As the year comes to a close, it’s helpful to reflect on how government social media has changed and what to expect in 2016.
Delivering a State of the City (or County) address to the public is an annual expectation of elected leadership. It’s their time to talk about major successes and opportunities for their community over the past year. As we look to the end of 2015, what better time to explore the current state of government social media and how it continues to evolve?
It is exciting to see that social networks are beginning to recognize government as both a big player in the game and valuable to their future. Facebook has an internal government team headed by Government Outreach Manager Katie Harbath. Twitter has a large politics team, and LinkedIn is ramping up government efforts as well. In addition, Nextdoor, the private social network for neighborhoods, has invested in a major product dedicated to helping governments interact with their communities called Nextdoor for Public Agencies.
As social media is now mainstream for most public-sector entities, it’s interesting to note what roles are involved in managing the platforms on the agency’s behalf. In 2015, it is still not the norm to have full-time staff members with titles such as “social media manager” or “social media coordinator,” although we’re seeing it happen more often than in previous years. What we do see are roles like “public information officer” or program managers encompassing more and more social media responsibilities.
While governments continue to struggle with the sheer number of social platforms and trying to determine where best to spend time and energy, many entities are on board for experimentation. Snapchat is now being embraced by various agencies like Las Vegas, the Utah Division of Emergency Management and the White House. And several agencies are now experimenting with live-streaming apps such as Meerkat, Periscope and Facebook Mentions.
Citizens now not only assume that government will be on social platforms, but also expect quick response times. The average person now looks to social media as a satisfactory outlet for complaining or requesting customer service. Agencies are struggling with how to handle social media inquiries during nonbusiness hours.
In 2015, law enforcement in particular has been plagued with negative perception challenges, offline and online. There has never been a more valuable time to understand the nuances of embracing tone and managing citizen satisfaction on social media. New live-streaming apps also have caused challenges for public safety entities. On the one hand, they allow officers to share real-time updates. On the flip side, these platforms have many implications for the safety of officers and the public during real-time, unfolding events where the apps could inform fugitives of law enforcement’s next move.
As we look to 2016, it’s becoming more acceptable to not only spend ad dollars on social media campaigns, but also to hire staff members specifically for the purpose of managing social media profiles. Public agencies are digging deeper into analytics to ensure best practices, prove value to agency leadership and determine whether to continue on current platforms or redirect efforts to new ones.
Over the next year, a couple of government-related social media associations are slated to launch. This is an exciting step toward encouraging a strong learning network for public-sector social media managers.