At SocialB we’ve had the privilege of working with a wide range of public sector organisations. From police forces to GP practices and local authorities to UK Parliament, we thought it would be of value to share some of the common issues and solutions that we’ve come across during our training courses and in our research.
Consider Your Audience
With the global number of internet users growing by 7% and global active social media users by 9.2%, there’s never been a better time for public sector organisations to seriously consider their digital and social media efforts as means of communicating, engaging with and enabling an ever-increasing number of connected citizens. Rather than a “tick-list” approach, which simply creates channels and pumps out content, what about a citizen-focused strategy that extends the remit of the organisation onto digital and social platforms?
As well as information on services via your website, email or social channels can I access them online also? Am I able to make payments, report crimes and book medical appointments for example?
Even before your users get to your website most of them will use Google to find you.
In the search results Google’s knowledge panels, which combine data from sources such as Wikipedia and Google My Business, appear in the results before your website in mobile and on the right-hand side on the desktop.
A brief check of public sector organisations reveals most don’t seem to have claimed their Google My Business listing, in which they could provide details of services, opening times etc and respond to reviews. Additionally, users can suggest edits to your details, which if you haven’t claimed your listing you have no say in.
If you work in the communications or marketing section of a public sector organisation, please take five minutes to claim your Google My Business listing – details can be found here.
I was pleasantly surprised checking out the website for my local police force, Bedfordshire, which not only has a clean design but takes users through how to report crimes they experience or witness. Like many police force website, there’s also the option of live chat as well.
Different police forces list different types of crime and services on offer within their opening menus. This seems to suggest that they are using local knowledge and more crucially local data to provide quick access to what their communities are reporting and requesting most of.
I really liked West Yorkshire Police’s approach on their website in this area where they not only differentiate between Police and Council issues but also provide signposting links to those outside of their remit.
If not already, websites could be further improved by analysing their website data and analytics and employing a Conversion Rate Optimisation (or CRO) approach to developing web content and content areas on the site. CRO is a fantastic tactic which you can find out more about in Paul Hogg’s blog Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO): An Introduction but basically, as Paul describes:
“CRO is, essentially, the act of redesigning parts of your website based on how your visitors are interacting with it, leading to a higher conversion rate, and as a result, a higher ROI.”
Make Mobile Friendly & Secure
There are also some “givens” for any public sector website in 2020 of mobile-friendly and being secure i.e. having an SSL certificate that provides authentication and enables an encrypted connection.
In 2019 Comparitech reported that over 60% of politicians’ websites were not secure, following a survey of 7500 sites in 37 countries. Half of the websites had some kind of user form submission, where the data submitted would not be secure. Here in the UK, the figure was just over 30% and almost a year after Comparitech’s research it didn’t take me long to find UK-based MPs still with websites that are not secure.
Consider your Objectives
Anyone who’s worked in the public sector will know that the amount of information that can be communicated with citizens is enormous. If you haven’t worked in the public sector, just look at your local council’s Facebook Page or Twitter account to see the amount of content that’s splurged out each day, every day.
Also different channels can have different objectives. Milwaukee Police’s stunning website has been created with a remit of recruitment rather than enforcement, showcasing the stories of individual officers and details of the districts in which they operate.
For many social accounts in this sector, there seems little focus or prioritisation on content and campaigns. It’s like having a conversion with someone who constantly changes the subject.
That’s something we’ll be looking at in part 2 of this blog.