Social media is like a 24/7 town hall meeting—news spreads, crises unfold and important questions emerge in real time. It’s a direct line to your residents and constituents, who expect you to be active and ready to engage on topics that are most important to them.
It’s no longer an anomaly to see public sector accounts going viral. But managing the social media presence of a government agency comes with a unique set of challenges. Complex platform security and governance requirements. Staff who balance multiple responsibilities beyond social. Ever-evolving strategies that can shift overnight.
Choosing the right social media tools for government agencies and other public sector organizations is a non-negotiable part of proactively reaching and engaging your citizens, saving your team valuable time, creating internal visibility and, ultimately, serving your community better. Use the criteria shared in this article to help your team harness the full power of social.
4 things to look for when evaluating social media tools for government entities
Investing in an intuitive social media management platform is an essential step toward building a strong relationship with your constituents. Yet, many agencies only use native tools to manage their accounts—leaving valuable insights and opportunities to connect untapped. Less than half of public sector entities use software to manage or execute their social media strategy, according to ArchiveSocial. The report also revealed agencies not being able to centrally manage their entire presence is the fastest-growing detriment to success on social.
Yet, not all social media management platforms are created equal. When evaluating social tools to help your agency make waves on social, look for one that:
1. Gives your team time back
Like in many industries, managing government social media is more than a 40 hour per week job, especially when staff members juggle other disciplines like communications, PR, digital marketing, content and more. This not only puts teams at risk of burnout, but prevents agencies from maximizing their presence on social and forming stronger relationships with their citizens and communities.
By using a centralized platform like Sprout Social, you’re enabled to make quick work of delivering social content, so your team can focus on engaging your constituents and refining your creative strategy. A recently commissioned Total Economic Impact™ study conducted by Forrester Consulting found that Sprout’s tools helped a composite organization representative of interviewed customers drive $973,000 in social media team productivity and efficiency savings over three years, and a 55% increase in year 3.
Here a few Sprout highlights that help teams collaborate more effectively:
- Shared calendar: Plan your strategy and maintain oversight from a central hub rather than disparate apps or spreadsheets. Organize posts across profiles, networks and campaigns using a visualized calendar to support a long-term strategy. For example, you can map out your posts for the upcoming week and month to assure your content lines up with priority community events.
- Publishing and scheduling: Boost collaboration between staff and increase productivity with campaign planning tools, automated workflows, and scheduling and monitoring tools. Automatically publish your content at the times most likely to reach constituents and receive real-time engagement updates.
- Message Approval Workflows: With internal and external approver features, ensure content is always approved and compliant with your agency’s communication guidelines—all within the Sprout platform.
2. Puts you in control of crisis management
Whether it’s important local events, public safety emergencies or otherwise, crises are an unavoidable part of government social media efforts. Teams need to be able to pivot their publishing quickly, respond to a surge in inbound messages and be proactive to avoid misinformation from spreading.
Stay on the pulse of social media conversations trending in your constituency to prevent minor risks from spiraling into large-scale crises. When evaluating social media tools for government use, look for powerful social listening and audience engagement solutions that do the heavy lifting for you.
The Sprout platform enables you to stop a crisis in its tracks. We offer a suite of tools designed to help you perfect your crisis response strategy—from easily monitoring your incoming messages to zeroing in on key conversations happening online.
- Pause All Content: In the face of a crisis, this feature enables you to pause all outgoing messages with one click—which saves you time and ensures your entire team is on the same page.
- Message Spike Alerts: If your message volume spikes, that could be indicative of a looming crisis. These alerts automatically send email or mobile push notifications when incoming messages exceed your hourly average, so your team doesn’t have to manually monitor your inbox 24/7.
- Social Listening: Sprout’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven technology can help you gain critical intel about key public figures, trending misinformation and constituent concerns. The platform sifts through millions of social media data points in seconds, helping you access and share actionable findings with leadership and prominent government figures you work with.
3. Supports stronger, more meaningful citizen engagement
Your core mission is to serve your community—which includes serving them on their channel of choice: social media. To do so, you need to understand their preferences, concerns and communication needs, and be responsive and authentic when they reach out to you. Strengthen your citizen engagement by using social media tools that provide your team with valuable intelligence about your audience, and empower swift, proactive communication.
With Sprout’s platform, you can exceed your constituents’ expectations and deliver more tailored experiences on social media—while saving your team time. According to the Total Economic Impact™ study, for the composite organization, customer service specialists saved time equal to $142,000 over three years by using Sprout to respond to incoming messages and inquiries.
These Sprout tools are designed to help you foster connections with your citizens:
- Smart Inbox: Unify your social channels into a single stream so you’re empowered to monitor incoming messages, cultivate conversations and respond to your audience quickly. By tagging and filtering messages, you can prioritize what’s most important and discover unique engagement opportunities. Built-in collision detection notifications make for seamless collaboration, so you can see who has replied to a message and prevent duplicative work
- Brand Keywords: Often, people talk about your agency on social without tagging you directly. If you aren’t actively searching for these messages, you may miss important conversations. Brand Keywords are custom Twitter searches that constantly run and display results in your Smart Inbox, so you can see and respond to these highly relevant posts as easily as any other message. You can also set up alerts based on high priority or crisis keywords, so you’re always one step ahead.
- Custom VIP lists: Within the Smart Inbox, you can add the VIP label next to the avatar of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn users who messaged you. This feature helps you track correspondences with key players in your constituency, like reporters, elected officials and business leaders.
- Listening: In addition to helping you manage a crisis, Sprout’s social listening solution helps you keep up with relevant trending conversations and influential community leaders. The tools gather honest feedback about your agency’s performance on social and beyond. With these insights, you will be empowered to produce more meaningful content and ladder-up your learnings to decision makers.
4. Reshapes perception of what social can do
In the public sector, social is still largely misunderstood. Many hold onto the lingering belief that it does more harm than good, while others see it as a wild west of misinformation. The right tool will help your communications team quantify the impact of your social efforts and change the way your agency’s stakeholders see social media (even if they aren’t social savvy).
Using a social media management platform makes it easy to create clear reports that demonstrate how your social strategy translates to agency goals. For example, with Sprout’s Analytics tools, you can eliminate the time-consuming manual data collection processes in favor of automated, presentation-ready reports. The Total Economic Impact™ study found that Sprout eliminated manual data aggregation to prepare monthly reports by 75%, resulting in $39,000 in savings over three years.
By using Sprout, you can automatically generate:
- Tag Reports: Access an overview of your inbound and outbound tagged messages to easily analyze campaign effectiveness, volume and performance patterns.
- Post Performance Reports: Analyze cross-channel performance at the post level to understand what messaging and formats resonate with your constituents and why.
- Profile Performance Reports: Access a high-level overview of performance across all connected profiles to quickly evaluate social growth, and how that growth correlates with key initiatives.
5. Supports internal compliance
Compared to other industries, government entities have to balance their social media strategies and workflows against a host of compliance requirements.
For example, a 2014 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) bulletin mandated that federal agencies follow several best practices for managing social media records. Though the definition of what constitutes a “record” can vary by agency, social media posts that communicate policy information or even open-ended prompts that invite user engagement may all constitute records that must be archived properly. A 2023 NARA audit of 10 agencies found that most lack the tools and staff to handle social media record retention.
Government organizations can leverage Sprout’s inbox export to quickly export posts, messages and reviews from the Smart Inbox into a CSV file, and our customer audit trail to export a myriad of user and admin actions. These exports provide clear documentation of granular metadata, including message type and timestamps, the Sprout user who sent or edited each message, and permalinks to the message on the original network.
Find the right social media tools for your agency’s workflow
When evaluating social media management software for your government agency, to paraphrase JFK, don’t hesitate to ask what the tools will do for you. With the right social media management platform, you can do your best work more efficiently, proactively curb crises, create more time for citizen engagement and confidently demonstrate the value of social at your agency.
For a more comprehensive look at the value social media provides, download The Total Economic Impact™ of Sprout Social study, and learn how Sprout delivered a 233% return on investment over three years.
Social media and politics: why it matters + 10 tips for campaignsPublished on November 2, 2022 Reading time 9 minutes
Social media and government: how to keep citizens engagedPublished on January 13, 2022 Reading time 9 minutes