Social media seems so easy. Getting a social media presence going is as simple as setting up an account and starting to post or tweet. It’s tempting to hire someone to get started – and check off that ‘social media’ box in e-government initiatives.
But this approach results in isolated social media outposts that don’t deliver the broad benefits that public sector organisations hope to see from new channels.
Measuring your returns
Any technology initiative in government, including social media, has to pass a litmus test: does it deliver a value for the taxpayer’s investment? It needs to either cut costs or improve service to citizens. And when efforts are isolated, it’s difficult to identify or prove their effect.
For example, does your social media presence reduce inbound calls? Deliver insight into citizen opinions? Streamline or replace paper processes? Increase your reach to citizens?
Social media efforts are often isolated
In the private sector, marketing organisations have been the big adopters of social media. Corporations have been shifting marketing budgets from traditional channels to social media and other digital channels.
But even the corporate marketers are struggling. A recent CMO Survey by Duke University Fuqua School of Business indicates that while marketing organisations are increasing their spending on social media, these efforts are not well integrated into marketing communications.
On a scale of 1 to 7, the CMOs on average rate themselves a 3.4 in terms of integration of social media in marketing strategy. More surprising, this number has remained steady over the past couple of years, while the spending on social media has increased.
The importance of integration
In her recent paper “Integrating Social Media in Government Communications,” government communication analyst and blogger Liz Azyan suggests that the real, measurable benefits of social media come when you integrate it in broader campaigns. The paper gathers examples of government agencies using creative, cross-channel campaigns to improve service to citizens, including:
- Proactively communicating with citizens over Twitter and Facebook about traffic, weather, and emergency issues
- Using text messages or Tweets to alert people to updates available on a website
- Collaborating with citizens in social media channels to improve public safety and identify rioters
- Supporting and training volunteers helping within their own communities
In each of these cases, social media is part of a broader communication strategy. To read more about integrating social media in digital strategies, download the paper.