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Best GSMCON2021 Takeaways

Apr 27, 2021

While the 2021 Government Social Media Conference is over, you can still connect with your government social media peers! Be a part of the GSM Community Facebook Group, join the GSM network for platform contacts and more, or become a professional association member for access to socialgov webinars, trainings and other tools.

Contributed blog by GSMCON2021 Emcees Justin H.S. Breaux (Argonne National Laboratory) & Katie Nelson (Mountain View Police Department)

We may have had to adapt this year with going totally virtual for the 2021 Government Social Media Conference, but that didn’t mean we lost out on a jam-packed conference full of incredible learning moments, tangible takeaways, and insights that were brought to us by some of the brightest minds in the business. 

We’re still reeling over all that we absorbed over the course of the three days, and we wanted to share with you some of the notable nuggets that we just can’t stop thinking about when it comes to elevating our ingenuity in a digital space with our residents and our online audiences. 


Get to experimenting. This is something that came out loud and clear during the How Social Trends Fit with Government Agencies session with Washington State DOT’s Mike Allende and our very own Katie Nelson representing Mountain View PD. From Elf on a Shelf to Bernie’s mittens, there are opportunities for our agencies to experiment with a trend and be part of a larger conversation that shows both how relevant and how human we can be. With the short amount of time you have before it gets too stale (about 24-48 hours) you’ll need to think quickly about how your audience will respond to the trend, if the content makes sense, and what platforms you’ll use. But, don’t overthink it! Lastly, if you do go viral and break the internet with over four million in reach, have a strategy on how you’re going to further educate all your new followers on just what it is your agency does. At the end of the day, that’s what it's all about.    

Use data to understand your audience, then engage. Janis Burl from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tackled the subject beautifully in her presentation Data Secrets from a Math Hater. This was also a theme that, pretty much, all speakers touched on in one form or another. The idea that successful engagement with our communities is based on how much we know about them. Producing regular reports can help you spot trends or notice opportunities for further engagement. Talking with your colleagues about this information is a great way to generate new content and keep them in the know about how social media is making an impact on the agency.


Something new is something special — I absolutely loved the insight that was shared with the TikTok panel, consisting of Jon Tolbert, formerly with the City of Columbus, OH, Katie Grant with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Jordan Gilgenbach with the City of Minneapolis and Eric Ebenstein from the company. Something that struck me was just how tailored the content can be to your audiences, and really finding the nuances that resonate with TikTok users is incredibly important. The way that these three were able to breathe new life into their messaging strategy with quick-hit takeaways on a platform that prides itself on its scroll-ability was a huge lightbulb moment for me, and I look forward to incorporating their tips into how we roll out the utilization of TikTok in my jurisdiction.

Kaitlin Keeler, Oakland County Digital Editorial Manager, never stops astounding me with all that she shares in how we can build fool-proof policies that protect our agencies and our employees. While these are places where we should be making regular updates, checking all the necessary boxes and more, Kaitlin truly dove deep into how we can ensure that we aren’t just meeting standards, but we are exceeding expectations with how we educate and empower our employees online. The other thing that Kaitlin really drove home for me was that while this may seem like a daunting task, ultimately these policies are what will truly give us the ability to be our best selves online so that we can, together, build out the reputation and legacy of our agencies and those who serve. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t note how much I enjoyed Lauren Devoll’s jam-packed session on Twitter and all that is coming for those of us who are government social media communicators. I don’t think I was taking notes fast enough, and I know I missed some key points that are going to truly enhance what we can do on the platform. That being said, what I did take away was nothing short of astounding, and between Twitter Spaces and better ways to explore your voice on Twitter, I’m here to say — time to double down on how we utilize and how we expand our efforts in this space.

Best communicate with the public you serve by becoming a part of the free Government Social Media network — only available to full/part-time employees of government or educational institutions. 

We support the largest network of government social media professionals in the U.S. by guiding government agencies through complex social media issues. Government Social Media helps you successfully communicate with the public you serve, protect your agency and keep public trust while finding your support community.


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