Whenever I ask a local government official if they use social media channels to communicate with their constituents, I usually get a scrunched up face, “you have two heads”, “why would I need to do that”, type of reaction. A fair reaction I suppose. Certainly, many don’t really think about social media as a tool that they should be using – none the less understand how to use it this way well.
Then I ask a few questions:
- Did you know that 74% of all internet users are using social networking in one way or another? AND 71% of online adults are using Facebook!
- Did you know that research shows that Facebook users are much more politically engaged than most people?
- And did you know, in 2014, for the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use Facebook? This represents 31% of all seniors.
I love the use of stats like these – they usually get people’s attention because they start to understand that an audience is available to them through these channels. The next question they usually ask is “Great. But I don’t have time for that. What’s in it for me?” Again, fair question.
A sense of community is something most governments and residents can agree is a good thing – but not something always easy to achieve. Social media can help to foster a sense of strong community when a government shows that it’s engaged with its residents and communicating with them. And a government that is open and transparent with its residents is able to develop a deeper trust and positivity.
When there’s concern or discontent about local issues, those conversations will happen on social media whether the government officials are there or not. So it makes sense for governments to have a voice, to alleviate concerns, set the record straight when facts are distorted (preferably not in an overly defensive manner!), converse with residents who have questions, and even to apologize when necessary.
And of course when things are going well in the community, relations with local government can be improved simply by the government being seen to celebrate good news and success stories that others are sharing on social.
Convinced, right? Maybe, maybe not. Want to know how to do this well?
On Tuesday, June 23rd, I will host a free webinar sharing more insights on the use of social media – specifically for local government officials.