Civic engagement is a recurring challenge for public works organizations across the United States. From public meetings to email blasts, popular strategies for communication vary in success. While no form of communication is a guaranteed winner, some public works organizations are finding social media to be a helpful tool in engaging with their community.
According to a 2022 report by Statista, Americans spend an average of 2 hours on social media each day. If a public works team isn’t posting on social media, they could be missing out on a valuable opportunity to engage directly with the people in their jurisdiction.
Beginning to utilize social media for civic engagement can be intimidating, especially if you do not have much experience with the different platforms. Today, there are many different platforms to choose from, and each has benefits for specific types of communication.
Facebook Facebook was one of the first major social media platforms, and it remains popular to this day. Facebook allows for longer text, image, or video-based updates. Events can also be scheduled and promoted via Facebook, which includes an RSVP feature.
Twitter Twitter is a very popular platform for quick, text-based updates. For a public works department, these updates can include:
- Event or meeting time reminders
- Updates on major projects
- Road closure announcements
Instagram Instagram grew in popularity in the mid- to late-2010s. It allows for image and video updates. While captioned photos perform well on Instagram, it is also common for business to create their own graphics to share information. Canva is a popular, easy-to-use tool to create these informational graphics without previous graphic design experience.
TikTok Since launching in the United States in 2018, TikTok, a short video-based social media platform, has quickly gained popularity, especially for millennial and Gen-Z audiences. If a public works department is looking to engage with younger crowds, here are some ideas for TikTok videos:
- Show highlights from a public event, like a street festival, parade, farmers market, or workshop
- Follow a day in the life of a public works employee
- Have fun! The TikTok platform is more casual than other social media channels, with audiences responding positively to authenticity and a sense of humor
It may seem overwhelming to create profiles for a public works department on social media, with common questions including: What should we post? How often should we post? How do we grow our follower count? Like most new projects, social media has a learning curve, and each unique organization will find their ‘sweet spot’ for content and scheduling. For organizations just getting started, here are some top tips from the AssetWorks EAM team on what to start posting about:
The asset management and maintenance projects public works teams work on directly impact the community around them. Citizens want to hear about major or exciting updates on these projects, including milestones, adjusted timelines, and funding. Social media is a powerful tool for sharing larger updates, on platforms like Facebook, to smaller, but still exciting, updates on platforms like Twitter or Instagram.
Public events bring people together across a community, from farmers markets to parades and everything in between. A lot of work goes into planning these events and social media is a great tool to invite and remind people to attend. It can also be used to build excitement around the event by posting ‘throwback’ photos from previous events, highlighting different vendors or sponsors, and showing moments from ‘behind the scenes’ with the planning team.
If your department is looking to increase participation in local meetings, like city council meetings, town halls, or other public forums, social media can be used to promote the date, time, location, and agenda highlights. These posts can serve as important reminders for these meetings, which may impact turnout and helpful discussion.
Notices or scheduling changes
On any given week, there are important updates that may affect a citizen’s day, including road closures, traffic light maintenance, and changes to trash pickup schedules. With social media, public works can communicate these changes to inform the community before it negatively impacts their routines.
Social media is a great tool for highlighting the many members of public works and parks and recreation teams. Not only does this show appreciation for all their hard work, but it also showcases the typical job functions of certain roles, which may help with future recruiting.
Social media can be a scary undertaking for public works professionals, with concerns rising about local government social channels becoming a hot bed for public complaints or Internet trolling. While citizens may take to social media to air their grievances, it’s important to handle each instance with understanding in a timely manner.
A way to mitigate public complaints is to make civic engagement tools easily accessible from the public works website. With a civic engagement software tool, citizens can submit a service request on assets within the community, including potholes, damaged street signs, and more, directly to the public works team. If a citizen’s concern is handled through the software, they are less likely to turn to the department’s social media channels.
When used properly, social media is a powerful tool for public works, parks and recreation, and other asset management organizations to engage with their communities.
While you’re thinking about social media, don’t forget to follow the AssetWorks EAM team on LinkedIn.