At this year’s Citizen Engagement Seminar, tying engagement strategies – whether they be technology buys, IT modernization migrations, or social media efforts – to a customer-focused goal emerged as a key theme. Creating a primary, umbrella objective is imperative to developing the right ways for employees to communicate with constituents. To drive this point further, the audience at the event was challenged to define the end goal of their particular project or agency-mission. These objectives could be anything from ensuring school children get healthy meals, to getting more visitors at a park, to enrolling veterans in healthcare services. By adopting a citizen-first focus, agency communicators get a new perspective on how to successfully achieve their goals.
A panel of government social media managers, including Danielle Brigida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anne Cissel, Fairfax County Parks Authority, and Timothy Martin, City of Roanoke, clearly outlined the positive impacts of implementing a citizen-first focus in their digital communication efforts. The panel discussed the various ways social media can help to better serve citizens, drive change, and turn real results. The highlights of these conversations are listed below:
Fast and convenient sharing
Social media is changing the role of traditional media in modern society. Martin shared a recent story that perfectly demonstrated this idea – during a recent natural disaster in the City of Roanoke, Martin was first on the scene and, because of his position in the city government, was able to document the disaster at a closer proximity than any news crew. This close-action video quickly became the go-to resource for media outlets and residents trying to understand the severity of the situation.
The panel agreed that video is the driving force for the next round of innovations in social media. And with integrations like Periscope into Twitter and the roll-out of Facebook Live, video is quickly becoming an integral part of the social experience.
While all of the panelists spoke highly of how social channels help to disseminate information traditionally provided by the news media, the group dedicated more time discussing the impact social media has had beyond the communications department.
For example, a Fairfax City biker recently tweeted at one of the accounts Cissel manages to inform her of a fallen tree on a public path; open sharing and conversations facilitate quick action. Cissel was able to dispatch maintenance teams more quickly and efficiently, and in turn, better respond and react to citizen needs. Social media encourages the crowdsourcing of information, further empowering citizens to contribute and engage with local government and turn real results.
Measuring communication relevance
It’s crucial to be able to provide relevant metrics to justify the value of social media to an organization. While vanity metrics – likes, impressions, and follows – are easy to track, they don’t always provide the most accurate engagement information. Measuring post performance through deeper metrics, such as click-through rate, time on site, number of shares, and comment monitoring, is a far better indicator of the level of engagement. Knowing which posts perform well with a target audience gives communicators a sense of what’s important and valuable to constituents. Future messages should be tailored based on engagement rates from previous posts to assure the content citizens want to see and engage with is being published and disseminated. Social media metrics can be viewed as a secondary confirmation that the information an agency’s digital communications team delivers is what their audience is interested in receiving.
Social media offers government organizations new ways to listen to and interact with citizens on a daily, even hourly, basis. Through these new channels it’s much easier for government to put citizens first and have more meaningful online interactions. Social media increases the efficiency of government communication and instills confidence in citizens around their local government organizations with the quick response times that social media channels demand.
For more information on how social media is changing the ways citizens engage with government, watch the recordings of the Citizen Engagement Seminar on demand.