Social media is still one of the hottest topics on the Internet. Organizations big and small are leveraging the power of these popular social networks to connect with their customers and constituents, fostering communication and involvement.
There is a huge opportunity for municipal governments in social media, and making use of these online networks is definitely something we recommend. However, there are some potential pitfalls associated with interacting with your constituents in such a direct manner. Here, we’ve outlined five tips that will help you make the most of your social networking and avoid the common mistakes.
1. You’ll Need A Plan.
Jumping into the realm of social media without a comprehensive policy or strategy to guide your interactions is asking for trouble. Decide up front what is permissible and what is not. Determine how you want to be seen by the public, and create guidelines that support this aim. That way, if you’re ever unsure about what to do, you’ll have a map to get you back on the right track.
Also, decide which social network(s) to get involved in! Not every network is worthwhile for every organization. Figure out where the majority of your target audience is located, and go after them there. Depending on your resources, you may be able to participate in several networks, or you might just focus on one. Keep in mind that a strong presence on one network is much better than a weak presence on five networks. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
2. Define Your Voice.
When organizations go social, sometimes there are multiple people involved in the management of social media profiles. Everyone writes a little differently, and in cases like these it can be very easy for your organization to sound a little “fractured”. One person may write in a very professional manner, whereas another may be very casual and friendly. Neither of these is bad, but it can get confusing when updates shift back and forth. Pick a “personality” for your organization, and try your best to stick to it!
3. Have A Conversation.
… the ability to connect and interact with your constituents is the real power of social media.
Whatever voice you choose, remember that the ability to connect and interact with your constituents is the real power of social media. While you can “broadcast” now and then, try not to do it exclusively. Talk to your constituents, ask questions and get them involved!
4. Gain Their Trust.
People are very savvy on social networks, and can smell a rat a mile away. Profiles that aren’t trustworthy are largely ignored. On the other hand, organizations that consistently make an effort to provide honest, accurate, and quality information and interaction are rewarded. Trust is a very valuable currency online, so accrue as much as you can!
5. Who’s In Charge?
Having a social media policy in place will clear up many uncertainties in the social realm. However, there are bound to be more difficult questions now and again. It’s important to define who gets the final say. This person needs to be able to pass the final judgment on how situations are handled, to keep interactions professional and in line with the organization’s goals when things get tricky.
One Last Thing…
Don’t be afraid to give it a try! Social networking is still fairly new, and can seem daunting if you’re not already involved in it. Don’t worry too much! Nobody’s perfect, but if you try your best and take responsibility for any mistakes, your efforts will be noticed. Don’t miss out on this exciting way of getting your constituents involved in their government.
Are you already using social media in your organization? Consider leaving a comment to share your experiences. If you’re considering developing a social media presence, what questions do you have? Let us know below!