By Steve Kelman

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A new guide to Facebook for government

steve kelman

Some readers of this blog are probably Facebook friends with me and perhaps know that I am quite active on the site. (I have more recently become active on Twitter as well.) I really appreciate Facebook as an easy, convenient way to stay in touch with people I know and like but normally would not see in person. I also post links to my own blog entries and sometimes to interesting news stories.

It is slightly ironic that I learned on Twitter recently that the great folks at GovLoop, who have provided a website and other services pitched to government employees (particularly younger ones), have cosponsored with Facebook a document called "The Government's Guide to Using Facebook." (The link provided here will take you to a page where you need to fill out a brief registration before being able to download the guide.)

More from FCW

Steve Kelman's "Facebook for government, part two."

The guide begins: "Think back to the state of social media before 2010. In those days, simply having a Facebook Page and posting to it occasionally was enough for many organizations and the public sector. In fact, in many cases it meant that you were at the cutting edge of public-sector social media. But today, just having a social media presence is no longer enough. You must be smart, strategic and ever more creative in order to gain the attention of your audience and reach the right people in your community."

Here are a few of the things I learned from the guide:

  • Photos on average receive 50 percent more "likes" than non-photo posts. (This corresponds to my own experience; pictures I post invariably receive more likes than content such as links to my blog posts.) What kinds of pics are best? "Sneak peeks" or behind-the-scenes content that give your Facebook audience a viewpoint they don't normally get to see. Avoid images that are covered in text or are not visually interesting.
  • Most people will see your posts in their Facebook news feeds, not on your page. People scroll through their news feeds quickly, so the chances they're going to stop and read anything longer than a few lines are slim. Be concise; stick to important information and pay attention to your word count.
  • Being consistent in the quality and types of posts you create can help people know what kinds of messages to expect from you and how they tie into your organization. A content calendar can help you plan ahead and make sure posts use a similar message each time. Schedule posts for when most of your audience is online. When organizations posted multiple updates in quick succession during a breaking news event, they saw a 10 percent increase in engagement.
  • Govies take note: "Use conversational language. Leave the formal press release behind. Facebook is about a more casual, friendly tone."
  • Respond quickly to comments on your posts to let fans know you're listening to feedback.

Finally, in keeping with the department of "this wouldn't be the government if people didn't ask questions like this," the first of the FAQs discussed in the guide were: "Is it legal to ban users from Facebook on a public government page?" and "Is there a way to approve comments to posts prior to them appearing?"

Regarding the second question, the guide uses governmentese to answer: "While Facebook permits the banning of someone from a page, this is a question best put to your legal counsel."

Posted by Steve Kelman on May 18, 2015 at 1:16 PM


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