Getting Social with Resident Engagement

​What comes after "Follow Us on Facebook?"

Social media for organizations progressed from a novelty to a must-have in less than 20 years. Even so, the days of establishing social media channels for their own sake are over, and city officials need to ask what they hope to accomplish, as well as whether they are reaching their target audience appropriately. Reflecting on these issues can be valuable when creating accounts and when auditing existing social media efforts.

Time sensitivity and responsiveness
While cities can schedule regular posts with social media management platforms like Hootsuite, residents often appreciate receiving late-breaking information that can't be planned. Common updates for cities include traffic problems, disaster notifications, or parks and recreation schedule changes. Remember that social media communication goes both ways: cities can get out information and residents can talk to city officials. Have a plan for social media managers to give timely responses as appropriate.

Responding to negativity
Social media can bring out the worst in some people, and angry residents can relish the opportunity to air their grievances with local government. The way the city responds can easily become counterproductive if a situation is not handled thoughtfully and realistically. Have policies in place, and find ways to give answers without feeding negativity. Also, be sure to document any significantly confrontational exchanges, especially when deleting comments based on a social media policy. Learn more about official policies.

Social media users will sometimes fraudulently create content appearing as if it comes from an official city source. Some in the audience will accept whatever the false message is at face value. Cities should get verification for their accounts from the platform when possible and be on the alert for any rogue content that needs to be reported.