Contributed blog by Russel Lolacher, Director of Web and Social Media Services for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and author of the Relationships at Work blog
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen government organizations make on social media is treating it like it’s not SOCIAL media. They find it far more important to DO a platform than BE the experience their audience expects, which can be damaging to your relatability and transparency in the government space.
If your agency sets up a branded account on social media, you are making a promise to meet the expectations of a social media experience: listening, responding and providing information, and doing it all quickly.
“Social” is defined as “seeking or enjoying the companionship of others” and “living in a community” while “media” is the means of communication. So, when using social media, it’s expected it’s being done to connect people, to provide communal value through a technical platform. It is a tool to facilitate this connection, and it’s how that tool is used is really the most important thing. That’s where the difference between DOING and BEING social is defined.
One of my favorite explanations comes from Amber Naslund, an author and speaker with decades of experience in the marketing space. I’m an Amber fan, not only for her wisdom but in how she provides it – with candor. She explains that the difference between DOING and BEING is intent, and while you’re working in the government communications space, you’re still marketing to your audience and reinforcing your agency’s brand.
“DOING is an activity that anyone can easily replicate. BEING is about the INTENT behind the actions: wanting to genuinely foster conversation and make connections with people on an individual basis.” – Amber Naslund.
If your intent is to build trust and relationships with your community, you have to BE social with them. The alternative is pretty much just talking about yourself and how awesome you are. Don’t be the narcissist at the party.
So, content marketing is a big part of your social media strategy. OK. But that’s still not being social, even if people are talking about your content. Check out this video from Truly Social’s Tara Hunt. It dismisses the idea that content marketing IS social media… because it isn’t. We generally killed social (i.e. engagement) so content marketing rose to fill the void – creating videos, crafting graphics, writing blogs and articles and then sharing them across social distribution channels. Even though this media can be considered “social objects” or content that can create conversation and engagement, it’s not your agency’s brand being social. Again, this is talking AT, not WITH your audience.
Social and content marketing are not the same thing.
To DO social, you are approaching social media like a checklist. Something to do so you can move on to other things in your communications plan. These are a few traits of what DOING social looks like:
Though the act of DOING social isn’t ideal for your customers, it does (sadly) have its benefits for the organization.
To BE social, is to approach platforms as if they are a conversation with the intent of starting and maintaining a relationship with your audiences, and a crucial reason why having a dedicated member of your staff devoted to being social on social media. Yes, this can still be part of your agency’s communications planning, but it also must include organic discussion as it would be between any humans.
As you can imagine, taking the more human approach of BEING social has its benefits.
Of course, you can DO social, but to really have benefits for your organization you have to BE social. Here are a few ways to go down the better path:
If this was translated into a personal relationship, BEING social is the friend that’s there when you want to move to a new home, DOING social is the friend that only calls you when they want to talk about themselves or want something from you.
Now who would you rather have in your life?
Director of Web and Social Media Services for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Russel defines and leads TranBC and @DriveBC in social customer care, emergency communications and public engagement. Sharing his thoughts through his blog, Relationships at Work, he has been internationally recognized as a top customer service expert by Microsoft and Hootsuite and in Forbes and Huffington Post. Follow Russel on LinkedIn.
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