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What Makes Some Local Governments So Successful at Social Media

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As part of National County Government Month (NCGM), the National Association of Counties offers the NCGM 2016 Toolkit, a resource that helps counties highlight effective programs and raise public awareness and understand about the many services you provide to your community.
To help spread the word and celebrate NCGM, ICMA will providing tips and best practice on various topics to help counties (and cities too!) raise public awareness about your community’s initiatives all month long. 

The NACo Toolkit emphasizes that local governments should get the word out about their initiatives through social media. Local governments are now well aware that social networking is an important communications and information gathering method for everyday citizens, particularly with the proliferation of smartphones. From students to parents to professionals to elected officials, people from every walk of life are posting their statuses, snapchatting photos, checking their newsfeeds, or sharing news to their social networks via social media.

But in our search for last week’s post: 5 Vibrant County Facebook Pages That Inform and Engage, we’ve noticed that not every local government page is the same. Sure, the communities are different, but shouldn’t city and county governments be using the same outline to promote transparency, enhance engagement, and foster collaboration? We decided to do a little digging.

After researching more than 100 Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn, and more, we found that the most successful pages followed a general pattern:

(1) They present the content in a way that is sure to resonate with the audience and avoid repetition,

(2) They try to foster a place where opinions and perspectives can be shared freely by engaging and responding to comments positively,

(3) They determine the tone and perspective of their organization’s online persona and stick to it,

(4) They consider all their stakeholders and publish content to include information relevant to local businesses, schools, and other community organizations, and

(5) They update their social media profiles on a daily basis.

Here’s other ways they do it so successfully:

They simply do not have just Twitter or Facebook.

Example #1: A few weeks ago, I got an alert on my phone that the city of Fort Collins was “live” Periscoping. Intrigued, I turned it on and saw that they were promoting its ‘Mow Down Pollution’ event. I learned that if city residents recycled their gas powered lawnmower, they would save $240 on a new electric mower. The girl on the video then proceeded to turn the electric mower on to show just how quiet and pollution friendly it is. Different, yet effective!

Example #2: Linda Kelly, Windsor Town Manager and ICMA member, created a blog for her community to provide yet another means of connecting with Windsor residents through providing up to date information regarding Town issues. Blog posts have included: El Niño storm preparations, a new virtual suggestions box, the Town’s new texting service, and a schedule of open house events. The blog can be found here: http://windsortownmanager.blogspot.com/

Example #3: The city of Edmonton, Alberta provides amazing resources on its LinkedIn page. In a recent post, they promoted a guide to a 30-second mobile job application that is then available as a SlideShare document to flip through. It’s quick, easy to read, and visitors can apply to a job using their mobile phone in less than 30 seconds.

City of Edmonton

They understand their audience.

They know who the people in their community are, their likes and dislikes, how they have previously attempted to communicate with them and what was learned from the result, and which social media channels are most popular with them.

They define goals and outcomes.

Successful local governments know exactly what they want to accomplish with social media and why these things are important to accomplish. As they define goals and outcomes, they consider objectives that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Engagement – Communicating with the public in a meaningful way.
  • Open innovation – Social media provides a great platform for opening up innovation beyond the walls of the organization.
  • Participation – Make it easier for the public to take part and share their thoughts and ideas.
  • Collaboration – Partner with others, sharing information to maximize involvement.
  • Crowdsourcing – Get the opinions and ideas of those whom your decisions will impact.
  • Knowledge Sharing – Maximize limited resources across the organization by sharing experiences and information gained with multiple departments.

They evaluate their efforts.

They can define metrics that tie directly to their statement of benefits, just as they would when evaluating the effectiveness of traditional communications, using the following metrics to evaluate the success of their campaign:

  • Follower count
  • Retweets and mentions
  • Discussion/engagement on Facebook
  • Comments on blog posts
  • Shared links
  • Site traffic

They develop a content schedule/calendar.

To keep content fresh and relevant, and more importantly, to keep citizens coming back, successful local governments establish a regular schedule for updates. One scenario could involve particular departments issuing updates on a certain day each week, with primary pages being updated more frequently as events warrant.

They use social media to stimulate local economies.

In the effort to fight economic woes and showcase their communities as good locations for business, successful local governments are using social media through the use of image strengthening/rebranding, providing media with story ideas, enticing former residents to return, bringing jobs and job seekers together, and promoting local resources.

They use social media as a crime-fighting tool.

Law enforcement agencies across the United States are turning to social media in their efforts to prevent and solve crime. Successful local governments are using the immediacy of social media for: online police blotters, digital “wanted” posters, anonymous e-tipsters, social media stakeouts, undercover online, and informing about current situations.

 

Information in this blog post has been adapted from Playbook: Leadership Communications | Volume 2: Social Media and Local Government.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

5 Vibrant County Facebook Pages That Inform and Engage

Knowledge Network Topic: Social Media

Social Media Startup

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