Social media is a necessity today, not a luxury. Politicians and government agencies are finally embracing social media tools to engage and communicate with their respective audiences. But despite this trend, many stakeholders are still resisting new channels and those who do, must realize that social media does not work in a silo. It has to be tightly integrated into an organization’s marketing and communications strategy and the process needs buy-in from senior officials and cross-functional agencies.
Granted, government agencies and municipalities have to adhere to more rules than businesses, primarily due to security and privacy concerns. However, agencies can still create friendly and credible brands that inform and connect with citizens and constituents.
Recently I attended a panel – Handling a Social Media Crisis, hosted by Social Media Club of Boston – on state agencies social media best practices. It is great to hear that well executed social media programs are happening right in our backyard.
The panelists were:
Anna Waclawiczek, chief of staff of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Jess Weiss, social media coordinator for Mass.gov & New Media Liaison for Gov. Deval Patrick
Brad Blake, former director of New Media and Online Strategy, Office of the Governor.
Ellen Rossano, principal of Crisis Media Consultants was the moderator, along with Todd Van Hoosear, founder of the Social Media Club.
Here are some tips to help agencies and municipalities get started on social media initiatives. These pointers are based panelists view and follow-up discussions with group members.
- Establish goals and expectations first, decide how social media content will complement traditional communications strategy and then identify appropriate tools to help meet the goals.
- Craft or reuse social media guidelines and best practices that will encourage people to participate, without violating security or privacy policies. Make sure participants are well versed on these guidelines.
- Build a social media infrastructure before a crisis hits, because the same platform can serve as a tool to inform the public on various issues as well as alert citizens on emergencies such as water contamination.
- To build credibility, encourage subject matter experts to write blog posts and respond to questions rather than the communications staff. To increase efficiency and two-way conversation, use topical blogs to dissemination information and encourage people to ask questions or leave comments on the site.
- Ensure collaboration between various agencies and brief the internal community well, before distributing information externally – from public health issues to hurricanes.
- Finally, all government employees must be familiar with social media procedures and know their roles within the ecosystem. Every social media professional participating in the program must stay on message so the entire organization ‘speaks with one voice’.
Needless to say, social media is a cost effective way to get the word out quickly. Even the media watches tweets and alerts from agencies.
However, every individual and agency involved in social media activities must do so strategically and effectively, so they are not dealing with a crisis of their own doing, i.e. sending incorrect information via a tweet or venting personal feelings.
What other tips would you give agencies and municipalities on adopting social media effectively?
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