I do not consider Facebook an ideal engagement platform for official social media outreach, however, it has too many members to ignore. Within the guidelines of your organization, here are some of my thoughts about how to use it to full effect:
- Leverage person profiles to spread important outreach messages;
- Use inexpensive targeted ads for key marketing messages, such as recreation opportunities. For cost-effective campaigns, buy ads by click and include short, actionable messages that do not require readers to click through to appreciate;
- On any official page or profile, include and enforce a clear commenting policy. DO accept comments. Remember that once you create an official public forum, you may be legally required to maintain it or an equivalent outlet on an open-ended basis;
- Use applications to automatically send other content to your Facebook page or profile: Sent tweets and status updates to a profile or a page using the Twitter app or a service like Amplify, send any RSS feed to your profile or page using Twitterfeed or a similar service, and update your page with photos or short blog entries automatically using services such as Flickr, Tumblr or Posterous.
And, here are a couple of blog posts I’ve written that address Facebook in a more poetic sense:
The more I talk and think through governance and social media, the less enamoured I am with Facebook. Sure, it sounds really, really good at first, all 400 million members. And it looks easy. But if done poorly, an official presence on Facebook is worse than no presence at all.
You could have a consultant set up the best page in the world, bells, whistles and even original apps. It will look good for a few days. But it won’t stay that way.
Because social media is alive.
Tell me, what have you seen happen to these pages if not tended?
In the best case, they meander off into a sort of eternal half-life, like any dead page on the Web. But in the worst, they become a platform for dissent, a place for mobs to pummel an effigy. And, in the middle ground, the supporters are there, but they’re ignored amidst a bunch of unanswered invites to join a mob or to plant a fake plant to end global warming.
So before you Facebook, think about it, make sure you’re up for the investment.
Hillary Hartley adds this astute thought:
“Facebook is just an aggregator. Get your page set up “correctly” so that it’s slurping all your other “live” feeds. This is my strategy as a person and my recommended strategy for biz/gov/etc. I don’t have to tend to my personal Facebook page because I put time into flickr, brightkite, twitter, etc.
“If a gov is using Flickr, YouTube, blogging, etc. then their Facebook page *will* be alive, relevant, and up to date.
There has been an unquestionable explosion of government social media use in the last year. Recently, GovTwit, the Twitter directory of government agencies and officials, reported 44.9 million followers for the 3,000 IDs it tracks, after starting in 2009 with just a handful of accounts. Still, towns, agencies and leaders not using social media still far outnumber the early adopters.
And much of the hand-wringing over official social media use is about the public – what if they say something we don’t like! Many of the agencies using shiny tools like Facebook and or Twitter don’t even allow comments on their Web sites, even sites they call “blogs.”
Fear and failure to engage are simple reinforcing citizen concerns that government doesn’t listen and doesn’t care.
According to an April Pew study on trust in government, “By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”
I, and, I hope, thousands of other Government 2.0 advocates, have not spent the last two years building a movement to have it end up as “The System 2.0.”
Some may argue that government needs to be on social media channels because of the large audiences. However, I cannot state more emphatically – if you’re considering a social media channel, but don’t want to provide citizen (customer) service and two-way engagement on that platform, you shouldn’t bother.
Using new media channels for one-way broadcasts and propaganda will only further alienate the people we serve. There are plenty of agencies using social media to engage and build trust. Join them, or don’t bother.