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Editorials

Social Media Best Practices for Grassroots Citizen Engagement

Social media helps local governments be more accessible to their constituents. Here are best practices to help get more from your social platforms.

Many local governments understand that social media can help make them more accessible to constituents. Social media can be used to enable transparency, spread the word about programs, or circulate alerts during events ranging from traffic delays to natural disasters.

People turn to social media for quick fixes to their problems. In recent years, platforms like Facebook and Twitter evolved from a place to voice opinions into a way to resolve problems. Sprout Social writes that social media is now the most popular avenue for customer care available today.

Wisely, companies invest a lot of customer service resources into community management via social media. What can governments, restricted by tighter budgets and more red tape, do to better use social media? Here are some best practices for governments on social media:


Get the Word Out

Above all else, social media is a valuable tool for communicating with a large number of people instantly. When you need to get the word out, few tools are more efficient.

Let’s say you’re repaving Main Street, a road that several thousand people use during rush hour. You put up signs in surrounding areas, but drivers will still be heading that way.

With social media, you can send out an alert to constituents who follow you on Facebook and Twitter informing them of potential delays. Many people will choose an alternate route, others will leave earlier or later than normal.

Social media is valuable for more than just traffic updates though. Running a special event or launching a new social program in your city? Spread the news on your social platforms, and see a wider reach than you would with flyering or direct mail alone.

Best Practices:

  • Make announcements on social media to keep people informed. Include regular updates on local events, services, traffic changes, etc.
  • Post regularly to update constituents and build your audience.
  • Offer incentives to encourage followers to repost and spread the word. Coordinate discounts at local businesses, etc.
  • Establish a social media policy and/or strategy


Crisis Communications

Circulating accurate information is notoriously difficult during a crisis — for example, when an evacuation notice goes out. Lives may hang in the balance, and the more tools you have available, the better. Social media lets people know what the local authorities have to say directly.

Plus, when there’s a false alarm, social media can help clear the air. This helps unclog 911 lines, so real emergencies can be addressed in a timely way.

Use your social media accounts as information platforms when needed. If you have a strong and engaged audience, they will help circulate your message.

Best Practices:

  • Include social media alerts in your municipal emergency planning
  • Circulate alerts from local police, fire, ambulance on city social media
  • Use social media to dispel rumors or correct false information as needed


Instant Contact

Social media allows people instant access to City Hall — that is, when local government is there to respond.

When your constituents have a question or concern, social media is valuable for getting them answered. Keeping an eye on your social platforms, along with tracking and organizing interactions with constituents, helps limit the amount of time people spend on the phone (or in line at City Hall). You could even digitize the application they need on the fly and resolve problems entirely online.

Specialty social networks like Nextdoor offer communications managers powerful insights into what’s going on behind the scenes in their neighborhoods. Engaging on Nextdoor can enable new kinds of interaction with constituents.

Use tools to keep important interactions on social organized — and build workflows to ensure they get resolved. SeamlessGov’s Government Relationship Manager platform is a valuable tool designed just for governments to help keep social media, phone calls, and other contacts organized and optimized.

Best Practices:

  • Make government more accessible with responsive City Hall accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Manage and document necessary interactions with constituents.
  • Get an understanding of how each platform operates. A simple handbook is good for giving employees a primer on best practices.
  • Use specialized community platforms like Nextdoor to scan for common complaints


Polling

Speaking of data, polling doesn’t have to require hours of labor and thousands of dollars. Social media gives local governments the tools they need to get insights direct from their constituents from a variety of platforms. Simply put together a poll and send it out to your followers.

Best Practices:

  • Ask social media followers for insights into local government
  • Keep building a local following to get more representative results

A Guide to Going Digital for Governments eBook
Learn more about best practices for citizen engagement in our Guide to Going Digital for Governments.

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