Social media in local government
- Jason Dawson, ALGIM Executive
As expectations grow on councils to engage, work openly, be more accountable and move faster on issues, social media provides the ideal platform to achieve real results.
The other great thing for cash-strapped councils is that nearly all of the social media tools available are free to use and can be set up in a matter of minutes.
Why should councils use social media?
- It’s free!
- It’s easy to use
- It’s fast
- Extends your audience reach
How social media can help councils?
- work openly, be more accountable
- move faster on issues
- enhances democracy
- keeps your citizens informed
- helps citizens report problems
- assists with campaigns
- helps build online communities
- delivers customer services
Social media: rules of engagement
- use real words, not txt spk
- it’s not all about you, comment & converse
- take the time to listen
- give credit where credit is due
- be timely, immediacy is key
- if you can’t say anything nice – don’t!
For further information, read the article below on why councils should use social media:
Read the Pulse article: Social media - engage or ignore? (PDF, 98.6 KB)
Managing your social media
There are a variety of free or subscription fee-based tools which can help you manage your social media channels. Below are a few I recommend:
Monitoring your social media
A mixture of a few of these online tools can help you monitor the 'buzz' on social media:
Google alerts: www.google.com/alerts
Social Mention: www.socialmention.com
Twilert (Twitter alerts): www.twilert.com
Guide to implementing social media monitoring (Govt Web Standards): www.webstandards.govt.nz/implementing-social-media-monitoring/#case
Who is using social media?
We carry out an annual survey of New Zealand local government to assess the use of online tools such as websites, social media and mobile apps.
View the 2014 website and social media sector snapshot
Developing a social media policy
When developing a social media policy, you need to ensure it’s:
- Empowers staff, let’s them know what they can and can’t say
- Be honest and say you work for ‘the council’ on social media
- Of residents privacy, only release public information
- Be polite, respectful and professional on social media
Aligns/links to current policies
- Acceptable use, code of conduct, media, customer service charter, copyright, privacy, etc
Social media policy and guideline examples
Hamilton City Council
Northland Regional Council
Principles for interacting with social media (State Services Commission):
Online directories to a variety of social media policies:
Department of Justice Victoria social media policy:
New South Wales Government social media policy and guidelines:
Article on how to get your employees on board with your social media policy:
Using social media for exceptional customer service
Archiving social media
Archives New Zealand has produced the "Guide to Managing Web Records" which is a good practice guide for local authorities managing web records (such as social media) and developing online information management frameworks with their organisation-wide recordkeeping policies and systems.
Visit the website: http://archives.govt.nz/g20-guide-managing-web-records
There are a variety of tools and ways you can capture social media records:
- Backupify: cloud-based back-up system: www.backupify.com
- SocialSafe: cloud-based information service: www.socialsafe.net
- ArchiveSocial: cloud-based information service: www.archivesocial.com
- Use available APIs: to regularly export your information
- Dashboards: use social media management tools
- Google Analytics: or blog software analytics: www.google.com/analytics
- Reporting tools: on your social media applications (eg. Facebook Activity Logs)
- Storify: cloud-based reporting tool: www.storify.com
- RSS feed
Euan Cochrane from Archives New Zealand has provided a brief summary of some of the tools and services available for use in archiving content produced through social media channels. This document does not constitute guidance from Archives New Zealand but is a brief research summary for ALGIM members.
Download 'Practical options for archiving social media' (PDF, 247.7 KB)
Using social media during an emergency
A resource has been produced for those in the civil defence and emergency management sector (local and central government). If you're involved in public information management during a response, this will give you the guidance during an event.
Thanks to the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office who coordinated the project and the Resilience Fund from the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.
Download 'Social Media in an Emergency: A Best Practice Guide' (PDF, 2.09 MB)
In November 2014, the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humatarian Affairs (UNOCHA) published recommended standards for using hashtags in emergencies.
Download 'Hashtag Standards for Emergencies'
Official information requests via social media
In August 2012, the Office of the Ombudman issued a guide on official information requests made by Twitter and Facebook. This is a new and emerging issue in relation to which the Ombudsman has only received one complaint to date. In essence, while it is possible to make official information requests by Twitter and Facebook, it may not be the most reliable way of doing so. This guide will be updated as further complaints and enquiries are received and considered by the Ombudsman.
Download 'Official information requests made by Twitter and Facebook Guide'
Other useful resources
'Social Media in Government' guidance - high-level guidance and hands-on toolbox:
'Learning from public entities' use of social media' report and case studies from the Auditor-General:
Deciding to use social media - for Govt Departments (Govt Web Standards):
View SlideShare presentation on local government guide to social media:
Blog article on how a council uses social media for community engagement:
Read article from 'Our Wired World' blog
Social media council directories
Find New Zealand local government authorities using social media:
For further information about anything raised in this article or for more information on social media in local government, please contact: