In January, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced that Facebook had modify its terms and conditions for state agencies. This means that Colorado’s state agencies can now interact with the public through Facebook, and many cities and municipalities are following suit.
But, now that you can use Facebook, how will you use Facebook? Social media is a great way for communities to connect with residents and potential visitors. It makes government more accessible (especially to the tech-savvy younger generation), provides an additional two-way communications channel, and creates a forum for generating a buzz about events, local businesses, and the community-at-large. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1) Communicate local events and happenings. Use the Events tab to create a calendar of your local happenings and post regular status updates to remind your followers. Facebook is the perfect forum to build excitement leading up to an event.
2) Engage citizens by soliciting feedback on events and projects. Facebook is not designed to be a one-way communication tool. Communities that don’t allow people to post are not only missing out on this valuable feedback, but also on the opportunity to “create a buzz” about local happenings. The excitement generated about an event or project or even a community proposal will come mostly from others participating in the discussion.
3) Post videos of community to attract potential residents and visitors to the area. Yes, you can post videos to Facebook. It’s like having a free commercial! Creating a simple video of the attractions in your town can help lure new visitors to the area.
4) Post videos to engage residents by providing a behind-the-scenes look at city government.. Some communities are finding that posting videos of, for example, a day in the life of the mayor, not only promotes transparency but also makes the government more accessible, especially to the younger generation.
5) Promote your local businesses by posting sales, specials or other events. Support your local businesses by sharing details about their upcoming events. Some communities send out updates about restaurant specials and shop sales, for example.
6) Educate your constituents and residents on legislation or community programs. Facebook is a great forum for explaining complicated messages such as legislation or new community programs. It not only allows you to not only upload a large amount of content (see Notes tab), but users can ask questions online, which may feel less intimidating to them and provides the answer to all other followers, as well.
7) Track your media impressions. Facebook now offers an easy way to track media impressions for group pages. Called “Insights,” each update now lists the impressions and interactions underneath it. You can also click on “Show Insights” to view overall post views and interactions by followers.
8) Connect your Facebook account to Twitter to further get the word out on urgent updates. Twitter is a great forum to provide followers with instant updates about urgent occurrences, such as accidents or bad road conditions. Connect your Facebook account to Twitter and you will only need to make one update.
And a few “don’ts”…
You have probably heard that you should post regularly to your social media sites to keep your content fresh and keep visitors coming back. But, have you ever wondered what you should not do? Christopher Rosica and Educational Foundation, Inc. released a white paper entitled, “Connecting with Constituents: How Cities and Towns Can Use Social Media” in December 2009. Here are a few of their suggestions for what not to do with your Facebook page and other social media sites:
- Don’t allow your content to become outdated. As mentioned above, keeping your content current is the best way to ensure visitors will come back to your site.
- Don’t criticize detractors or get defensive. You want residents and visitors to be able to voice their opinion. Not only does it provide you valuable feedback, but it also shows that your site is an authentic. Additionally, engaging in a public debate will only reflect poorly on the community.
- Don’t jump into social media without a plan. You wouldn’t send a press release or newsletter out without identifying your target audience and key messaging. Remember that social media is just another communications channel. You need to have a clear idea of what and how you are communicating to your audience. Remember that everything posted on the Internet can come back to haunt you…even after it’s deleted. Be sure to identify who on staff will be posting and the types of messages that are appropriate. As with all communications, your social media communications should be strategic.