Unhappy passenger
Photo credit: Ding Yuin Shan: https://flic.kr/p/bLhbY2

Humane societies and lottery commissions have it easy on social media. Everyone likes to see pictures of cute puppies for adoption and lucky citizens holding oversized checks!

Most government agencies don’t have social media ‘likes’ served to them on a silver platter – but what about the agencies with the hardest time on social media because they run services that people don’t care for? There are always exceptions, but people generally don’t have a great love for DMVs, unemployment offices, tax assessors, etc.

There are several ways to approach social media if you are one of these agencies, and here are six tips to get you started!

Tip #1. Don’t take it personal

Understand that it is probably not you (the government employee) that citizens don’t like. It’s just that you run a service that people don’t like to use. They don’t like paying taxes, they don’t like that they are required to go to the DMV, they don’t like that they unfortunately have to use the unemployment office because of their current financial status.

Get in the mindset that the public’s dislike of your agency’s services is in no way related to your abilities, efforts and your mission in public service. (Unless you’re a tool– then might be you.)

Tip #2. Be careful of using humor

The truth is that humor is especially annoying on social media when people already don’t like your agency. You run the chance of it backfiring. Unless you are particularly skilled at messaging and really know your audience – avoid using humor in social media campaigns.

Tip #3. Avoid cutesy phrases

It is tempting to want to show that your agency is cool and relevant. Why not throw in some slang here and there? Problem is, government agencies more often get a groan than a nod of appreciation when they sprinkle in a phrase here and there. Trust us, no one is going to benefit from tweeting, “the new welfare application process is awesomesauce!” Still want to be cool? Visit KnowYourMeme.org to understand what’s currently hot to make sure you’re using your references in the right way.

Tip #4. Emphasize process and how-to’s

So, what can you talk about on social media? People love to share social posts that explain a process (in simple steps) or identifies how to do something. Think, “5 steps for applying for unemployment benefits” or, “How to avoid waiting at the counter”. Keep in mind that people like to feel helpful to others. Even if your process advice doesn’t apply directly to them, they will make it a point to share it with others that may benefit from it. It’s the same concept that caused a simple How to Shuck Corn video to have over 8 million views.

Tip #5. Be vocal about how citizen feedback is making your agency better

Mention many times the fact that the public’s social media feedback actually matters. If someone posted a concern about your process, let them know that their comment is appreciated and that it is citizens like them who are helping to make your process better.

Tip #6. Focus big time on PEOPLE

For disliked agencies, it is important to remind the public that you are not a faceless, bureaucratic government entity. Your agency is run and staffed by real people who care. Remind them that you are human. Be specific – use names and get personal! Post something about the fact that Susan at the front counter is 70 years old, and she comes to work every day because she knows she’s doing work that matters for people who matter.

It is a lot harder to dislike an agency when you have made a connection with a real person. Some agencies mention on their Twitter profiles the name of the staff member who is manning their Twitter handle. The flippant citizen response tends to become a bit softer when they know it is being seen by Bob, the nice guy on social media who works at your agency.

Photo Credit: Ding Yuin Shan, https://flic.kr/p/bLhbY2

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

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