Here’s how local and federal government agencies use social media to engage citizens, launch campaigns, effectively communicate during crises — and more.
Social media and the government go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why? Because social media is an excellent place to communicate with constituents, launch campaigns, and build awareness around initiatives — and it’s an essential tool in crisis communications.
At Hootsuite, we work with many levels of government and fully understand how social media has risen to play a significant role in the communications strategies of government bodies, politicians, and lawmakers worldwide.
Read on to discover how all levels of government, from municipal to provincial to federal, can and should use social media.
Bonus: Download Hootsuite’s annual report on government social media trends. Find out how leading government agencies are using social media, our top five recommended areas of opportunity, and more.
Key benefits of social media in government
Engage with the public
Whether you focus efforts on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, or a different platform entirely, social media will always be a solid place to keep the general public informed and updated about important issues and engage with an audience on a deeper level.
I fly these flags 365 days a year. pic.twitter.com/MsI1uQzDZ0
— Rep. Eric Swalwell 🟧 (@RepSwalwell) May 24, 2019
You will become a meme
I am once again reminding you that social media is a place where you can become a meme.
(And in case you missed it, below is the infamous Bernie Sanders meme that spread like wildfire across social media in early 2020).
Often, the results of having your words and image turned into a meme are fairly harmless. But proceed with caution, as the way they are used will be out of your control.
5 tips for using social media in government
There are two types of social media accounts: soapboxes and dinner parties. A soapbox social media account focuses on themselves. They use social media to broadcast messages and issues without engaging with their audience.
On the other hand, a dinner party social media account invites audiences in and creates a dialogue with them. They encourage discussion and engagement between the host (you) and the guests (your audience).
You want to make sure you’re running a dinner party account for social media and government communications. Here are five tips on how you can do exactly that.
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1. Learn where your constituents spend time (online)
You need to understand the channel where your target audience hangs out so that you’re not wasting valuable time and resources campaigning into the void.
For example, if you’re a politician relying on swaying younger voters to carry a ballot, you’ll probably want to focus on TikTok or Instagram Reels because this is typically where Gen-Z spends the most time. Similarly, if you want to whip up left-leaning men with a college degree into a frenzy, focus your attention on Twitter.
Remember AOC, who we chatted about earlier? In 2020, she hosted a video game live stream on Twitch to help her reach younger audiences who may not be familiar with or interested in politics.
Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun)
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 19, 2020
Marketing on Twitch might not suit every political candidate, so it’ll be your decision whether you think the streaming platform is the correct place for you to engage with an audience. And if you need help understanding how to uncover your target audience on social media, wrap your eyes around How to Find and Target Your Social Media Audience to get started.
2. Share relevant, valuable content and information
Build audience trust and engagement by sharing relevant and interesting content, and audiences will naturally turn to you as a valid source of information and knowledge.
The BC Parks Instagram account does this well. The organization uses Instagram to share information, tips, and insights into what’s happening across the province’s extensive roster of parks.
Beautiful #sunset tonight in Central Jersey. @NJGov really knows how to show off its colors. #NJwx pic.twitter.com/rvqiuf8pRY
— x – John Napoli (@WeenieCrusher) May 17, 2022
If you’re struggling to keep up with all the messages you receive, onboard a tool like Hootsuite, where you can effortlessly streamline your comms into one tidy dashboard.
With Hootsuite’s Inbox, you can bridge the gap between citizen engagement and crucial online communications — and manage all of your social media messages in one place. This includes:
- Private messages and DMs
- Public messages and posts on your profiles
- Dark and organic comments
- Emoji reactions
… and more.
The all-in-one agent workspace makes it easy to
- Track the history of any individual’s interactions with your social accounts across platforms, giving your team the context needed to personalize replies
- Add notes to individual constituent’s profiles (Inbox integrates with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics)
- Handle messages as a team, with intuitive message queues, task assignments, statuses, and filters
- Track response times and CSAT metrics
Plus, Inbox comes with handy automations:
- Automated message routing
- Auto-responses and saved replies
- Automatically triggered satisfaction surveys
- AI-powered chatbot features
Reduce response time (and your workload)
Manage all your messages stress-free with easy routing, saved replies, and friendly chatbots. Try Hootsuite’s Inbox today.
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4. Stay secure
A social media security breach will seriously undermine the general public’s confidence in government. Plus, U.S. legislation requires all cloud services used by federal government agencies to meet a meticulous set of security standards known as FedRAMP.
The simplest way to ensure that your accounts stay secure is by onboarding a social media management platform to manage all your social media accounts and activity across multiple teams or people.
Hootsuite is FedRAMP-authorized and comes with two-factor authentication for an additional layer of security. When you centralize your social media management with Hootsuite, you have complete control to review and approve messages, log all activity and interactions, and set up post review and approvals.
If you need more details, read through our step-by-step guide to social media security for more tips on how to protect your organization online, whether or not you use Hootsuite.
5. Remain compliant
Remaining compliant with privacy requirements is critical for any government body. For large organizations with multiple social media practitioners, establishing best practices for social media use can help ensure the collective compliance of all users.
Guidelines towards acceptable and forbidden content, data handling, citizen engagement, and even tone are a few best practice examples organizations can implement to keep their team compliant.
If you manage social for a government or agency using Hootsuite, our partners’ social media archiving integrations make it easy to stay compliant with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and other public records laws.
In recent years, government bodies and their employees have responded to dramatic shifts in public expectations of political and government discourse.
Innovative policymakers and their staff are quickly adapting by creating highly engaging social content to rally follower support, while also 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 crucial to success.
Examples of government social media campaigns
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was understandably a little busy. But that didn’t stop the government agency from pulling off effective COVID-related campaigns and messaging on social media to help keep the general public informed.
Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources
Government social media doesn’t have to be dry or boring — just ask whoever’s running social accounts for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Their Twitter offers timely, relevant information packaged in meme-friendly posts that often go viral.
Parents, please check your kids' candy this Halloween! Just found a magnitude 9 Cascadia megathrust earthquake causing a massive tsunami inside this fun size Snickers bar. pic.twitter.com/NJc3lTpWxQ
— Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources (@waDNR) October 13, 2022
Their alt text game is pretty strong too:
Via Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources on Twitter
The US Food and Drug Administration is pretty much in charge of saying whether a product or foodstuff is safe for the public to use or not. So, it’s important that their social media channels share factually correct information.
Here are a couple of examples of how the FDA has used social media to this effect.
Folate is important for lowering the risk of serious problems that occur during pregnancy.
Learn how the Nutrition Facts label can help pregnant women make decisions to support a healthy eating pattern. https://t.co/thsiMeoEfO #NWHW #FindYourHealth pic.twitter.com/eFGqduM0gy
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) May 12, 2022
46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, used social media to gain leverage and grow momentum for his Build Back Better campaign throughout 2020 and 2021.
By leveraging the power of the hashtag, Biden’s team was able to ensure a catchy slogan and a measurable campaign by analyzing the success and trends of the hashtag.
Our Build Back Better Agenda will strengthen our economy by lowering taxes on the working and middle class, and reducing the cost of child care, housing, and higher education.
We will grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 28, 2021
FAQs about social media and government
What does the government do with social media?
Government agencies and officials use social media for constituent engagement, building awareness around initiatives, and crisis communications.
How does local government use social media?
Local governments use social media to connect with citizens, promote events and local initiatives, and recruit new employees.
What social media platforms are the best for the government?
Government agencies and officials of all levels should be present on the social media platforms used by their constituents. The answer will differ depending on where your agency operates and who you’re trying to reach with your online communications. That said, many people use Twitter to access news and updates from politicians, so it might be a good place to start.
Inform and engage on social media with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish content to every network, monitor relevant conversations, and measure public sentiment around programs and policies with real-time social listening and analytics. See it in action.
See why Hootsuite is the #1 social media tool for government. Engage citizens, manage crises, and reduce risk online.
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