Local Governments Email and Social Media

(originally posted March 2011)

What Kinds of News should Local Governments use Email Distribution and Social Media to communicate quickly?

Let’s start with this – why both email and social media? The answer is, despite the growing distribution of feeds from Social Media into texts and multi-site distribution, email is still the more identifiable way to distribute information. You can know what email accounts get it, you can know if they open it. More people use e-mail than Facebook or Twitter. Do not forget that simple fact. You have to cover the waterfront if you’re going to use a proactive distribution to get information out beyond your website.

Secondly, particularly for the world that doesn’t sign up for much in the way of organizational texting messages, email is MORE proactive. Not everyone uses text messaging significantly yet. Really! You’re not relying on someone seeing your message on a web site, and depending on the importance and timeliness of the message, email can be the quickest way to get that message in front of someone’s eyes.

For the world that DOES sign up for organizational texting messages, then social media feeds can be faster.

So – both are useful, and both should be combined in a local government’s effort.

As far as the kinds of information that can or should be distributed by a local government via email and social media, obviously it depends on the local government unit, but there are some common items:

Emergency Notifications
Weather closings
Event Schedules (such as rec programs or cultural activities)
Meeting Agenda Posting Notice

That’s not the end all, obviously. But those are common starting points for local government.

Your web site should provide access for easy sign up for your local government’s social media offerings and for email subscription. The access should be available on the front page at least, and preferably anywhere else on the site. And your emails and social media offerings should also provide the ability to sign up as well.

Social Media and email have a common ground. Short, to the point messages are strongly recommended and sometimes required. If it needs to be longer, then post on the web site in full detail and use social media/email to send a quick summary and the link for all details. And if short and sweet is the focus, then there’s no need for elaborate graphic design of the email when it’s only going to get in the way of someone actually digesting the message. If you have to have an organizational header graphic in your email, fine, but backgrounds, cute buttons, and other graphic “enhancements” most likely are actually going to distract or deter from getting your message out. Focus on what is important.

Finally – once you start, keep going, but determine a pace. 15 Facebook posts in a day can be pretty unpopular for an organizational page. 1 Tweet every 3 months is relatively worthless. Same goes for email. Your audience will want to have a pace as well as a content expectation for social media and email efforts for local government. You’ll need to find and hone that expectation.