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Facebook best practices for local officials

Facebook has become almost a "must have" tool for local governments and local officials. But there's more to leveraging the reach and use of this social media tool than just signing up for an account. It is important to understand the types of Facebook accounts and how they are best used.

Facebook offers two basic types of accounts: profiles and pages. Anyone who registers for a Facebook account gets a "profile" page. Profiles are a way for individuals to connect personally with friends and family.

While local officials must first have a profile account, they should also create a "pages" account. According to Facebook's Dan Seymour, pages are designed specifically for public officials and public organizations. Individuals can create multiple pages, and pages can have multiple administrators. Pages, unlike profiles, give administrators insights (or analytics) into who is visiting and liking the page; when fans (people who have "liked" the page) are online; and how they engage with the page's content.

Profiles are considered two-way communication. The profile owner sees updates from friends in his newsfeed, and friends see what the profile owner is posting on his newsfeed.

Pages are one-way communication. Fans will see what the page administrator posts on their newsfeed, but their posts will not appear on the page's newsfeed.

Seymour encourages local officials to host Q&A sessions on Facebook. For a designated time period (i.e., 20 minutes), the official replies to questions posted on the page. To generate interest, Seymour suggests promoting the event well in advance using multiple communication tools (i.e., Twitter, news releases, flyers, email signatures, etc.) In addition, he advises announcing the Q&A event by posting it as a status update in Facebook. City of Woodruff's weekly Facebook Q&A session)

During the event, post a picture of the person hosting the session along with a message such as "John Doe, city manager, will be here for the next 20 minutes answering your questions about "" 

Seymour shares what works well for local official and city Facebook pages.

Visuals

  • Interesting behind-the-scenes photos (1200x630) and videos
  • Personal video messages giving policy updates
  • Graphics without lots of text

Authenticity

  • Share personal stories
  • Explain policies
  • Post information as if you are having a conversation with another person. If you can't post in first person (I, we, me) at least be conversational.
  • Don't post press releases verbatim

Social interaction

  • Reply to comments
  • Host a Facebook Q&A session
  • Tag other pages
  • Use hashtags to connect with others
  • Be timely

Additional best practices

  • Share public service announcements (e.g. Fire Safety Month, Clean Water Week)
  • Highlight local events and meetings
  • Ask for feedback
  • Show off your town
  • Post two to three short posts daily rather than one long post