Smaller agencies may only have a few social media profiles to manage, but when dealing with a larger city, county or state agency, odds are that there will be a massive number of social media accounts to keep track of. How do you effectively coordinate social media across your agency?
I’m not getting into scheduling updates or using other tools and technologies here. I want to focus on how to manage your social media program. The scale can be massive. For instance, just one Utah agency, the Transportation Department, maintains approximately 30 separate social accounts. Many agencies are responsible for hundreds of social media profiles.
We recently focused our biweekly Twitter chat (#GSMCHAT) on this topic, and here’s a compilation of the best advice from your peers.
Centralized vs. Decentralized: Pros and Cons
One major structural decision in forming your agency’s social media program is whether it will be centralized or decentralized. Under the centralized model, all social posts go through a particular department, such as the communications or administration office.
Although this method ensures the most consistent messages and branding, it has its challenges.
Drawbacks to a centralized social media program are usually that less information is ultimately published, and there is an inherent authenticity problem. Communicators writing about the streets program who aren’t the on-the-ground experts in that particular area can’t discuss the nuances of that aspect of the agency. Police officers tweeting from the street is more meaningful and authentic than public affairs interns sharing canned messages from behind a desk.
Additionally, it can involve a considerable amount of time for communicators to hunt down specific answers to inquiries received via social media. The right expert must be located and consulted. My favorite recommendation to managing an agency’s social media program is to integrate the approach by centralizing branding and high-level strategy, while also empowering departments to manage their own content. The fact is that your program leads are the content experts, and the communication or public information office can be leaned on for branding, setup, support, training and review. This role or division would also handle quality control, which can be difficult with a true decentralized approach.
The hybrid approach means that there may still be numerous social media profiles involved. It should be the responsibility of the office overseeing the social program to look at each account and explore whether it’s being used in the best way. Often, it is difficult to maintain quality control in a decentralized system, so this must be a responsibility of the office in charge.
Train Early and Often
Regardless of whether a decentralized, centralized or hybrid approach is used, social media training is essential. To avoid the firehose effect, consider using a training model that breaks it down in phases. All content authors start off with different comfort levels in terms of knowledge and familiarity with social media nuances. There should be an initial training, followed by regular check-ins. Reviewing department social media metrics and statistics can be helpful and provide context for any change in strategy.
Remember that gaining social media buy-in from management and leadership is essential to successfully managing this approach. It can be difficult to tell a colleague that they are not following best practices or that their language on social platforms is not consistent. Clear policies combined with management support are important parts of your toolkit in the oversight of your agency’s social media program.