Six steps to good social media

By GovTechReview Staff
Thursday, 25 April, 2013

It’s one thing to tell a local government organisation that it should get proactive with social media – but another thing entirely to make it happen, and do it effectively.

That’s where Mariah Gillespie (@mariah_onfiah), social media strategist with JXT Consulting (@JXTConsulting), comes in. Gillespie offered conference attendees these six steps to building a social-media strategy:

  1. Identify your objectives. Consider what you want to achieve with your strategy, and don’t just do it because other councils are doing it. Valid reasons, Gillespie suggests, include building brand awareness, attracting candidates, raising awareness of the council, boosting traffic through search engine optimisation (SEO), driving traffic to your Web site, engaging with your target audience, to improve customer service, and more.
  2. Design and develop your profiles. Make sure your profiles are consistent with, and heavily feature, your corporate branding. Use SEO techniques to increase the ease with which citizens can find your social-media presence. Consider developing Facebook applications to stand out by offering features such as current job listings or news streamed to your Web site – but remember not to repeat yourself. “Automation is essential across social media platforms, so make sure your app pulls data from your Web site automatically,” Gillespie advises. “You should never have to post content more than once; if you post a job or news article on the Web site, it should automatically go through to your profile.”
  3. Develop a social media policy. Work with management and legal representatives to determine a fair and usable policy for controlling social media. Consider why employees need to be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like; which employees have the right to tweet, post, comment or share as a council representative; reinforce the importance of respecting information confidentiality; and so on. “If you think blocking social media at the office is the answer, think again,” Gillespie says. “A majority of Australian mobile users are on Internet capable phones, so your employees will get their social-media fix at work whether you like it or not. That’s why it’s important to have a social media policy: having one drawn up is the safest way to ensure that managers and all employees are protected.”
  4. Staff training and internal launch. Although it may seem like it, not all staff are natural social-media users. Ensure staff learn the ins and outs of social-media platforms as well as knowing what is appropriate and inappropriate to post, and why the council is adopting a social- media policy in the first place. For the internal launch, get staff to like the council page and follow it on Twitter and LinkedIn; this will help build critical mass for the big build-up.
  5. Social-media marketing. With staff onboard, start promoting your social-media sites to customers, clients, partners, and others. Add social-media badges to your Web site, printed stationery, and anywhere else you can think of. Encourage others to follow you, and follow similar or related organisations that may have extensive networks of their own.
  6. External launch. Assuming you’ve worked productively through these steps, you’re ready to take your social-media strategy to the public.

Expect candid feedback; expect to revisit your strategy on a regular basis; and, above all, remember why you’re there.

“Strategy is everything,” Gillespie says.

“Social media is not something you can jump into without rhyme nor reason; having a plan of attack is imperative. You rarely get second chances in social media, so if and when you decide to use it, make sure you’re using it correctly.” – David Braue

This story originally ran in the April/May 2012 issue of GTR.

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