Social Media for Local Government: Why it’s Important and How to Make the Most of It

Social media provides councils and other local authorities with an incredible opportunity. As the majority of UK adults are on social media, it’s likely that your content can reach a large part of your area.
So what can councils gain from social media, and what should they be doing to make the most of it?

Why Councils use Social Media

Similarly to the private sector, social media has changed the landscape for local authorities. They now have a direct line of communication with their audience, that benefits the organisation as a whole.


Social Media Customer Service Saves Money

In a time of public sector budget cuts, a customer service channel that saves money AND makes you more effective can’t exist, right?
Nowadays, people prefer to contact organisations through social media to get a faster response. According to Smart Insights, social media customer service is also around 63% cheaper than phone support, so you can deliver excellent customer service while saving money.
Take inspiration from some great organisations that are leading the way with social media customer service, and making great savings while they do it! 

Reach More Citizens in a Crisis

You’ll never be able to reach every single citizen in your area by using social media alone.
But if a crisis occurs and you need to get an update out, having an existing audience of engaged, local people will make your emergency messaging more effective.
The beauty of social is that in emergencies like flooding or snowstorms, people can interact and share your posts. As they’re likely to be connected to other local people, your post will reach more of your citizens that wouldn’t have otherwise heard
Make sure you’re fully prepared when a social media crisis hits by checking out our free academy lesson on preparing for a crisis!

Improve the Reputation of Your Council

Social media is all about authentic connections — what’s better than to have this with your citizens?
Allowing you to answer queries faster, social media publicly shows you’re responsive and eager to help. Social media can be as much as 167% more effective than phone support!
Social gives local government a great opportunity to build trust through authenticity and transparency. If you are responding to issues, sharing local updates and doing it all with an entertaining personality, you’ll quickly turn citizens into fans.

Making the Most of These Benefits

It’s not enough to just have accounts on social media to reap the benefits any more. Councils must make a proactive effort to engage citizens in authentic and creative ways.

Have a Social Media Strategy in Place

If you’re rocking up to the office on a Monday morning and wondering what you’re going to post on social media today, you’re doing it wrong.
By putting together a social media strategy, you can plan future campaigns, work around significant dates and test new content ideas — without the dreaded, ‘what do I post today?’ feeling.
Don’t have a strategy yet? Grab your notepad and discover everything you need to build a successful social media strategy in our free academy lesson.

Be Engaging

As a public authority, the majority of people engaging with you want information on matters that are important to them. Citizens want to see tailored content, so posting information specifically around where they live, work or visit is a great start. Post about public building renovations, local events and new initiatives taking place. Who wouldn’t want to know how many potholes were filled last month?!
Being engaging isn’t just about your content; you need to get involved in other conversations. Social listening shows you posts where people are talking about you, not necessarily to you. Adding value to conversations on hot issues is a great way to reach more of your target audience and show that you’re committed to local affairs.
Monitoring your council’s name is a start, but you can also track keywords like ‘potholes’, ‘bins’ and ‘fly-tipping’. Using a tool like the SoCrowd’s Buzz Monitor means you can target by location, so you’re only notified of posts on potholes in your council’s area. Cool, right?

Use Your Analytics

As a social media team, understanding what content works for your audience is vital. The effectiveness of a campaign and its value for money can be demonstrated easier than ever using social media analytics!
Use analytics reports to discover what content works for your audience, and what could be improved. Social is one of the only channels that gives you clear insights to continually optimise your whole social media strategy, so make the most of it!

Social Media Pitfalls to Avoid

You’ve learned what you should be doing more of on social media, but what about the things you should be doing less? We’ve got that covered, too. Make your social media stand out above the public sector noise by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Cross-Posting Duplicate Content

Is there anything more off-putting than a Tweet that has been automatically pulled from a Facebook or Instagram post? There’s no image, the text cuts off mid-sentence, and most of the time, they just don’t make sense.
Social media is all about authentic engagement, and nothing says ‘insincere’ like a post that wasn’t even created for the platform it’s posted on. If you don’t tailor your content to the platform, it’s highly unlikely to get any engagement. If the content is really terrible, it may even earn you some unfollows.
You need to be writing content for each platform that your council is on. Posts can convey the same message across channels, as long as the wording is different and displays like a post on that platform should.

Not Having a Personality

We get it, it can be pretty hard to come up with imaginative ideas for announcing council services.
That doesn’t mean you should never try! Schedule in some time to brainstorm content ideas around council announcements. You never know, you could come up with the next Binvasion-style campaign.

Doncaster Council could have just tweeted out that a new bin would be delivered to residents. Instead, they created a story around blue dustbins invading Doncaster, skyrocketing engagement and even involving residents with curated #Binvasion content!
While you don’t have to aim for social media domination with a simple fly-tipping announcement, keep trying to think of ways to make your content more engaging. Get a little creative, take a few calculated risks and always keep your audience in mind.

Ignoring Your Audience

As a council, you’re going to have lots of information and updates to share with your audience. That’s great — and it’s precisely the type of content that your audience expects from you.
But it shouldn’t end there.
Your local community is thriving with interesting and diverse characters that make up the fabric of your area. Tapping into that content source and sharing user-generated content will establish you as part of that community.