Key considerations for using social media in government

A new white paper addresses the increasing trend of governments using social media to interact with citizens. Many local councils have Twitter accounts set up to keep residents up-to-date, while Dudley Council has been the first to hold public meetings on Facebook.

Central government, too, is on the social media bandwagon: Many government officials including David Cameron have Twitter accounts which they use regularly and Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire even took to the site to answer the public’s questions on his trip to Burma.

Moreover, William Hague hit 200,000 followers and decided to mark the occasion by launching a competition and inviting the winner to meet him.

According to the report, titled ‘Social Media in Government: 5 Key Considerations’, “Government agencies and public sector stakeholders are increasingly looking to leverage social media to improve the quality of government services and enable greater citizen engagement, elevate public services, reduce costs, and much more.”

The 5 key considerations highlighted are as follows:

Aligning Objectives. An organisation should align its social media strategy with its overall mission and vision.

Transparency and Collaboration. Social media tools should be used to support transparency and collaboration. “How does your organization’s social media use support the Open Government Directive for transparency?” asks the report.

Engaging the public is next on the list and probably the main reason local councils in particular turn to social media. The report sheds some more light on this: “This new era of ‘citizen engagement’ is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of social media in government because it touches on a true dialogue between government entities and citizens.”

Privacy and Security is consideration number four: employees should be aware of the right way to collect and use, as well as protect, personal data. Privacy policies and security protocols must encompass social media.

The last point is about Analytics and Metrics which can help achieve target performance analysis. This requires a baseline goal of social media metrics to be set and a decision on what needs to be measured.

“Government entities that quickly learn how to master the art and science of using social media effectively are already reaping the benefits of real-time engagement and increased collaboration with internal and external stakeholders,” the paper concludes.

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