How to Get Social for Government

Social media for government businesses has finally reached maturity. Having presence in online networks is no longer a question of choice, but a necessity for governmental institutions that want to influence political agendas, inspire action, raise funds, and develop projects.

According to a recent study conducted by PewInternet, 82% of internet users (representing 61% of American adults), are turning to the internet for government information:

“Nearly one-third (31%) of online adults use online platforms such as blogs, social networking sites, email, online video or text messaging to get government information.”


The study also revealed that social media is giving government institutions the possibility to reach out to currently under-served populations. Governmental institutions may not be early adopters, but the proliferation of social media in the daily lives of global communities has prompted its incorporation in promotion strategies.



How is the Government Using Social Media to Reach Out to the Public?

Here are a few examples that illustrate the ways in which government institutions have embraced social media to reach out & meet program missions:

  • Canada integrates social media in government operations. A great example is Glen Murray, the Minister of Research, who collaborated with the public to craft an official policy paper on the government’s approach to social innovation. Furthermore, most Canadian government officials have a presence on social media, as it helps them better engage with constituents.
  • America uses social media, particularly Twitter, to speak directly to citizens. Republicans are using social networks to connect with constituents through initiatives like Youcut. Social networks have also helped government officials push initiatives and program missions. For example, President Obama is constantly answering questions via Twitter and has successfully promoted the Affordable Care Act by reaching out to Facebook Fans. Entities such as the Open Government Initiative @OpenGov, or the Digital Gov @digitalgov, have also set-up official accounts to offer public support.
  • County Government engages with the young generations via Facebook & Forums. By setting up social media accounts, government businesses have made it possible for citizens to comment on new laws and participate in community projects.

Other examples of social media use by government institutions:

Social Media for governmetn

  • Police departments use social media channels to prevent crime and offer time-sensitive information.
  • Municipalities communicate safety information and send emergency alerts (e.g. weather updates) via social networks. They are also raising awareness on issues that affect the community through public service announcements (via YouTube videos, Twitter statuses, and Facebook images).
  • Government institutions are now filling job openings by posting them on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
  • Social media is also used by Recreation Departments or Government businesses to promote upcoming activities, classes, or courses.


Social Media Trends for Government Institutions

More and more government institutions are catching up and experimenting with social media. Anticipating future trends and allocating the right resources to properly develop an integrated communications approach is essential for government institutions.

Below are the major social media trends that governments should be aware of:


  •  Targeting & Custom Visibility for Organic Content

Targeting options for social networks have made it possible for governments to reach niche audiences and markets. Facebook allows pages to use geo-targeting, translated posts & A/B testing, while Twitter enables the use of specific parameters for country targeting. Custom visibility can also be controlled with third-party software such as SproutSocial or HootSuite.


  •  Video Content is the Future of Government Social Media

Animated content (e.g. gifs, videos) will always outperform static images. According to a Cisco report, video will account for 69% of internet traffic by 2017. Posts without video content will be lost in the clutter. This is why government institutions have to create and promote amazing videos.

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  • Pay-to-Play is Inevitable

Sadly, government communicators will have to increase their social media advertising budgets if they want to expand page reach. That’s because less than 2.3% of pages appear in social media news-feeds. Businesses that want to be heard on social media are better off paying to promote content than struggling with organic reach.


  • Humanizing Government

Institutions that can overcome the discrepancy between the button-up culture of government and the openness of social media will reap huge benefits. Many government officials are already using S.M. to develop engaging content, set goals, and spark discussions (more info).


  •  Citizen Engagement to Encourage a Positive View of Government

The greatest opportunity of social media for government institutions is emotional. According to Mr. Chopra, the adviser to the president, the role of the government is that of “convener”. Businesses that promote close online engagement have made it possible for citizens to understand the complexity of government problems, obtain support for program missions, and make better decisions.

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