How do you know what social tools are right for your agency?

By Brie Anne Coleman, Multimedia Specialist of Placer County Water Authority with contributions from Thomas Christensen, County of San Diego

Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcom said, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

As Page Freezer noted, social media managers should keep this quote in mind when it comes to selecting platforms for their particular organization.  While new platforms can be enticing or even requested by your elected officials, not all tools are a good fit for government because 1) it targets the wrong audience, 2) the tone and style is not right for your agency, and 3) content, format and record retention limitations.

When it comes to selecting the right online engagement tool(s) for your agency, communicators must focus on two themes: know your audience and relevancy matters.

Know your audience.

Do you need to be on all platforms? Or do you focus your efforts on starting a new platform? That depends on what you feel is right for your organization and audience. But whatever you do, have an action plan for implementation.

When it comes to selecting platforms for our agency, it will be dependent on the audience you are trying to reach.  

“The general rule that many seem to forget is to go where your audience is and concentrate on those platforms. Don’t have a social media account just to have one Tom Christensen, Communications Specialist with County of San Diego. “Put your efforts into what’s effective for you. It’s all about knowing your audience and who you are trying to reach.”

Relevancy matters.

According to Fred Cook, Director at USC Annenberg, Center for Public Relations, public attention is earned only when we can understand what is truly meaningful to them.  

“People care about things that might happen to them,” said Cook.

Public communicators must listen to their audience and understand the topics of concern for the community. By keeping a finger on the pulse, content can be tailored to what resonates with your target audience. Relevancy should be the desired outcome of every outreach program.

“There’s a big trend right now with social media users wanting a more relevant, intimate experience. Instead of wanting to be part of larger communities, they seek communities of people that share their interests and want a more personal approach, Christensen continued. “That’s one of the reasons Nextdoor has been such a huge success. It’s basically a hyper-local version of Facebook and Craigslist that harkens way back to the days of a town square where people gathered to hear news and trade items. It’s a shared experience with your closest neighbors.”

When it comes to selecting a tool that is right for your organization, rather than spreading yourself too thin, focus on the platforms that’ll give you the biggest return on investment.

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