Social Media's Problem-Solving Power

Social media coordinators often aren't who government leaders turn to in times of need, but they can use their skills to help solve non-social problems.

by / October/November 2017

Social media can be used in sophisticated ways to support your agency’s mission and get real results. But are leadership and departments that have problems to solve taking advantage of it?

We must condition our staff to consider social media as a valuable resource that can help work toward solutions to government problems.

Most public-sector agencies aren’t in the mindset of turning to their “social media person” to see if there’s a potential social technique, campaign or platform that could help with their objectives. They see social media as the icing on the cake that the communications people take care of.

Let’s walk through a few scenarios where social media experts may be able to help.

I recently spoke with a group of government CIOs working through a big problem: how to attract and retain IT staff, especially millennials. All too often, job announcements for IT positions go unanswered.

While this issue isn’t directly related to social media, the social media coordinator at their agencies can probably help. They may recommend launching a social recruitment campaign, or they may follow in the footsteps of many agencies and help produce a video campaign highlighting what it’s like to work there. These days, you can’t rely on simply posting job announcements on your agency’s website.

Law enforcement can help solve crimes in the community by using social media to crowdsource surveillance footage. That’s what the Orem Police Department in Utah does with their #TattletaleTuesday posts on Facebook, which alert followers to footage of recent unsolved crimes and have resulted in a decent success rate in catching criminals. By approaching crime through a social lens, the department is engaging the community and improving public safety.

But what about the underlying problem of general distrust of government? Trust in government officials is at an all-time low globally, and it takes a toll on public entities that run citizen services. Take a look at the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual international survey that shows government officials are seen as some of the least credible people. This suggests that there is tremendous value in humanizing government.

Your social media coordinator can use techniques to relate to citizens on social media, helping to build trust. One popular technique for humanizing government is to show citizens what it’s like behind the scenes. People love getting an inside look at things they don’t see every day. Many agencies have also made a concerted effort to talk in a conversational way, show humor and be “real” on social media. These tactics have paid off in spades by increasing their following, reach and notoriety both online and offline.

While all departments may not be expected to look through a social media lens to find solutions for big challenges, they can benefit from turning to their social media coordinator to tap into their expertise. Unless your department is working on a very specific, internal-facing issue, there is likely something that can be done on social media to contribute to a solution. It might not be your only approach, but it’s a great tool in your toolbox. 

Kristy Dalton Contributing Writer

Kristy is known as “GovGirl” in the government technology industry. She is a former city government web manager who has a passion for social media, technology and the lighter side of government life. Kristy is the CEO of Government Social Media.