Ideas for local councils to push social media to the public

Dear local gov and social media geeks 😉

As most of you might have noticed, the growth of local councils adopting the social media route is growing by the day. The momentum and awareness is growing slowly but surely. As I was sipping my favourite caramel macchiato at Starbucks this morning, I had an light bulb moment and thought its worth sharing it with you.

The Idea

I was thinking about everything I’ve heard over the past few months and the questions that arise from fellow enthusiasts on how social media should be applied in local government. Fair enough to say, everyone is using the ‘test it and try it’ method. Experimenting what works and what doesn’t. The idea is to ‘try it before you knock it!’ Eventhough I believe this is definitely correct and only way to approach it, as Charlene Li author of Groundswell also pointed out in this video, I also feel there is another way of approaching customers via social media channels.

The industry example

Just take this example, Dell is offering 30% off for Twitter customers only .  People who are thinking of buying a computer will start following Dell on twitter for this reason only and in the mean time Dell can offer other offers on other products while those potential buyers are following the twitter feed. Offering customers exclusivity definitely has its rewards.  Or you could even take starbucks as an example, setting up a twitter account to collect and display ideas from their MyStarbucks Idea website, an online community created by starbucks to ask customers how they would like to see starbucks improve by sending in ideas, then reviewing it and then showing progress of the idea, and finally showing when it will take affect. Brilliant isn’t it? 🙂

Here is a list of 16 companies using Twitter for business.

…Wait a minute?

You might say, wait a minute, they’re commercial businesses, the public sector is different. Thing is, what do we call citizens nowadays? We call them customers don’t we? So wake up and smell the coffee, without knowing it, the public sector is already functioning like a business, hoping to please and understand what customers wants and needs by conducting market research, consultations and offering services. The difference is business demand profit, local government demands… re-election?

The public sector examples

So, now let’s think about how local councils can offer certain types of discounts on council tax, announcing planning applications or tenders 1 day ahead of time (ahead of councils main website) on local council facebook accounts or even posting jobs 1 week ahead on facebook before posting it on the local council website as encouragement for the public to engage with them on these channels. As others have said, the public is not going to suddenly decide to follow or become a fan unless there is something there that interests them or will benefit.

The Why…

I believe local councils have the benefit of being the leader and providing useful information to the public as well as having the opportunity to take advantage  or even exploit its power of knowledge by using it as a hook to entice the public to adopt social media as a channel for engagement. Take for instance I was once told by the finance department in my university that it seems alot of British students who are eligible of getting financial support from the local government are not taking up the opportunity to apply for government scholarships, grants and loans because they were unaware of its existence. This could be used by local councils to connect to students via facebook, bebo and myspace by announcing an alert service via the councils facebook pages. You could also establish Twitter as a channel for emergency customer support i.e. the snow, school closures, or if your website is down… the key is to establish that channel as a function so customers can understand what it is and can respond to it accordingly.

The 3rd eye…

How about engaging with the 3rd sector on social media.  We all know that the wave of social media is not only hitting individuals, business & the public sector, they are also taking the 3rd sector by storm. How can local councils take advantage of these relationships? Could you work together to provide the public with valuable information to push the usage of social media?

I believe the sky’s the limit…. But in order to push social media effectively and effiiciently, we must not only think outside the box, but local councils must start working like a “magnetic force” attracting the public to make contact. Because without actual contact, your social media outlets will soon be left as just boring old ‘media’ – minus the social factor.

Finding public sectors ‘social factor’

So I say, let’s find local councils ‘Social Factor’ so we could get social.

My next post will feature a council using Facebook in a very useful and effective method. So stay tuned! TBC

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