In Italy, the average age of government employees is over 50 years old. While increasing in recent years, the adoption rate of social media among municipal employees has been slow.

According to Hootsuite, there tend to be two types of social media accounts out there: soapboxes and dinner parties .

The social media account used as a “soap box” focuses on themselves. They use social media to broadcast their messages and issues without engaging their audience.

Many municipal leaders remain in this “one-way” communication and fail to see much needs to engage the community.

A social account used like a dinner party, instead, invites audiences in and trys to foster a dialogue with them. They encourage discussion and engagement between the host and the guests ( audience).

At the end of the day, we need to encourage local officials to use their social media like a dinner party, particularly for issues like cybersecurity where engagement and discussion both inside with employees and outside local government with citizens and business people.

Here are five tips on how can accomplish that are.

1. Listen for relevant conversations

The first thing government officials should focus on with their social media accounts is listening to your audience.

Why is that? Simple enough: citizens and business people will tell you what they want to hear.

Before you even write up that tweet or Facebook post, you need to know your audience and constituents better than they know themselves.

A lot of social media experts make the mistake of making posts before they even know what their audience wants to see from them. This results in low engagement and a very ineffective social media account.

That’s why you need to dive deep into your audience. Find out what they want. Help them solve their problems.

Also, social media offer great possibilities for local government agencies to answer any questions the public might have. It can be time consuming but the effort is generally much appreciative

So spend some time immersing yourself in the mindset of the community. What do they want? What are they struggling with? And how is your social media account going to engage with them?

2. Educate your audience with valuable content

One edge government social media accounts have on private ones is the fact that you have access to a massive amount of information such as environmental, scientific, and civic data. As such, people instantly recognize your account as credible and trustworthy.

That means they’re going to be much more willing to come to you as a source of knowledge and education.

They also have one of the most popular social media presence of any government agency because they a) know their audience and, b) can provide credible, educational posts that interest that audience.

Bottom line: You can leverage your credibility as a government agency by educating your audience.

3. Keep it simple

Remember that the majority of your audience is looking at your posts while scrolling through hundreds of others. In crisis you may demand extra attention, but you’re still “competing” with other messages—so make your content as easy to consume and share as possible.

Use simple graphics, avoid large blocks of text, and try to get your main point across without asking people to click on a link or watch a lengthy video.

4. Engage

By engaging with their communities on social, municipal leaders can help improve service delivery and citizen satisfaction.

And while it might be tempting to pause social media engagement in times of crisis in order to focus on urgent messaging—don’t! Being responsive is critical when many services are suspended and people can’t communicate in person with public agencies.

5. Post regularly

While a crisis may interrupt regular scheduled programming one should make every effort to consistently share content and engage with the public.

And it is important to provide content and information of interest to the community.

6. Stay secure

Simple measures can safeguard government organizations against security breaches. A social media management platform, for example, is a great tool for managing all your social media accounts and activity across multiple teams or people.

Review and approve messages, log all activity and interactions, secure login access, and set up regular post review and approvals.

7. Remain compliant

Remaining compliant with privacy requirements is critical for any government body. Guidelines for acceptable and forbidden content, data handling, citizen engagement, and even setting a tone are some of the best practice examples municipalities can implement to keep their team compliant.

The more innovative policymakers and their staff have been quickly adapting by creating highly engaging social content to rally their followers while remaining fully compliant and secure. For any government body wanting to capture and maintain public sentiment and engagement, embracing the new era of social media discourse is vital.

As pointed out earlier, social media accounts in municipalities need to inviting to people, provide content, help educate people, particularly on difficult issues like cybersecurity where discussion and user engagement is critical.

CeSViTer Consulting