Social media is a powerful tool for organizations of all types, including governments. Government agencies can use social media to interact with people and other organizations, raise awareness about key issues, deliver important messages to citizens and more.
In order to gain the most benefit from social media use, government agencies must strategically plan social media implementation and then continuously improve the quality of social media outreach programs through regular assessments. The IBM Center for the Business of Government has developed a report, A Manager’s Guide to Assessing the Impact of Government Social Media Interactions. The following article is based on the IBM report and discusses best practices for social media strategy development and evaluation of social media programs.
Social Media Strategy
Government agencies must create a strategic vision for social media implementation that considers both the mission of the government agency and current online processes. The first step in creating this strategy is to review the organizational mission with the backdrop of social media initiatives. Next, the agency must identify the target audiences. Using this information, the agency can develop social media outreach campaigns that will communicate effectively to each target audience in an effort to achieve the agency’s mission. Finally, the agency must continuously evaluate and adjust this strategy for maximum effectiveness.
The Federal Government’s social media use can be categorized into three types of online interactions:
- Representation – educating and informing the public
- Engagement – interacting with the public
- Networking – creating a community of online users with a shared interest in policies and news coverage
Metrics for Social Media Campaigns
The metrics selected by each agency should directly measure mission-based goals while also spanning the types of interactions that are important. There are five different approaches to measuring social interactions:
- Breadth – Who is the agency reaching?
- Depth – How is the information from the agency used?
- Loyalty – How often do citizens return to an agency’s web content or social media page?
- Qualitative insights- How engaged are citizens who visit the agency online?
- Combining offline and online interactions – What do offline data sources and online data sources say about social media when they are integrated?
Showing the value of social media can be more challenging than verifying the results of other public programs and efforts. It is important to collect evidence that shows how social media is supporting mission goals. Depending upon the agency, it may be important to show how social media supports outcomes such as:
- Changes in behavior of citizens due to social media
- Changes in citizens’ perceptions
- How social media stopped rumors from spreading
- How social media encouraged voting
- How social media encouraged emergency preparations among citizens
- The move of citizens from traditional channels to online communication
Social Media Measurement Tips
As social media becomes more popular, social media measurement practices continue to evolve. Below are some tips for government agencies to consider:
- Be sure to measure performance indicators that are directly linked to goals
- Determine the specific types of social media content that are most effective in generating desired outcomes
- Pay attention to controversial conversations on social media and be aware of hot topics
- Analyze the typical behavior of target audiences on social media networks
- Actively seek to understand the composition of the network of followers
- Use both online and offline metrics to understand behaviors
- Trace the effects of social media using surveys and questionnaires
- Allow for distribution of real-time information throughout multiple social media networks
- Pay attention to ideas and feedback submitted by online consumers through online social media networks
Setting goals and designing campaigns that support the agency mission, target the right audience and provide the best type of online interaction will put organizations on the path to maximizing the benefits of social media. Interpreting data gathered through measurement will provide ongoing opportunities for improvement in the quickly-changing world of social media.