Typing on computer

One of the questions I hear all the time – perhaps even most frequently – is whether or not every department should have its own Facebook page.

The question typically comes from staff responsible for coordinating the agency’s social media presence (commonly they reside in the executive office, public communications office, or web/IT). They keep getting requests from various departments that want to start their own Facebook pages. It seems like a good thing and a bad thing all at once.

On the one hand, it’s awesome that a department wants to engage with the public and they see the value in the social platform. On the other hand, there are so many other variables in play. Here are a few considerations the keeper of the social accounts must keep in mind:

  • The more staff managing social accounts, the more people you have to train and keep trained (on best practices, laws, etc.)
  • The more Facebook accounts an agency has, the fewer fans you appear to have on each page. If your primary account only has 800 fans, the public assumes your agency is not very interesting – when actually you have 12 other pages that add up to 6,000 fans total!
  • Will the departments have enough content to post regularly? Regular content is not once a week – it’s up to 3 times a day.

So, what do we do?

One technique that I always advise agencies to do is to invite departments that want to have their own Facebook page to contribute to the primary agency account for 1 month to ‘see how it goes’. Give them a quick ‘best practices’ tutorial, or have them send content directly to you if you don’t want to make them a page contributor right away. If they have time to post something engaging every single business day for a month (and respond to comments), then they might be good candidates for maintaining their own page.

If, however, they post for 3 days then their excitement fizzles out, explain to them that they have an open invitation to post on the primary agency account, but their content consistency just doesn’t warrant another page.

Departments that typically do well with separate Facebook pages

  • Public Safety (police, sheriff, fire, emergency management)
  • Parks & Recreation (they typically have A LOT of content)
  • Tourism Commission/Bureau (typically have MANY followers. Different mission, too – typically less focus on feedback and more focus on why this is a great place)
  • Departments of Transportation (their updates are usually plenty, and their content doesn’t typically make sense on another state agency’s page)
  • Animal Services/Departments of Wildlife (people love animals – enough said)

Possibly their own Facebook page? (If the volume of their messages warrants it)

  • Health/Human Services
  • Arts/Culture
  • Public Works/Local Streets/Maintenance

Usually don’t have their own Facebook page (But at times have great content that should be included on the primary agency’s page)

  • Human Resources (make sure job opps find their way to your primary account)
  • Information Technology (not typically at the local level, but some state agencies do well with their own page)
  • Engineering Departments
  • Internal agencies like Operations and Accountability Offices
  • Very specialized units of Public Safety (like the bike patrol unit, water rescue, special forces units, etc. Typically have very small audiences)

Remember to take all requests on a case-by-case basis. You certainly don’t want to diffuse any excitement over social media – but understand that social media management involves setting up and running accounts in a strategic way – to best meet the needs of both your organization and your citizens.

Do you agree? What is your own litmus test for deciding if departments should have their own Facebook page? Has it worked, or do they do their own thing anyway? Please leave a reply!

Kristy Dalton is the creator of Government Social Media and host of the GovGirl.com online video series. Read her full bio.

8 comments

  1. Great article! Another consideration for departments, who want their own Facebook page, is to realize it will take time to build up their fans. While they are doing this the main page is losing great content and the department page is only reaching a small audience with their content. The Edge Rank algorithm makes it difficult for pages to reach fans without paying for advertising and by default they are only reaching a percentage of the total fans.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Leslie! You’re right – growing fans without ads takes longer when you have several separate accounts.

  2. One of the shining entities in the city of Albuquerque for Facebook activity falls under the arts-culture category — the ABQ BioPark.

    The BioPark marketing department regularly posts updates and engaging content for the local zoo, aquarium, and botanic garden. See their work here: https://www.facebook.com/abqbiopark

    Keeping up this effort requires time, energy, and professional know-how, of course. Videos and photos of newborn giraffes, rhinos, and elephants don’t hurt.

  3. This article is very helpful! I am new to goverment social media, and this is a question I have been struggling with as I try to outline the City’s social media strategy. One question- do the same guidelines apply to Twitter or is Twitter a place to be more specialized with content?

    1. Hi, Crystal. The ‘content test’ is one I’d give for any platform, actually. Twitter is another social media tool that we want to make sure each department can regularly post on and monitor.

  4. Thank you for sharing! This is a topic up for discussion here in Carson City, NV. The Health & Human Services Facebook page is actually the most successful and that is primarily due to staff and funding. We have folks with a background in Marketing/Communications that are also Health Educators and can maintain the page. We also have funding for ads promoting health services.

    The city/county (we are a consolidated municipality) has their own primary agency page, public works, the library, and animal services. The rest of the departments contribute to the primary.

    Here is a link to the Health & Human Services Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CCHHS. This serves a population of about 55,000 people.

  5. Thanks for pointing me to this blog from LinkedIn, Kristy. This is just the type of content and conversation I’ve been looking for.

    As for the above issue, our No. 1 rule is that they must demonstrate the ability to maintain the page long term. The problem is, before my position existed (I’m the Digital Media Coordinator – so, webmaster and social media), there were no rules, so departments created their accounts at will with no oversight. So I would say the most important step for municipal governments would be to get those policies in place before the accounts are created! It’s pretty hard to back-track with existing accounts.

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