GovGirl: Specific Messaging Is Key to Relevant Social Media

Social media isn’t valuable to an audience if communications are too broad. Governments should work to understand what different kinds of information constituents might want and target their messaging accordingly.

by / July/August 2019

I recently received a quarterly email newsletter from my city government. It was visually appealing, well-written, and included over a dozen announcements about their accomplishments, services offered, and even more links to additional news and announcements. 

What’s the problem? I clicked the print button and this email newsletter was the equivalent of six printed pages. Don’t get me wrong, the problem isn’t necessarily the length. The issue is that it’s six pages of information targeted to everyone, from people who are interested in local parks and sustainability to job seekers and business owners to you name it.

You can’t expect citizens to read a newsletter, watch a video or follow you on social media when they only expect to see something relevant to them a fraction of the time. They move on to something that speaks to them about what they care about. 

You’re not relevant to your public when you’re not targeting their interests 99 percent of the time. 

You Can’t Be Everthing to Everyone

Every week I listen to my favorite podcast, hosted by online marketer Amy Porterfield. The reason I seek her out consistently is because I know that whatever topic she’s teaching, it will be relevant to me most of the time. 

To be successful in private business, there is a long-held maxim that you can’t be everything to everyone. You need to establish your ideal customer, and gear your communications and strategies toward that one type of consumer. 

However, city and state governments serve everyone. If our job is to share information with everyone in our communities, how can we ensure it is remotely of interest to them so they don’t turn a deaf ear?

Running Services Like Mini-Brands

One answer might be setting up a communication strategy for each department or service like it’s a mini-brand that operates under a brand family (your government agency as a whole). As a business owner, I might want to interface with my local government on matters concerning commercial districts and sales taxes. For someone like me, a business-focused email newsletter and related Facebook page would be highly relevant. 

Topic-specific email lists are nothing new for government, but it’s not good enough to place all your citizens in a catch-all list and only show them your interest-specific options as a last resort when they click the “unsubscribe” button. 

Perhaps it’s time to relax my long-standing advice to government with regard to centralized social media profiles. Many times, when departments, divisions or agencies want to run their own pages, we urge them to contribute instead to the primary agency profiles. We cite supporting reasons like resources needed to maintain profiles and the small audiences that those profiles inevitably earn. 

However, a mere 450-person Facebook audience for a highly specialized topic is not a waste of time and effort if those people are highly engaged with their government on a topic that matters to them. 

Kristy Dalton Contributing Writer

Kristy Dalton is known as "GovGirl" in the government technology industry. She has been called on as an industry influencer and has a passion for social media, technology and digital strategy. Kristy is the founder & CEO of Government Social Media.

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