Social media isn’t just a place for individuals and businesses; local governments can use their pages to generate interest in events, make announcements, and help stay in contact with the community. According to a study published in Public Relations Review, social media use can even help local governments control a crisis by improving contact between your office and the people who need information. If you keep your social media pages updated with accurate, positive, and timely information, you’re halfway to making an impact on the local population.
Focus on the Good
The news is full of sad or scary stories. Sometimes minor things like stream cleanup or bake sales to benefit disease prevention don’t even merit a mention on the local news. You can help create a more positive image of your local area by focusing on the good. Talk about the positive things that the local government is doing but also about what citizens in the area are doing to make the world a better place. You can create a positive community if you’re willing to post about the everyday heroes that live in your area. It will also add a nice dose of good news to social media timelines that are often weighed down with sad stories or news about the worst things happening both locally and internationally.
Even someone who isn’t involved in local government can become interested if they follow you on social media. As long as you keep your page updated and reach out to citizens by advertising its existence, it’s possible that people will follow just for emergency updates and news. Once they do, you have a chance to get them more involved in things like community events and meetings. Even if people only follow you at first for things like flood or snow warnings, they’ll become more interested and involved when you post funny or engaging content. As you get more followers, more people will comment on your posts, share them, and help you get even more people to like your pages.
Develop a Strategy
Branding is important and if you can give your social media presence a strong brand, you’ll be more likely to engage your followers. It’s okay to relax and make appropriate jokes or to show a bit of personality in your posts. Just keep things consistent. Avoid anything controversial because not all citizens share the same views and you want to engage everyone in your community since local government is there to work for everyone. Plan ways to get more people to subscribe to you, including advertising online and offline. Decide how often you want to post and stick to it. If you have a strategy, it’s going to be easier to curate and maintain your social media profiles once you’ve got them going.
People who connect with you on social media have a quick and easy way to reach out and give feedback about your local initiatives. People who won’t take the time to come visit, pick up the phone, or send a letter might be more likely to message you on the social media network because it’s easy, convenient, and doesn’t require face-to-face contact. This can help you keep an eye on what’s going on in the community. If one person raises an issue, it might be a fluke. If multiple people reach out about an issue, it might be something you need to consider. Either way, it’s another avenue for people to reach you and one that they might be more comfortable with.
Consistently Provide Updates
If you update about snow closings during one storm and then don’t do it the next time the weather turns bad, you’re going to lose followers who actually check your page. It’s important to be consistent about the kinds of updates your provide. Consider pinning important messages to the top of your page. Things like weather or community emergencies need to be seen right away — and you can let your citizens know that they can get that information with just a few clicks. If you can, link to a news story that provides more information than you might be able to with the limited space available on social media platforms.
You might be surprised what the locals know about a variety of topics. If you put up questions or polls on your social media account, you can get them to weigh in and possibly see a new angle to things that you’re working on. It also gives people the feeling that they’re involved which can help them engage more in the future. For example, if you’re considering going with a new municipal water treatment provider, put up a poll asking about people’s experiences with the current water treatment service. Ask if people have opinions on it — even if they don’t, it gives you a chance to let people feel involved.
It might be difficult to be respectful when someone on your page is spreading disinformation or being rude, but it’s important that you do so. One way to redirect someone who is making your page negative is to comment and ask them to call or come in with their complaints so that you can give them the proper attention. Chances are that they won’t — but it can help defuse tense situations on social media. As ELGL points out, oftentimes if you have enough followers, they will help correct and redirect unwarranted negative comments, too.
Local governments can effectively use social media to share information, engage with their constituents, and get feedback on services being provided or changes being considered. The important thing is to be consistent and interesting — that’s what will encourage people to follow you and make them want to stick around and comment on posts. Many local areas are already using social media profiles to connect with their constituents; if you aren’t, consider revamping your existing profiles or creating new ones and starting today.