The Public Administration sector is undergoing many changes and one of the most impactful undoubtedly concerns how it communicates with the public. To do so, it will experiment with new methods and tools that can ensure the quality and transparency that today’s citizens expect while providing information and assistance in a way that is customized. All this is possible thanks to social media.
Social media is forcing a little each sector to invest more and more in social communication.
The public sector is no exception. The Italian association #PAsocial is focused on supporting, promoting and developing the conscious and appropriate use of social media and all new means of communication to improve the relationship between public bodies, companies, and citizens.
Social media is an excellent tool for establishing a new dialog and relationship between citizens and institutions aimed at information, listening, consultation, and participation. This is in response to citizens who want direct, two-way, easy communication… in a word: social.
Italians and social media
Before understanding how the PA can make the most of social media, let’s look at the habits of Italians on social networks.
In 2018, 54.8 million Italians surfed the Internet, with 35 million active on social platforms at an average of two hours a day. Blogmeter’s “Italians and social media 2019” report tried to answer this question by interviewing 1510 Italian residents who are signed up to at least one social channel.
The research revealed two different types of platforms, depending on the frequency of use:
- Social platforms, those used several times a week, even daily. This includes Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Telegram;
- Functional social services, i.e. those used more occasionally and only for specific needs, such as Trip Advisor and Skype.
These platforms are frequented for different reasons and needs, even if some characteristics are common to all platforms For example, 43% of those interviewed by Blogmeter say they only use social media to read other people’s content, mainly through Facebook, while only 12% use it for the sole purpose of writing and sharing original posts.
Users, for the most part, are therefore falsely active and prefer, for example, to follow influencers and read the news, rather than being active content creators, especially if it takes time. It is therefore inevitable that temporary content, such as Instagram Stories, will be distributed, as such content is easy to share and watch. It is no coincidence that in 2018, 400 million users worldwide actively used Instagram Stories on a daily basis. In Italy, 32% prefer to watch Stories rather than read a post, an even higher percentage in the 15-24 age group, which reaches 52%.
This data immediately leads to another fact: mobile is the preferred device for accessing social networks. Out of almost 60 million inhabitants, at least 31 are active on social media and 28 million access their social profiles through mobile devices.
“In Italy, social and digital channels are a reference point for information, entertainment, and conversation. In line with Western countries, Italians are also paying attention to important issues related to their online lives, such as the control of their privacy and the choice of reliable sources of information,” said Gabriele Cucinella, Stefano Maggi and Ottavio Nava, of We Are Social.
All this data suggests how important it is for a company to implement a social strategy to communicate to and from the outside world. But how true is this for the public sector?
Social Networking for the Public Administration – How to create a social media editorial plan for the PA
Italians prefer a digital Public Administration that has an active, communicative presence on the main social networks. As emerged during the PA Social Day 2019, 78% of Italians find the information and services that Public Administration offices share on social networks and chat useful. Not only that, they would like more.
This 78% is not just made up of young people; social networks are no longer for young people alone. In fact, 7 out of 10 over the age of 54 would like to receive updates and information from the PA on social networks.
If a Public Administration office decides to put itself on social media, one out of four citizens expects a response and only 32% consider no response tolerable and only in the case of insults or out of context messages.
To communicate effectively, PAs must have an editorial plan that is consistent with what it wants to convey. This allows institutions to get closer to citizens, to create credibility and to place themselves on the same level as users.
How can public administration offices be effective on social issues? We’ve got five tips on how to build your presence on social networks for the public sphere.
1. Social Listening
Before you define your presence on social networks, it is important to listen. The listening phase allows you to understand what you say about your brand and is the fundamental starting point within your marketing and social communication strategies.
Ninja Marketing defines social listening as a circular process aimed at increasing, maximizing, and optimizing communication strategies and the choices that compose them through the collection of data, their processing, analysis and production of strategic responses oriented to listening to the network and the ideas that users have to offer.
Above all, for sectors like the Public Administration, it is important to take advantage of social listening in order to understand which message to put out there based on the recipients you want to reach. Listening policies imply having communication channels that are always available so as to keep users always informed and involved. It also contributes to reducing the distance between the PA and citizens, keeping the latter ever interested in what’s going on.
Social networks are the ideal tool for the PA to help them better inform and communicate with citizens, but also to help them reach different types of users and build a relationship of trust by listening and monitoring citizens’ level of satisfaction.
2. Total transparency
We are in what Sergio Talamo of Formez PA calls the era of total transparency in public administration.
Today, citizens are asking for “unveiled” communication, and the public administration, on the other hand, is hoping for a collaborative relationship that involves the sharing of content. In this context, it should be considered that the social network could become a means of “communicative transparency” with immediate effect, a tool through which to request the publication of documents, new policies, and other information.
A successful example that we can report is Social Street Palermo, a social project born in 2014 that enabled citizens to interact with each other and the Municipality of Palermo in a way that is transparent, easy, and fast. In just a few months, 40 Facebook groups were born, along with thousands of followers on the official page and Twitter, more than 3,000 subscribers to Social Street neighborhood, and more than 1,000 downloads for the App “Palermo Clean.” In addition to creating a real community, this initiative has led to the renovation of Piazza Lolli, where the city and Social Street collaborated to clean up this area of the city to make it a space where children can play.
The “social streeters” spread information daily through continuous interaction with other citizens and thanks to neighbourhood meetings and social media groups. In this way, the administration can verify the new proposals and transform them into concrete actions and citizens are able to freely evaluate them, encouraging discussion and meetings both in person and virtual.
3. Make way for informality
Italians, even for public communication, require a certain degree of informality. Emoticons, images, and videos are positively received by 42% of citizens aged 18 to 34 years and by 64% of over those 54 who prefer them, when accompanied by a simple and direct language, to an institutional and highly formal tone.
Much also depends on the social network that you decide to watch, and some necessarily require an informal tone. Facebook is a network of “friends” that requires a light and colloquial tone of voice and emotional content, even for Public Administration. The same goes for Twitter, where the communication is direct, gets to the point, and does not require formality.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is dedicated to business and is the most “formal” of the social networks because it aims to highlight professional or corporate skills and to increase brand awareness and brand identity. Here, a more formal or even technical language can be utilized.
4. Watch out for content
Content is the focal point of any communication. To communicate, you must have something to say.
As far as the Public Administration is concerned, public communication must, first of all, include practical content, such as opening hours to the public, deadlines for the use of certain services, updates on the performance of particular initiatives, and temporary changes that affect mobility. This is the type of content that citizens expect, and they expect to find it easily on their Public Administration’s social pages.
Another kind of content that is highly appreciated by citizens is how-to or educational content. In the case of the Public Administration, such content could be an explanation of how the TARI, the waste tax, is calculated, or how to separate the waste for collection. This content increases confidence in the PA, which is seen as transparent and close to the citizen.
The content aimed at promoting and enhancing the territory is also appreciated. This can be for enhancing public initiatives to locals or to encourage tourism.
However, regardless of the type of content, it’s important to be original. In the vast amount of content published every day on social media an anonymous and uncreative message can go unnoticed. A certain degree of creativity and innovation is also needed in the PA, although it should be remembered that, given its institutional function, it cannot take on inconsistent tones of voice even when it operates in an informal environment such as that of social networks.
A good strategy could be that of personalization, increasingly appreciated in all sectors, even in the public sector, because it makes customers and citizens feel unique and important.
5. Planning and flexibility
Last but not least, an effective social communication strategy requires good planning.
Social media allows you to plan the content you want to publish well in advance, and there are tools and applications that can be used to schedule posts across multiple platforms on a regular basis. This is because constant publication allows you to increase the loyalty of your audience of online users.
A good practice is to establish a fixed daily or weekly schedule that become a reference point for information for citizens. For example, every Friday the City of Milan publishes the weekend events schedule on its Facebook page.
Organized planning, however, does not exclude a good degree of flexibility, especially when it comes to public administration that often has to deal with unforeseen events and crises. It is precisely in these cases that you need to be timely and open to change, planning is impossible.
Find out a new way to communicate with citizens and learn more about the implementation of personalized videos in Public Administrations – download ID card renewal case study: