trolls
It’s very likely that your posts will attract some trolls and disgruntled citizens, and trigger them to comment and provoke you.
That’s why you should have a government social media strategy that will set out guidelines for handling unpleasant comments and prevent potential conflicts that can spiral out of control.
The first thing you can do is acknowledge their comment and tell them that you’ll look into the issue or complaint. If they continue to leave angry and inappropriate comments, think about taking the conversation offline or stop responding.
However, what you should never do is delete comments because they can serve as evidence in case of a lawsuit. If you don’t want inappropriate comments to be displayed, you can hide them.
Finally, set a good example and encourage a civil discussion.
Streamline Your Processes
To boost the efficiency of your government social media strategy and the visibility of your campaigns you should implement automation and monitor your metrics.
Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer allow you to create and schedule your posts in advance, so you can set them and forget them. This is particularly useful since you need approval for images when creating government social media campaigns, so having everything ready ahead of schedule will streamline the process.
Besides that, social listening tools will help you stay informed about what people are talking about your agency on the internet.
When it comes to the performance of your campaigns, make sure to keep an eye on the metrics. This way, you can identify which posts have better engagement and optimize your strategy accordingly.
Capture and Archive Social Media Content
We’ve already mentioned that you should never delete social media posts, but that’s not enough – government agencies need to capture and archive social media content in a compliant manner to meet federal and state regulations on data retention.
Remember that social media content is considered a public record.
Even though social media platforms keep the content on their servers, you can’t be sure that your content, images, and comments won’t be lost due to some bug or another accident. Plus, if you’re requested to provide these records, it will be very difficult to find the exact post or comment that was posted a couple of months or even years ago.
Even worse, some posts and comments may have been edited or deleted, or likes could have been removed in an attempt to hide something. You can’t rely on individuals to control what’s being posted and you can’t rely on screenshots to make you compliant (they too are susceptible to manipulation).
That’s why it’s recommended to use a social media archiving tool like Jatheon, as it comes with Advanced Search and ediscovery features that allow you to search and quickly find the record you need based on various criteria and produce it in a compliant, accepted format as part of a data request or as a piece of evidence in legal proceedings.
Besides, you won’t have to worry whether a comment was edited or deleted by the person who posted it – Jatheon captures content and preserves it in the original format, including edits and deletions. This means that you’ll be 100% able to prove the authenticity of your data.
All public-sector organizations should implement a government social media strategy if they want to use social media platforms to communicate and engage their constituents. This simple guide explains what to consider when you’re crafting your strategy and how to make the most of your social media channels.