The Case for Facebook in the public sector
Just uttering the F-word among those working in the public sector is enough to evoke, at best, a heavy sigh and, at worst, fear-induced shaking and sweating.
“Facebook. It’s just so risky isn’t it?”
To say there is a culture of risk-aversion within the public sector, and government departments in particular, is an understatement.
I recently ran one of contentgroup’s social media training courses. It was a great opportunity to understand different organisations’ reservations about social media generally, and Facebook specifically.
Their concerns were not new:
- Facebook is resource intensive. It’s someone’s full-time job to sit there and monitor and respond to everyone isn’t it?
- Facebook opens up a two-way dialogue. So it’s a free-for-all for anyone wanting to have a moan, right?
- Facebook owns the audience. And besides, every time Facebook adjusts its algorithm, doesn’t the potential organic reach for businesses, brands and companies decline even further?
I sympathised with these concerns, but it certainly got me thinking.
When developing a content marketing strategy, at contentgroup we never make a blanket recommendation that clients immediately create a Facebook presence and set about firing off five posts a day from now until the end of time.
As has become something of a mantra of ours, your website is your centre of gravity; it’s where you own your content and assets.
Social media is, however, an important part of the distribution piece.
Let’s consider that Facebook has massive community building potential; I mean, that’s how it was conceived. Originally a social networking tool exclusively for Harvard University students, there are now over 1.71 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide.
In Australia, the 2016 Sensis Social Media report indicated that of the 67% of Aussies with a social media presence, 95% of them are on Facebook. On average, these users are spending 12.5 hours per week using the platform.
I’m sure I don’t need to say it because you’re all already thinking it, but that’s one and a half workdays per week using Facebook.
Rather than just let the numbers speak for themselves however, here are three things you need to say to your executive to make them reconsider their policy on Facebook:
1. Facebook can serve as an excellent referrer of traffic to your website.
Your website is ultimately where you want your audience to be.
I know that we would all like to think that those website hits come from our subject matter and content being so interesting.
So interesting that our audience just can’t help but find themselves at our website, ready to be blown away by how interesting we are.
That doesn’t happen, and if it does, only in exceptional circumstances.
So, you really need to think about the distribution piece of your strategy (and I’d recommend Facebook advertising too but that might be a conversation for another day… or further on in this blog.)
One of my clients is a farm safety initiative owned by a NSW Government Agency. We post regularly on their website, and distribute the content through their Facebook page which currently has 1.2k followers. Since February 2016, of our 11,115 sessions on the website, 7,928 (71.33%) of them have come through social media. Of those 7,928 sessions referred by social media, 7,827 (98.73%) have come through Facebook.
We have a healthy number of returning visitors to the site organically, but Facebook clearly plays a crucial role in driving new traffic.
2. Facebook is a place to have a conversation with your audience.
I realise that this is precisely what sends so many organisations running for the hills when the F-word is casually dropped in the conversation by their friendly local content strategist (me), but just consider for a moment the opportunity!
Let’s go back to my farm safety campaign example. Ultimately, elements of the conversation about farm safety – quad bikes, depression and mental health in rural areas and avoiding injuries – would be going on regardless of my clients’ campaign.
Facebook offers a very direct opportunity for the campaign to interact in a conversational way with farmers.
On Facebook, the campaign hears their concerns, receives their feedback, advises them on specific issues and provides a space for the farming community to share their stories with each other.
3. Targeted advertising means reaching the right audience.
Not everyone wants to spend money on Facebook, I understand this. Its targeting functionality, however, means that it can be an invaluable tool in any communications strategy.
Targeting members of your audience based on their location, interests, gender, age, who they know or the language they speak and serving them content that is designed to engage them makes a lot of sense.
Facebook remains the world’s largest social media platform.
It can be extremely effective, if it is used for the right reasons. Those reasons are, of course, because its use aligns with the objectives of the communications strategy, which is in turn based on the organisation or department’s business objectives.
Facebook can be a powerful tool for referring traffic to your website, reaching members of your audience and then engaging them.
Do you use Facebook as part of your communications strategy? If yes, do you find it effective? If not, why don’t you use it? We’d love to chat with you about it! Write us a comment below.
Lydia holds a Bachelor of History from the University of Sussex as well as a Masters in History (Genocide Studies) from the University of Amsterdam. Her communications experience includes working in the not-for-profit, public and now private sectors. Fortunately, given her chosen career path, writing is her absolute favourite activity (especially when flanked by a coffee and a dog).
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