The use of social media marketing is increasing year after year, and businesses have quickly seen the benefits of engaging with customers through social media channels. But this tool is not only beneficial for sales based companies, it can benefit not-for-profit organisations too.
Many local authorities have already understood that the use of social media allows them to reduce costs by moving to more cost effective channels whilst actually improving their customers experience.
The expectations are growing on local Authorities to engage, work openly, be more accountable and be more personal. And social media can help them on this.
Social media channels represent an extraordinary opportunity to innovate, to do things that weren’t possible before. More and more local Authorities are beginning to use these tools to achieve real value against their objectives, by engaging citizens, listening more, harnessing local energy to help with public activities.
So how can local Authorities use social media to build trust?
1. Inform your constituency
Many local Authorities are realising that by making their public information notices available via social media channels, they can vastly increase their reach and add a personal touch.
The social nature of the medium means that other people can forward your messages on, so that important news travels faster, and further, than you could manage on your own.
The bad weather in 2010 saw many councils around the UK using social media to communicate snow updates directly to the public. Essex County Council were among those to set up a ‘Gritter Twitter’, giving 24-hour updates on the roads that were being gritted.
Also, the council’s website featured a roadmap showing roads that were being treated, with live information being re-rendered in a more accessible form.
2. Engage in the conversations
It’s important to monitor the conversations about your council and listen to them, but social media provides an incredible opportunity to also engage in those conversations.
Providing valuable information, responding to queries and comments, are all a great way to add a personal touch to a local Authority by directly talking to their citizens.
Local Authorities are also political environments, and social media offer great tools for campaigning and raising awareness of issues through conversations.
3. Show and tell
Another great way of adding a personal touch through social media to a local Authority is to provide citizens with stories, photos and videos about their work and activities that otherwise people won’t know about.
This provides citizens with “behind-the-scenes” content about the local Authority, showing the faces behind the organisation, what they do on a daily basis, events around the council, etc.
4. Building communities
Social media are all about communities. They connect people together, help them share who they are, encourage conversation and build trust.
They are one of most powerful tools available today for building a sense of belonging and collaboration.
Using services such as text messaging and social networking software can give local Authorities an amazing way to connect residents together and build community in their locality.
Harringay Online (www.harringayonline.com) was set up to strengthen the neighbourhood of the Borough of Haringey in North London. The site was launched in 2007, built on the free social networking platform called Ning.
The central idea behind the social network was to generate and provide neighbourhood information, such as information about safety, health care, local businesses, community event planning and local news.
The platform includes a busy discussion forum, member-led groups, photo and video sharing, events, planning updates, news and advice, and personal pages and blogs for each member. The site now has over 2,300 registered users and gets about 300-500 hits a day from between 200-250 unique visitors. A community priorities survey hosted on the site received a remarkable response rate of 70 per cent of the users.
The site has provided a bridge between individuals and local government officials, making it a true community working together for the benefit of the neighbourhood.
Would your constituency, for local authorities and citizens alike, benefit from more social engagement? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us @SocialBuk