How to support a maintainable government social media program.
Give me 20 minutes and I can make acceptable social media profiles on most of the major networks.
However, most of us know that creating social profiles is only a small part of the effort needed to make social media work for your agency. To support a maintainable social media program, government leaders must encourage a system that includes at least three essential concepts: ownership, empowerment and process.
Getting as specific as possible with social media ownership is vital. City management might agree that the communications division, in coordination with IT, has authority over social media. But what exactly does that mean?
The key is to identify exactly who is responsible for what — right down to the job titles. Perhaps the Web manager is responsible for integrating social APIs with the agency website, graphic designers are responsible for setting up profiles, the public information officer is in charge of writing content, and the neighborhood services team moderates and responds to citizen questions. Codify this in your internal social media policy and you are on your way toward creating a sustainable program.
I recently worked with an agency to strengthen the involvement of its fire department staff in the official social media presence. The department had already assigned ownership to a staff member on the team, but had not fully empowered her to manage social media.
To empower a social media coordinator or team means to afford them flexibility to handle the program by truly letting it become part of their job duties. Allow them to schedule time to work on social media content and give it priority status. Encourage them to explore new ways to interact with the public and trust them to follow up with citizens on the agency’s behalf.
Empowerment is a key ingredient of a well functioning social media team, yet it’s often overlooked.
There is nothing more discouraging than a government profile on social media that’s collecting more dust than citizen engagement because a process was never established to keep it running.
Now that the team has been named and given the latitude it needs to manage social media regularly, a good process needs to be planned. This system will provide the constant energy the program requires to keep it running smoothly.
One way to centralize social media content planning is to maintain a content calendar, which is a shared calendar that highlights material the agency wants to promote on social media. Staff should be able to easily add major programs, events and meetings to the calendar. Social content is then developed based on this tool.
Remember when I discussed empowering your staff members assigned to social? Part of the process connected to that is that they consistently schedule a block of time on their calendars (such as one hour every Friday) to work on preparing social content. They can use the content calendar to craft posts that they will schedule to send at peak times the following week. This time is important — keep it as a priority and avoid letting other issues bump this time off the schedule.
Got this process down? Make sure other staff members are aware by posting the procedures in a place they can easily reference, such as an employee intranet. Bonus points if your intranet includes links to the content calendar.
While it takes only a few minutes to create social media profiles, a sustainable social presence involves regularly focusing on the bigger picture of establishing ownership, empowering staff and identifying processes.