Social media forms part of your public image, which means that done right it can improve council reputation and build public trust. Of course, social media platforms also offer the council an opportunity to connect with residents and other stakeholders on their platform of choice – enabling two way communication opportunities, an ‘ear to the ground’ and (potentially) brand new audiences for your messages.
In a crisis, certain things become especially important. So, what does good social media look like during COVID-19?
- Establish a core team of people who are comfortable with doing social. Help each other out and make a rota for being “on call” so you can all take a break. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other colleagues in the sector, support is always available via
- Monitor: used in the right way, social media is another ear to the ground. Now is a good time to make social listening a part of your routine. If you use a social media management tool with listening capabilities – great. If not, make it a habit to check in on the chat in the community Facebook groups and monitor local key words on Twitter.
- Plan ahead, but don’t schedule posts in too far in advance. Flexibility is key. The news agenda might have slowed down since the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, but it is still moving pretty fast and things can quickly become out of date or even seem insensitive.
- Have council accounts managed by non-communications colleagues? Every staff member who does social on behalf of the council should be up to speed on the latest messaging and priorities of the council. Make sure the communications team have the passwords for these channels.
- Map out your partners. Local charities, BIDs, community groups, council staff – lots organisations and people will be able to help you get your messages out to the right people. Ask them to share your messages to their followers where appropriate.
- Evaluate. In times of crisis it is easy to forget to evaluate, but setting up sensible objectives, regularly tracking your performance and letting it guide your future steps is still a crucial aspect of strategic social media. What content works well on which platform? Engagement, reach, comment sentiment, website visits? Can you measure ‘on the ground’ impacts?
Chances are you can find yourself a bit overwhelmed and inundated with requests to get information out. To be strategic is important. As such, your social content should be:
- In line with communications priorities. As mentioned above, this goes for all council affiliated accounts.
- Reliable. Council channels should be a trusted source of information. At the time when the UN has labelled the amount of misinformation surrounding coronavirus an ‘infodemic’, it has never been more important to be timely and correct. In this context it worth noting that relatively few people will click on links so make sure you have covered the most important aspects in the post itself.
- Responsive. Can you move the conversation on or help? Perhaps even counter misinformation? Signpost people to council webpages or other trusted sources if so.
- Adapted to platforms. Every platform has its own jargon, character limit and preferred image dimensions. Adapting the content for each is ideal, but sometimes there just isn’t time. If you follow the below criteria, the same post will look ok across the most popular council platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn):
- copy in plain English (rewrite copy if necessary)
- less than 280 characters
- 16:9 image dimension
- Engaging. A good social media post adds value to followers. This can look very different. The common denominator is usually content which is:
- Authentic. Keep your content as honest and human (without losing professionalism). It can be to celebrate an achievement or to relay a more serious message. Images and/or candid video messages from staff - who often are residents themselves - is often a good way of doing this. This video from Darren, working on the frontline in Nottingham is an excellent example and is nearing in on 50,000 views on Facebook alone.
- Unexpected. There are many different ways of presenting messaging, as this viral Twitter thread from Doncaster shows. There are of course many factors that play into what is appropriate at any given time, but if you know you are going to repeat the same core message over and over again, have a think about ways to mix it up.