Improved Private Messaging on Facebook, Twitter Helps Government to Connect

When public-sector agencies immediately respond to constituents on social media, it has the power to transform public perception.

by / October 14, 2015
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Have you ever complained about a major brand on social media, only to have the brand’s social media account immediately respond to address your concerns? It’s a great experience that almost always reverses my negative feelings. It’s the kind of experience that I believe government is ripe to provide to its constituents, and can transform public perception. The challenge, of course, is having the time and tools to keep up.

The good news is that major social networks are recognizing the important role they play in improving customer service, most notably when it comes to using private messaging features to address an individual's specific questions and concerns.

Here’s a quick look at some improvements that Facebook and Twitter have made to private messaging that can meaningfully impact how government serves its citizens across social media.

Twitter’s Open, Expanded Private Messaging

What’s new
Twitter direct messages are no longer constrained to 140 characters. And by changing a setting in your profile, you can now allow anyone to private message you -- even if you aren’t following them.

Why this matters
The removal of the 140-character limit is a big relief because you no longer have to send multiple small messages just to explain something. The bigger news, however, is the ability to allow anyone to send a private message to your Twitter account. After all, your agency probably doesn’t want to proactively follow each and every citizen just in case the citizen needs to private message you some day. By turning on this setting, you're immediately lowering a barrier and offering another avenue through which citizens can contact your agency and receive great one-on-one customer service.

How to use it
Check out Twitter’s help page on direct messages, navigate to the "Direct Messages" section and check the box that allows you to receive direct messages from anyone.


Image via Twitter, click to visit settings in your own Twitter account

Facebook’s Response Rate Metric

What’s new
Facebook now displays a badge on your profile if you are very responsive to your private messages, and offers metrics to page owners about their response rate and average response time. To earn this badge, your page must achieve a response rate of 90 percent and median response time of five minutes over the last seven days.

Facebook+responsiveness+rate

Why this matters
By displaying a responsiveness badge, Facebook is trying to draw further attention to organizations that are already doing a great job with responding to messages. The idea is that people will be more encouraged to send a private message to address an issue, and hopefully much less likely to air their dirty laundry on your public Facebook page.

How to use it

Navigate over to your Page Insights within Facebook. Facebook has been experimenting with this feature for a while, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything -- especially if you have low message activity.

Facebook's Private Replies to Comments

What’s new
Facebook will soon allow you to respond to public comments with a private message.

Why this matters
Most of the conversation on your Facebook page is out in the public. However, your constituents may have individual questions or concerns that should be addressed privately -- and this feature will make it very easy to do just that. It might also encourage your audience to directly message you in the future, rather than posting a personal question on your public timeline.

How to use it

Once the feature is available, you can simply click the message action next to a comment you want to reply to privately.


Image via Facebook

Is your agency using private messaging to better serve your citizens? What are you hoping the social networks will change to make it even easier to provide great customer service?

Anil Chawla
Anil Chawla is the founder and CEO of ArchiveSocial, a civic tech company that specializes in risk mitigation and open records management of government social media. The parent company of Government Technology is an investor in ArchiveSocial through e.Republic Ventures.
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