As well as consumer brands embracing social media, many local authorities and elected politicians have been getting in on the act. Even Members of Parliament who once claimed they didn?t ?see the point? of Twitter and Facebook have since done a U-Turn in their views on such modern channels of communication. So for those local authorities and politicians who are only just dipping their toes in the water with social media, what exactly do we mean by social media and how best can they use it?
Although things are changing quite rapidly, consensus is emerging on which are the key social media tools to embrace for the foreseeable future. Twitter is an ideal communications platform for news updates and openly interacting with people. Because you are limited to 140 characters it?s ideal for use on the go with smart phones and tablets. From the perspective of a local authority you might need more than one Twitter account to reach different audiences.
While Facebook is a great place for a local authority to promote campaigns, issues, photographs, videos and to interact with people, we have found that many politicians prefer to keep their Facebook pages private, though take a look at some of the national political parties or local groups to see how they are using this important channel.
YouTube is a dedicated video platform and has now become the second largest search engine next to Google, so in terms of optimising your search engine ranking, it?s important to embrace. For images, Instagram and Pinterest are increasingly popular too.
If you are a local representative and a democratically elected leader, you may wish to use social media to share information, build trust and have a conversation with others in your local community. Social media can help you keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your area and enable you to:
- Keep local people informed about your activities, council decisions, dates of meetings, policy, campaigns etc.
- Communicate with other members, the general public and stakeholders ? including those you wouldn?t normally get to interact with.
- Find out what people are talking about locally and what?s making news.
- Promote your personal brand and make the electorate more aware of the work you do personally.
Enhance your reputation and that of your political party, thereby increasing support and securing votes.
- Say thank you to your key supporters and show you care for your community.
You must adhere to your Council?s Code of Conduct and stay within the law. For more great insights, why not book a Mosaic social media training course for councillors ? we?ll come to you and show you best practice, plus you?ll receive an e-guide full of case studies and top tips.
Whatever platforms you choose, remember you are putting your head above the parapet and unlike a ?private? email exchanges such platforms allow your constituents and service users to interact openly with you.
For this reason it?s important to remember some customer service basics. With Twitter, people generally expect a response to an interaction within a matter of hours, the same could be the case with Facebook.
If you come up against a constituent who has a problem or concern, you should continue the conversation in private for a more comprehensive interaction. In this instance on your public timeline or Twitter account, invite the person interacting with you to ?DM? you; this means they can ?directly message? you so you can exchange email addresses and phone numbers privately to continue the conversation.
As a general rule, make sure your proactive communications are useful and engaging, treat others how you would wish to be treated and if an individual is deliberately antagonising you it might be best to simply agree to disagree and move on.
One of Twitter?s sharpest operators when dealing with conflict is the musician James Blunt, read what happened when a politician went on the attack.