Build Citizen Engagement through Social Media

Build Citizen Engagement Through Social Media
Posted on 03/19/2018
CivicLive Blog - Build Citizen Engagement Through Social Media

Social media is known for being fun but it’s also a means of communication that enables people to connect from around the world. For a local government, social media is a great way to connect with citizens, business owners and visitors on a more personal and convenient level, in real-time.

Here are a few ways you can begin to build engagement and two-way communication through your social media accounts:

1. Use a Variety of Social Media Channels

Begin by broadening the scope of your social media accounts. Facebook and Twitter are the bread and butter of social media for governments, as arguably the two most popular social sites around, it makes sense to begin your foray into social media with them. But, it’s 2018, social media has moved beyond Facebook and Twitter, and as a local government you should be looking to expand your social media repertoire, to include newer sites like Instagram and Snapchat, which tend to skew younger when it comes to audience but offer the opportunity to connect with your constituents on a different, and more personal level. Instagram is a great way to highlight your Parks and Recreation team, and the great places your city or town has to offer. And SnapChat can help with quick updates and brief notifications.

2. Emergency Alerts & Breaking News

Social media allows you to connect with a lot of people at once, it’s one way to ensure you can disseminate an important message and see that it reaches a wide-range of people. Every local government should have a mass notification system in place as well as a detailed plan for what to do in case of emergency, and part of that plan should be using social media. You can use your social accounts to provide real-time updates, distribute the most important information, and spread emergency contact details while also keeping your eye on the information being shared by others. Social media gives you the ability to maintain control over your message while also enabling you to target a wide-ranging and varied group of people at once.

3. Highlight Upcoming Events

Is it back to school time? Has early registration for recreational classes opened up? Use your social media accounts to highlight upcoming events in your town. You can easily share information on summer programs, new businesses, and city-wide celebrations with a quick post. Of course when you share this kind of information, always be sure to provide a quick link that will direct interested parties to the correct page for further information and to sign-up.

4. Q&A's & Town Halls

There will always be people who will use social media to bring attention to issues/problems they may come up against, or even to raise concerns about local policies; some people will use social media to ask questions, (as it’s often faster to send a tweet than it is to lodge a complaint through a government website). Use social media to answer questions and to acknowledge concerns while also guiding residents to the correct information they need. Social media accounts are constantly being updated and posts can receive a lot of comments so it’s a good idea to create a hashtag followers can use to guarantee their questions and concerns don’t get lost, for example, #CityNameQ&A. On the flip side, you can also use your social media accounts to make accessing your town halls easier by streaming them over your accounts, and again use a town hall-specific hashtag to gather questions and comments that people have. This is a great way to encourage participation because you’re bringing the town hall to the people, rather than asking them to get to it.

5. Keep Up with Pop Culture

This one may seem a bit strange but part of keeping up with your citizens is knowing what they’re talking about—that includes what they’re watching, listening to and laughing about. Sharing funny or heart warming stories, or even a good meme once in awhile is a great way to demonstrate to your citizens that their local government is human too. References to pop culture can also be a great attention-getter and will often put a smile on followers’ faces.

Stay the Course

Social media can be a beast, to really support your accounts and your citizens you need to have a dedicated person or group of people keeping your social accounts active, up-to-date and inspired. You also have to have a plan in place for each of your accounts. Once you’ve laid the ground work for your social media, you can begin to focus on connecting with and engaging your citizens to nurture better communication and set your government up as the go-to source for news and information.

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