There are plenty of reasons why government organizations should be on social media. But there’s no denying that this technology is a bit of a double-edged sword; social media success is never guaranteed. At the lower end of the catastrophe scale, information officers spend a lot of time and effort on social media campaigns that end up having little engagement or real ROI. At the top-end of the scale, an agency has a very public pratfall and is forced to manage its reputation in real-time as a slew of angry comments rolls in.
Another social media challenge that tends to lead to mistakes—and one that government organizations specifically need to deal with—is that they’re not competing on a level playing field. Large brands have big social media teams and budgets—government social teams typically don’t. Yet despite this, the public will expect the same quality and production value from your social media content as they do from large global companies. Thankfully, there are some online social tools that make life easier for government social media managers, but the challenge still remains.
With all of the above being said, let’s look at some of the most common mistakes agencies make—and most importantly, how you can prevent them.
Common Government Social Media Mistakes
Not Setting a Clear Goal
As with any initiative, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you don’t know what success looks like, which can make social media activities feel pointless and unsuccessful.
Don’t do this: Publish random bits of content to social media pages simply because “it’s important to have a social media presence.”
Do this: Identity a SMART social media goal that makes sense for your organization and ensure that every single activity is pushing you a little bit closer to achieving that goal. The goal should align with the larger communication aims and strategies of the organization and have clear metrics you can track.
Not Having a Clear Strategy
Once you have your goal, the next step is figuring out how you’re going to get to your destination—what are the actual steps you’ll be taking to succeed? This means paying close attention to what your messaging and content will look like, what social channels you’ll be posting on, when exactly you’ll be posting over the coming weeks/months, and who you’ll be targeting.
Don’t do this: Chase a social media goal without a clear roadmap of how you’ll get there.
Do this: Sweat the details. Create a comprehensive strategy that outlines what tactics and steps you’ll be using. Know what sort of content you’ll be sharing and how regularly you’ll be posting it.
Failing to Truly Engage
When managing a social media account is part of your job but you don’t have the time or inclination to put real effort into it, it becomes all too easy to simply use it as a digital notice board where the latest press release or announcement simply gets published. Social media is all about engagement, so if you’re not sharing fun content and striking a conversational tone, you’re using social media wrong.
Don’t do this: Treat your social media accounts as a dumping ground for press releases and public announcements.
Do this: Have a dedicated social media manager who understands the social space and knows how to create content that people will engage with and share.
Great resource: What is Engaging Content and How to Create It
Spreading Themselves Too Thin
The average public-sector organization doesn’t have the resources needed to manage successful channels on every social media platform. Unless you have a big team and lots of money to spend, it’s impossible to simultaneously have active and vibrant channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Vimeo. The solution? Choose one (or two) where your audience is most active on and where you’re most likely to see success. Focus on these and ignore the others.
Don’t do this: Trying to be active on more social channels than you have the capacity to do successfully. You’ll only end up creating mediocre content that no one cares about.
Do this: Find your audience and identify your strengths, then choose the channel you’ll be focusing on. If you have access to amazing wildlife or deep-space images, for instance, Instagram could really work for you. For many organizations, however, Facebook makes the most sense.
Not Having a Social Media Policy
A social media policy is crucial for two reasons. First, it outlines how social media should be managed internally—it tells employees what acceptable use of official accounts looks like and what the approval process for any post is. Second, it explains to external users what sort of behavior is deemed inappropriate and what steps will be taken if unacceptable content is posted. With this in mind, a social media policy is a vital component in tackling any First Amendment accusations that arise from the deletion of foul and threatening comments or your channels.
Don’t do this: Wait for a very public and embarrassing PR disaster to occur before creating a comprehensive social media policy that governs acceptable use.
Do this: Treat your social media policy as the crucial document that it is. Understand that it helps protect your organization and therefore deserves a lot of time and attention. Crafting and regularly reviewing your policy should be a priority.
Great resource: The Government Social Media Policy Guide and Template
Not Monitoring and Archiving Social Media Accounts
The real-time nature of social media creates challenges when it comes to monitoring and recordkeeping. Social media managers should be moderating accounts and ensuring that inappropriate comments aren’t being posted, but how do you do that when anyone can post anything thing at any time of the day? Similarly, organizations should be archiving all social media content (including all deleted comments and edited posts) to comply with Open Records laws, but how do you do that when new records are being created every second?
Don’t do this: Wait for a PR disaster or massive FOIA/Open Records request before you start looking at ways to effectively monitor and archive social media content.
Do this: Put an automated solution in place that automatically monitors and archive social media accounts in real-time.
Pagefreezer assists government organizations in the monitoring and archiving of social media content. To learn more, simply request a demo from one of our solution advisors.