September 22, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

7 Reasons Government Agencies Should Monitor Social Media

7 Reasons Government Agencies Should Monitor Social Media

Last week, I posted about the teen who snark-tweeted Governor Brownback of Kansas. While the story is interesting, what really got under my skin was the insinuation by a guest writer at CNN.com that monitoring social media was a waste of taxpayer money. Sure, I have a slight bias towards the effectiveness and value of monitoring (okay, a large bias). Although the suggestion that monitoring isn’t something a government entity should spend money on seems laughable to me, I thought–just in case there are others out there who feel as though this is a waste of taxpayer money–I’d point to some really good uses and reasons for government agencies to monitor social channels.

  1. Respond to constituencies: Just like companies, government has customers–a lot of them. Having trouble at your local DMV? Perhaps someone monitoring social channels at the main office will see your Tweet and propose some corrective action. Or at least improve the coffee.
  2. Monitor for citizen reports: The USGS did this for the earthquake in Virginia, asking people to tweet where they felt the earthquake.
  3. Report outages, accidents, and other trouble spots: The NHDOT has a Twitter feed that posts construction delays, accidents, and other notable issues on the highway. State Parks can use Twitter to notify residents when trails are closed, or other issues.
  4. Assist in getting people to the right agencies the first time: By monitoring (and responding) an agency can quickly assist a constituent by directing him or her to the right agency the first time.
  5. Proactively let people know there is a place to go for help: using effective keyword monitoring, an agency could reach out to constituents who might not even realize that there is an agency that could help them with an issue. This could prove invaluable to someone who needs assistance, but doesn’t know where to turn.
  6. Navigate the bureaucracy: This works for large corporations, and it can work for government too.
  7. Identify citizens to celebrate: When I worked as an intern in a congressional office, one of my jobs was to review the congressman’s local newspapers for birth announcements, and then generate a letter of congratulations from him to the parents. There are many local heroes who should be celebrated, and yes, it is important to recognize them. Social media does as good, if not a better job, of identifying these people–so monitoring social media makes sense.

I’m sure this list could be longer, but the bottom line is this: social media is here to stay, and is supplementing and in some ways replacing traditional media. Suggesting that it is a waste of taxpayer money to monitor is foolish. The federal government has embraced social media, in a big way, as have members of Congress and state governments.

If we are demanding that they all use social media, shouldn’t we expect them to monitor it too?

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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7 Comments

  1. sidburgess@gmail.com'
    Sid Burgess

    I think your 5th point is one of the best.  The expectation still isn’t there that your local community does in fact care enough to listen and try to help.   Oklahoma City is a great example of a city where the PIO’s office does a good job of listening and quickly responding to issues…even if they are not directed at the city’s Twitter profile.  
    As anyone in PR knows, being quick to respond is one of the surest ways to keeping things from spiraling into a messaging mess.  Kudos to the agencies that set up simple tools to help them be better listeners. 

    1. jzingsheim@customscoop.com'
      Jen Zingsheim

      “…being quick to respond is one of the surest ways to keeping things from spiraling into a messaging mess.” YES. So important–why *wouldn’t* government agencies be prepared?

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. andrew@govloop.com'
    Andrew Krzmarzick

    Great post, Jen. Most government agencies that deploy social media are using it as a cost saving measure. For instance, can a city save on printing by enabling citizens to opt out of ground mail if they’re getting the same information on Facebook and Twitter? Can a Federal agency crowdsource solutions or open up datasets that allow private citizens and contractors to come up with useful ideas and apps that save government time and resources? These are the kinds of questions that our government is asking when using social media – striving to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and getting information to citizens faster. – Andrew Krzmarzick, GovLoop Community Manager 

    1. jzingsheim@customscoop.com'
      Jen Zingsheim

      Thanks for the comment Andrew–I think that government agencies are coming up with useful ideas and apps–time will tell if they are broad-based enough solutions. The bigger problem is not with trying and not succeeding to the extent a government agency wishes–it is not trying at all. We have the tools, and clearly social media has pervaded enough of our lives that it makes sense to give things a shot.

  3. lauren_hersh@hotmail.com'
    Lauren Hersh

    Good points,all. At a time when our state budget is on life support and outreach is limited to those we are statutorily mandated to reach, utilizing social media has provided both a huge cost savings and a more effective way of providing multiple audiences with important information and quickly addressing their questions and concerns. Because our state regulatory agency involves engaging multiple constituencies and stakeholders (approximately 85,000 professional licensees, future licensees at various locations in the pipeline and the academic community that serves them, as well as potentially millions of consumers)  without social media I believe we would not be able to carry out our mission within these budget constraints. I would love to be able to access truly significant metrics to share with our Board. Other than TwitterStats and Facebook Insights, what am I missing by not having social media monitoring beyond what I am able to cobble together on my own?

    1. jzingsheim@customscoop.com'
      Jen Zingsheim

      Fantastic points Lauren (85,000 licensees?! Wow.) I think the benefits of social media are tremendous, and your point about budget constraints and the ability to carry out your mission is an important one. I must admit, I was flabbergasted to read that anyone would still question the validity of using social for government purposes, especially considering the potential cost savings over other forms of communication.

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