This article originally appeared in the “GovGirl on Social” column in Government Technology Magazine.
When government agencies began experimenting with social media profiles a decade ago, there was a chance that their citizens would view their efforts with discontent. Why waste time and resources on a public resources machine?
Times sure have changed. These days, the general public is more likely to notice when government agencies don’t have a decent social media presence.
So why do some agencies still not have a dedicated social media coordinator? There are a couple common arguments against it.
1. CAN’T OUR COMMUNICATIONS PERSON DO SOCIAL MEDIA?
Your communications coordinator likely has the aptitude and is qualified to handle social media for your agency. In fact, they’re probably already doing it now. But have you ever heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none”?
To make it easier to tackle, many agencies bundle social media responsibilities into an existing position such as a communications specialist or public information officer. Heck, my own title was “E-PIO” in my first role that involved managing government social media.
No one wants to call it what it is.
Here’s why I hate “bundling”: Your comms person, and anyone else you might assign social media to, already does the job of a small team. They may be the media liaison, publisher of print communications, newsletter writer, spokesperson, speechwriter, public relations guru, website content writer, plus a host of other things. To do social media well takes work and no small amount of time.
The No. 1 complaint I hear from people who manage social media is not having enough time to do everything well. If you think managing social media just involves writing a few quick Tweets and Facebook posts every day — think again.
2. IS THERE REALLY ENOUGH SOCIAL MEDIA WORK TO TURN IT INTO A FULL-TIME POSITION?
You bet! Besides “simply” writing content, the social media coordinator needs to manage citizen comments and complaints, analyze data, evaluate ads, train employees on the right way to use social media, create reports, work with video and graphics, and more. This person should also be involved in writing social media policy, as well as strategic planning to facilitate agency goals via social platforms. He or she needs to understand social media archival, as well as First Amendment issues and sunshine laws as they apply to social media. This is not a simple undertaking.
Keep in mind that your agency won’t be a trailblazer for having a social media coordinator. It’s becoming more and more common to see this role in government. Agencies such as Mecklenburg County, N.C., and the Ohio Department of Public Safety are just a couple of entities that have staff in a dedicated social media role.
Government increasingly recognizes the value in social media. In many cases, the only interaction your citizens and constituents will ever have with their government is via social media. (How many people actually show up to your public meetings?) I encourage someone in your agency to spearhead the effort to hire a social media coordinator. Will you be that champion?