It's the age-old problem for public sector organisations. Does anyone want to like or follow you? One organisation has some of the answers.
By Stuart Reynolds
These were the words said to me a few years ago when councils started experimenting with social media and in some respects maybe they had a point. The truth now however is that people are willing to follow anything and anyone as long as it adds value to their lives in some way, shape or form. The strategy for the HCC Twitter account was to make sure that it became seen as a useful channel providing helpful and interesting content that people would want to look at and engage with.
As part of this strategy a complete review was undertaken with each element being reviewed and tweaked to maximise the opportunity for engagement – this has resulted in an account that now has over 61,000 followers and averages over 100 new followers a day.
The recipe that has driven this monumental increase in followers is mainly down to the site being driven by the objectives of the 25+ campaigns that the HCC comms team runs each year but the key has been to focus our effort on two key areas.
Engagement and Customer Journey
The two words that I probably say at least once a day and the two words you should write down if nothing else. The key to the channels shift has been to change the way that we look at digital campaigns by focussing on the entire customer journey from start to finish, even if elements of it are out of your control.
We stopped focussing on the standard ‘reach’ and ‘impression’ figures (that normally look good on paper) and concentrated more on the actual engagement rates and whether people were interacting with us or not. This small refocus had a significant impact on the messages going out from the account, which now encourage engagement rather than just stating fact.
When joining the comms team in April 2016 I was keen to implement my ‘So what’ rule. The principle of this rule was that if you could follow a tweet with the words ‘so what’ then the chances that the audience would say that as well were high. Therefore the tweet or text should be tweaked so that it can’t be said and rather encourage the reader to come and find out more or do something.
Engagement is not just important from a campaign success point of view (i.e. getting people to do the thing or complete the task you want them to do) but with the various new algorithms that social media sites employ it is important to get engagement just so your messages are displayed in people’s new feeds (a golden rule is to tweak tweets and then send them out again and again). Unengaged followers will probably never see your tweets in the first place.
Do you like happy endings? Then optimise for mobile.
Another key part of the change, again round the customer journey, was to ensure that when we included call to actions and links that we were sending people to a nice, mobile friendly destination page or piece of content. My advice is, if it’s not simple and mobile friendly (responsive), then don’t include or use it at all. Just last week we postponed a campaign as the page we were sending them to wasn’t of a sufficient quality so a better experience is being planned and the campaign will run directing users to that instead. You want the customer to have a happy ending so that they tell people. Therefore, optimise for mobile on everything (including images) because the chances are that your target audience on twitter are viewing it on a smartphone. Ask yourself, how much do you use your smartphone for and how often do you check what your comms will look like on one before it goes out? A quick test for you…look at a few posts from your corporate Twitter account via the Twitter app on your phone and count how many of your images have been cropped to cut off text etc – you may be surprised.
So, a brief summary, create content with engagement in mind, think of the whole customer journey (even if you don’t have responsibility over parts of it) and optimise and check on mobile…as standard.
We put these principles in place and it seems to have delivered results. There were plenty of other things that accompanied this but perhaps that’s for another post.
Stuart Reynolds is senior digital communications officer at Hertfordshire County Council.
Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr