Your biggest social media questions answered

With the rise in social platforms, multi-networking and complex social media algorithms, how can government organizations drive more traffic to social events and engagement with their social content?

That’s the question we aimed to answer during the State of Social Media webinar hosted by Jennifer Kaplan, Product Marketing Manager at GovDelivery. More than 700 public sector communication experts signed up to learn more about the complexities of Facebook, emerging social platforms like Periscope and how federal, state and local government organizations are navigating the social landscape.

Jennifer fielded live questions on social media engagement and outreach strategy; from how to drive attendance at social media town halls to ways to use Snapchat to reach a youth audience. Since we couldn’t cover each of the questions that were submitted throughout the session, we’re back to answer your questions this week.

1. What is the ideal length for video content?

When it comes to short-form video apps like Vine or Snapchat, video content length is capped at 6 and 30 seconds respectively – making them ideal for organizations that don’t have a full media production team or those that just want to get a little creative.

With YouTube, the average length of the most popular and engaging videos is 3 minutes (according to Buffer). And the data from the video-hosting gurus at Wistia shows that shorter videos are better for getting people to watch the whole thing — shorter videos produce a more engaged audience.

2. How often do you have to produce content on Periscope to keep an active follower base?

The beauty of Periscope is that organizations don’t necessarily need to produce a constant stream of content to keep their followers. The app was built to ping users when the channels they follow are livestreaming and alternatively promote the livestream to new audiences on the app.

Because Periscope is owned by Twitter, your account also automatically tweets a link when you’ve started live-streaming, so smart uses of hashtags will bring in more audiences. In addition to the automated push notifications, organizations like the Minnesota Office of the Governor are leveraging emails sent through GovDelivery to drive awareness and nudge traffic to the livestream.

3. What if my organization doesn’t have the time, energy or resources to embrace all of the platforms mentioned during the webinar? Are there recommendations for which platforms are best?

Deciding which networks to join should depend on the goals of your organization and the audience you’re attempting to reach. Start by defining the objectives (often found in an organization’s strategic plan), identifying key stakeholders and then align your social strategy accordingly.

Overall, email and text messaging are the most reliable, impactful and far-reaching channels, so organizations must get their email and mobile strategies in place before expanding to social. And while there’s a plethora of social media channels available, organizations shouldn’t be on all of them “just because”. For example, if your organization is trying to reach a youth audience, Snapchat, Vine or Instagram are worth exploring given the average age of their user base. For two-way conversations or Q&A’s, Facebook or Twitter might be better sites to test. If you’re just starting out, simple behind the scenes footage of a pubic works employee fixing a pot-hole or or event photos can work as social content.

4. Which communication providers offer automated social engagement campaigns like the Tweet digest and how do people sign up for that?

GovDelivery offers built-in social media engagement digest campaigns for Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms Check out these examples from the Department of Education and the US Navy. Organizations see the most success from social media engagement campaigns when they promote social topics alongside other web content. For example, if I sign up for road construction updates from Port of Tacoma press releases, I’m also offered Flickr, YouTube and Twitter content as another sign-up option.

5. Any rules of thumb for setting up tags or topics for subscription? It seems like organizations could easily wind up with too many options.­

There’s a fundamental need for organizations to ask their audience who they are and what interests them. If a health organization knows that a certain audience needs information on diabetes, they can provide better service and relevant content if they can identify who needs information on gestational diabetes vs. type 1 diabetes. The more granular the topics, the more relevant the content and the more engaged your end user will be. Anywhere on the website you are updating content can be made into a subscription topic!

6. Which tools are available to post content to multiple platforms at once? ­

Posting content across multiple platforms at once not only saves organizations time, it also secures multi-channel branding and messaging alignment. Organizations that use GovDelivery for digital outreach benefit from automated posting to email, mobile, and social channels, along with built in social engagement campaigns. Content developed for a website or an email campaign can be sliced, diced and repurposed for other channels at the click of a button. For more information on how this works, contact info@govdelivery.com.

7. What is the optimal interval for posting on each social network?

When it comes to social media, organizations can’t be formulaic. It all depends on the channel and the audience. We recommend testing post frequency with your own unique audience on each channel to see what drives the most views and shares.

8. What is social’s role in emergency outreach? Why is it not recommended as a primary channel?

By relying only on social media to communicate during emergencies, agencies severely limit their total reach to only those residents with internet access. And social platforms limit free, unsponsored posts to reaching as few as 4% of social followers – which won’t be helpful in the event that organizations need to reach thousands of people. Email, text messaging and voice are the essential emergency communications channels as they are the only outlet to reaching the entirety of an audience. Twitter and Facebook are complementary as it relates to emergency relief efforts.

9. Any recommended channels to learn how to use Snapchat?

As with all new social platforms, it’s all about downloading the app and experimenting! Both Mashable and Business Insider have published easy step by step instructions.

10. How does Snapchat work when it comes to public records/record retention?

Snapchat’s stance is that all photos and videos “disappear” after the viewer engages with them. ArchiveSocial no longer supports Snapchat archiving, so organizations aren’t left with many options. End users can screen shot photos sent through the app, so if your organization sends images, you can keep an individual record of screen shots.

11. How do Google Plus and EventBrite play a role in the social media marketing mix?

EventBrite is not only great for event registration management; it’s also a powerful audience growth channel! Any email addresses and contact information you collect for each event should be added to your email database for future outreach and engagement. To set expectations, include a disclaimer that you’ll be following up with event attendees or start them off with a welcome message before opting them into ongoing communications.

While Google Plus’s networking activity is on the decline, its Hangout messaging service has substantial legs. Hangouts provide the public sector with a channel for real-time face-to-face engagement. This post from DigitalGov outlines 4 tips on how to leverage Google Hangouts to engage your community.

12. Have you seen any government organizations feature bilingual materials on YouTube or Facebook?

GobiernoUSA (the Spanish language arm of USA.gov) has a Spanish Facebook and YouTube They also recently hosted a webinar with GovDelivery on how to reach and engage multilingual audiences. Check out the replay here.

13. How do we establish a social media policy?

One of the best and most robust social media policies we’ve seen comes from Marin County, CA. They make both their county social media policy and playbook with guidelines for posting publicly available on their website. DigitalGov also offers a Federal Social Media Policy Development Toolkit.

Have more questions on your organization’s digital and social strategy? Email us at info@govdelivery.com.

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