Social Media Trends

When it comes to Social Media and government, it’s a mixed bag. Some state and local agencies remain skeptical (security concerns! Lost productivity!), while others are enthusiastic about sites like LinkedIn and Facebook (share news! inspire change!). These are the findings of a recent study by GovTech, whichreports on current Social Media trends in government.

The study, compiled from a Government Technology Survey polling the responses of 100 senior-level IT professionals,  showed some interesting statistics:

  • 59% of agencies or departments surveys permit the use of LinkedIn
  • 45% permit Facebook
  • 41% allow Twitter
  • 39% can access Google+
  • 17% permit MySpace.
  • 18% of state and local agencies or departments reported that Social Media sites were very useful
  • 20% reported that these sites are of limited usefulness in the workplace
  • 12% said these sites not very useful

We want to know: What are the benefits and drawbacks of Social Media in governmental workplaces?

Break it Down: iConstituent Public Sector

As the leading experts in Congressional communications, we know a thing or two about how to engage constituents. Now we bring these skills and experience one step further with iConstituent Public Sector, delivering the same superior tools and services to government agencies. We talked to Blake Nelson, Vice President, US Public Sector, who breaks down what you need to know.

Q:  What exactly is iConstituent Public Sector?

A: We bring iConstituent citizen engagement and digital outreach solutions to federal, state, and local government organizations. 

Q:  What need does Public Sector meet?

A: More than ever, government agencies are trying to reach out to their constituents and help citizens understand their capabilities and value.  Traditionally, these agencies have communicated through in-person meetings, print mailings, and telephone call centers. Now, many agencies are beginning to reach out through the Internet and Social Media. They want to take a more proactive approach while keeping costs down.

Q: What are the benefits?

This growing form of engagement allows citizens to decide how and when to take part in describing their complex needs to government agencies and communities. Communications efforts are more effective when the government meets citizens on their terms, with information that is relevant to the citizen.

Q: How will iConstituent's tools enable the future of communication?

We help agencies build a picture of what their citizens wish to talk about and what issues and goals they want to achieve. Our solutions help government agencies communicate and perform outreach services through multiple digital platforms, including Social Media, e-Mail, Telephone Town Halls, RSS Feeds, and web content. By giving the citizen the ability to view information in the format they wish, the agency increases engagement and helps foster a continuing dialog with their customers.

Taking the First Step: Designing a Social Media Policy

Government agencies are increasingly looking to leverage social media to improve the quality of government services and enable greater citizen engagement.  But creating a policy for the use of social media by a government agency is not a simple task. You have to contend with an ever-changing landscape of social media, but also with the various ways citizen engagement programs do their work.  These are four basic questions you should ask before developing a social media policy:

What are your goals and objectives for using social media tools?

If your objective is engagement and two-way communication your constituents, then devising a policy that does not allow for external comments on an agency's social media page would effectively eliminate any chance of reaching its strategic goal of engagement.

Who are the stakeholders in your organization that should be involved?

Make sure you involve team members that may have expertise you need to craft a policy.  Members from legal, communications, technology, human resources, and program can speak to the issues they have when dealing with communicating to citizens.  Getting buy in and different points of view are key to achieving success with a social media policy.

Don't reinvent the wheel.  Are there existing policies in other agencies you may use?

Check to see what  issues already covered by existing policies or regulations or if another agency in your department has created a policy. Existing policies on other issues can provide guidance for acceptable use, employee access, or ethical conduct.  A policy on public relations or external communications may be able to be revised to meet your needs. 

What and where are the conflicts and issues the policies may encounter?

There may be a policy in place that restricts who can speak on behalf of an agency that may conflict with your stated goals.  If you are trying to engage directly with citizens and give them a place to engage with you the rules about sharing information may need to be changed to accomodate a new social media policy.

4 Tips for (Even More!) Constituent Engagement

We’re all about uncovering constituent engagement. Here, iConstituent Customer Support Consultant JeNaye Johnson tells us the most important ways to boost constituent involvement.

Be timely.
Your constituents make an effort to make their concerns known. Be sure that you focus on timely issues based on the expressed interests of your district. Consider the calls your office receives, emails, letters, etc. What big issues are impacting people? Share your views — and what you’re doing to help — so that it’s clear you respond when people reach out to you.

Start a conversation.
There are a number of ways to open up lines of communication with your office and let it be known that you want to hear from your constituents. Use the available technology to such as online surveys or a Telephone Town Hall not only reach more constituents, but to have a two-way conversation.

Consider your audience.
According to a Pew study, seniors are the fastest growing social media demographic. Is this reflected in your district? Be aware of social media trends and determine what combination of outreach strategies will work best for your office and those you serve.

Microtarget.
Microtargeting is a great way to keep people involved because the message is tailored to them.Of course, it's impossible to create messaging that will resonate with everyone at once, but you can use technology to help aid in the effort. Tag people who have expressed an interest in a specific area and follow up with that group as relevant legislative action hits the floor.

Social Media: Build Your Foundation

You can’t have a sturdy house without a strong foundation. When it comes to Social Media, don’t build your house on sand. That is, don’t start with highly sophisticated Social Media techniques until you have the basics down. Once you have a solid foundation, the sky’s the limit. To ensure your campaign strategy starts out strong, here’s a list that's been adapted and adjusted from an online political blog. If you start with these top-level queries, the direction of your Social Media campaign will become apparent.

What do I want to say?
Articulate the simplest version of your message.

Who do I want to say it to?
Figure out your audience and what you want them to do. Then use A/B testing for micro targeting so you know what types of messages they like to hear.

When do I want to say it?
Be smart about timing. Think about when your audience is online: tweeting at 3 a.m. isn’t such a great idea for an older crowd, while 6 a.m. posts will never be seen by college kids. Cold weekends get more traffic/impressions than Easter Sunday dinner. Several tools can analyze your immediate audience and tell you when they’re online, but perhaps somewhere out there a software developer exists who will extend that idea out to your potential reach instead of your (current) true reach. Remember, the real success of social media is based on your audience’s audiences.

Who do I want my audience to repeat it to?
Who follows your followers? And their followers? The important data point isn’t your actual audience or true reach, it’s your potential reach. Think about it this way: if you have 1000 followers who each have 150 followers of their own, who in turn have 150 followers of their own, your true audience of 1000 now has the potential to reach over 2 million people. So as consider your influence targeting, think about who they influence. If you have a follower who is influential when they talk about women’s right to choose, then approaching that person to talk about abolishing the electoral college isn’t likely to work.

What areas of interest do my audience and I have in common?
Think about your message, and find the people talking about it. Most importantly, find the people who are influencing others on that topic – and find many of them.  The more small groups of influencers you have show it's ability to go viral. This question will also help your non-campaign-specific content. Remember, it’s about being social. So, you don’t need to stay on topic 100% of the time. It’s perfectly acceptable, in fact recommended, that you stray into related areas of interest as a way to grow your audience organically. Think of a dinner party — a one-topic talker can be a real bore.

Where does my audience live?
The demographics of your audience can determine your posting times and language choices (i.e. in the South frequently using y’all wouldn’t necessarily be frowned upon). If your campaign is regional as opposed to national, the local lingo becomes an important part of your content choices. Even in a national campaign, you may want to consider geography: sometimes where a person lives will determine which parts of your message they will connect with. A campaign about education in the northeastern U.S. targeting a specific elected official may not hold my attention with content that calls out a particular politician by name (they’re not MY rep, after all). But if the content also contains stats that I find relevant to education discussions where I live, then suddenly even a regional campaign can be relevant on a national scale.

How formal is my relationship with my audience?
This may seem trivial, but again it will help to determine your content and your language choices. This should also govern your actual engagement strategies.

What other components exist to this campaign, and how can social media complement them?
Explore how your social media integrates into your entire organization. Does the larger campaign include a door-to-door canvas? Phone banking? A rally? Press conference? Writing campaign? Each has social media tactics that can complement them. A truly successful social media campaign will not only work as a standalone effort but will also mesh with non-digital aspects of the campaign.

Which platforms are most appropriate for this campaign?
A complicated question. As a start, study specifics such as the demographics and content-relating strategies for each platform. Contrary to what many might think, not every social media platform is relevant for every campaign. The successful strategists will realize this and adjust appropriately.

What other questions do you ask yourself during a Social Media Campaign?

Virtual Telephone Town Hall: Make It Count

Each and every telephone town hall is an opportunity to boost communication and engagement. Don’t let the opportunity slip through your fingertips. It just takes a little thought and planning to determine how you’ll proceed before, during, and after the event. Here’s a breakdown of ways you can make your TTH count:

BEFORE

  • Identify a hook. Figure out a specific, relevant and timely topic that will connect with your audience and compel them to take part.
  • Promote it.  Use social media, your website, and stakeholder email lists to promote the event.

DURING

  • Stay focused.  Your moderator should have a simple process that appeals to emotions and gives clear guidance on how constituents can take action; he or she should also have a clear method for vetting questions.  
  • Leave ample time for questions.  Instead of ignoring them, be prepared for tough or humorous questions. Showing that you can handle these will only please your constituents. But if you don’t know, that’s OK too. Have experts on the ready or simply say that you don’t know; participants will appreciate the honesty.
  • Clearly state your call to action.  What do you want the participants to do after the meeting? Engage with a legislator? Send an email? Be prepared with an “ask.”

AFTER

Follow up.  Just because the TTH is over, that doesn’t mean you should drop the ball. Remember that by virtue of their participation, this group has a propensity to be engaged. Take advantage of the constituent’s interest and follow up with more information or an actionable request.

Timeline for Facebook: It's About Time

It’s no secret: Timeline for Facebook rocks. The profile creates the feeling that you’ve got something special that you want people to interact with. Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, says it best:

"The goal has always been to have your personal experience on Facebook not be so different than the brand or page experience. And right now, it is different. You have Timeline and you have a page-brand profile. So we are absolutely moving in the direction to sync those up. We believe that brands want to be able to curate how they’re represented in a more visually pleasing way, and we’re in the midst of trying to figure out how best to do that."??

Moving in this direction is a good thing. It also presents a huge design opportunity: think about the possibilities of the huge timeline photo on the top of your Facebook profile. Furthermore, think about the content opportunities — more rich content that makes your Facebook page more interactive, more helpful and more worthwhile for your constituents. 

We already know that the Facebook content ranking system loves photos, videos and other pieces of rich content, so why not reward that system by populating your page accordingly?

Have questions?  Let’s talk at Facebook@iConstituent.comto discuss what we can do for your Facebook page.

4 Steps to Improve your Constituent Engagement Programs

Everyone wants to improve their engagement and we at iConstituent Public Sector can help.  Contact us today. 

  1. Goals:  Constituent engagement programs that want to deliver value should start with a clearly defined goal in mind.  What actions do you want your constituents to take?  What information do you want them to consume?  What feedback would you like to receive?   You want to shape your message not only to get your constituents to take action but to make sure that they are able to consume it through the digital channel they desire.  If your goals are clearly defined and your message is shaped in a way that can be delivered with traditional means and through new media, you will reach more people.
  2. Measure:  To be able to show value internally you have to be able to measure your communications with your goals.  You need to be able to see across digital platforms so you can make that information actionable and understand how your constituents are responding.   When you understand, you are able to communicate more effectively.
  3. Reports:  Take that measurable information and report it!  Use the analytics and measurements, like what we have in the iConstituent social dashboard, to show value to leadership as well as using that information for your next communication.  Re-shape the message.  Target different audiences or influencers.  Come up new strategies like reaching out through other channels like the telephone or social media.
  4. Do it again!:  Take the information and feedback gained and add, change and shape the next message.  As your audience expands you will be able to get a more detailed picture of your constituents and their needs.  You can then use other methods to reach out with messages that people care about and get your constituents to take Action!

Boost Your SEO with Internal Linking on Your Website

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? In the same way, if you have a great website and no one reads it, is it still great?

Maybe it’s not the perfect analogy, but you get the idea. Driving traffic to your website means that more people will read it. Ways to drive traffic include the usual suspects, like posting on Social Media. But one area that many Offices don’t spend too much time thinking about is internal linking, an important yet overlooked strategy. Here’s some common questions answered about how it can help your website:

What is internal linking?
Linking to related pages within a website.

What does is have to do with SEO?
Let’s say you have Page A and Page B on your website. You can use the keywords from page B in the text of the link on Page A, which increases your visibility and authority with search engines. And the more pages that link to a page of value, the more important it becomes in the search engine’s eyes.

Why is internal linking important?
Let’s say you put a link on Page A to Page B. When you do this, the value of Page B is more obvious to search engines. While Page A brings in traffic on its own, you’ll benefit more when you link it to Page B.

How does it work?
Pretend you are a search engine. When you see website Page A that links to Page B on the main navigation, as a search engine you understand that Page B is very important. If Page B isn’t linked to Page A, you get the message that Page B really doesn’t matter.

What should I do to make internal linking work for me?
To leverage the internal linking on your website, map out your site visually so you can understand the links you already have within pages, and learn what pages are ranking high. When you do this, you can literally see what is linked and what isn’t and create a strategy to make sure that the high-ranking pages are generously linked.  This could mean simply adding internal links to existing pages or posts, or creating more blog posts or additional pages so you can create internal links.

The ABCs of Email Marketing

Email marketing terminology often seems like alphabet soup, filled with acronyms and initials that seem to change every week. But don’t get caught in the dark when people are talking about important email marketing terms. Adapted from Hubspot, here are some of the shorthand words we think you should know. Visit for a full glossary of terms.

CPM (Cost Per Thousand).  The cost per 1000 names on a given rental list.

CTR (Click-Through Rate). The percentage of recipients that click on a given URL in your email, determined by the number of unique clicks divided by the number that were opened.

Dedicated IP.  An IP address from which only you send email.

IP Warmup.  Sending a progressively increasing number of emails out of an IP address in order to build the IP's reputation.

Shared IP.  A less costly option than a dedicated IP address, it is an IP address from which many people send emails.

Spam or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email).  Email sent to someone who has not opted-in or given permission to email to the sender.

SPF(Sender Policy Framework).  A DNS record that says on whose behalf an IP or domain sends email.