Social media in government: the problem with social media ‘ownership’
In the past six months, my social media in government training has ramped up and I’ve met so many wonderful people who, at the beginning of the training felt confused, deflated and even scared of social media and then walk out feeling confident, empowered and pumped about using it (and this is why I love training). With every training I ask attendees their challenges with using social media in government (and boy, are there a few!) , but there’s one challenge that recurs:
“We don’t have our own social media, so we have to give all our content to another team (like Communications) and it’s a challenge to get our content through sometimes or respond on social media in a timely manner.”
This is a common challenge not only in Government but also across private organisations.
You have content on social media but don’t have access to publish it on your government department’s pages.
The need for government departments to have a social media presence isn’t a contentious issue anymore – it’s a no-brainer. So, now, there are teams within government who have stories to share on social and have to pass this through a third-party to have it published. Some of the effects this has on department social media includes:
- Lack of a variety of content representing the whole department
- Incorrect content is published
- Questions are not being responded to in a timely manner OR are being answered incorrectly
Ultimately, the department’s social media presence suffers, but more than that there is growing tension between the team that manages social and those teams that don’t. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin as being the Social Media Manager for NSW Justice (approving content) and ‘pitching’ content to the social team at 2Day FM.
The thing is, though, the more initiative and collaboration there is with managing social media, the easier it is for your Facebook page (for example) to have compelling content, foster engagement and engage your community.
The underlying cause and cure is understanding. The cause of low engagement and social media return-on-investment is misunderstanding. Misunderstanding around why some content is approved and other content is not. Misunderstanding on the role social media plays in the department. Misunderstanding between teams.
Interestingly, the antidote to this is understanding – a simple concept that is often overlooked and…misunderstood.
To boost your department’s social media, you must create understanding between teams by investing in these three things:
- Communication: open, flexible and approachable lines of communication between teams, managers, directors and colleagues on social media content ideas, how the department’s social media pages are progressing and what’s working and what isn’t.
- Education: there are two types of education here: 1) the team managing social media educates teams about the content they need, why they need it and what works best 2) the teams pitching content must educate the social team on why their content (e.g. a e-recycling post) matters, who’s it for and how they can help moderate the questions/comments on this post.
- Transparency between teams around who is responsible for content, who is the subject-matter expert to answer questions/comments and what is the governance around approvals and community management.
At the intersection of these three core areas of understanding you get:
You gain perspective, you learn more about the situation (or person) and you build trust.
Understanding is a crucial leadership skill that captains enforce with their crew to help them succeed on their journey. I liken this to social media in government where the department’s social media presence is the ship that Communications is steering but it needs the help of the crew (other teams) to reach its destination successfully.
Social media in government isn’t easy, and there is no one-way to manage it on behalf of the department. Whether you’re in Communications (or social team) or pitch content to them, the key to getting the most out of this relationship for the benefit of your department’s social media is understanding, because without it, your ship will sink.