We’re facing a big problem in government communications, and it’s because our governments, Federal, state and local, have bloated websites and multiple social media platforms. There are too many sources of information and for citizens, navigating through some 44 million .gov.au web pages can be challenging and frustrating.
Let’s look at how we’ve ended up here. Though it does seem confusing for the user, for the government it was a push for Australia to lead in digital governance globally, to ensure that citizens could communicate online. So that’s where everything ended up.
Historically, this push has been effective. In the bi-annual E-Government Survey by the UN, Australia has always ranked highly and since 2014 we have held the second position internationally.
We need a more relaxed and efficient way for citizens to communicate with the government, and following the creation of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), we are closer to doing just that.
Late last year we talked to Libby Varcoe, Director of Content Design and Strategy at DTA, about the cause of the problem. She said that while we all understand that there are too many pages, departments hold on to them just in case someday, someone might need them. And while it is true that somewhere in 44 million pages some valuable content may exist, it’s not easy to find.
Through the creation of the Digital Service Standard, the DTA aims to assist departments to bring that valuable content to the surface and decrease their overall page count.
Sifting through 44 million web pages is a daunting (and expensive) task, but there are some things government communications teams can start today that will begin the transformation to a “less is more” digital presence.
Needle in a haystack
When governments realised the value of social media as a tool to reach communities and engage with citizens they went a little overboard.
For example, a local council might create a website for a town hall, a fire brigade and a police station.
This is all useful, important and accessible information, but it assumes that a citizen will search for information in all channels. If you don’t, you may miss out on reading something of interest.
The changes in the Facebook news feed algorithm means that only frequently accessed pages now end up on your feed. This makes it more likely that you could miss out on something you need to know.
The fix? Merge your platforms together.
Your digital one-stop-shop
As department stores and malls learned in the 19th and 20th centuries, selling a little of everything benefited not only the stores and brands but also each individual customer. No longer did they need to travel from location to location, now everything was conveniently under the same roof.
And now that the internet provides that experience, it’s even more convenient than it was back then.
As government communicators, we need to create a location for our audience to not only find us quickly but to also provide the information they are looking for in one place.
People are now using social media to engage with government agencies and brands. Providing a one-stop online shop will help elevate our presence.
Merging tips for social media
If you find that you have multiple Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, often sharing the same content to the same audience, why not consider merging them? Combining pages or accounts is a straightforward process and requires little planning that allows you to expand your presence.
On Facebook, you have the ability to merge two pages together which combines all the ‘likes’. It’s simple and effective, just make sure to save valuable information such as photos because in the process things may be lost. You can learn more about that here.
While Facebook does offer a merge option, other channels such as Twitter and Instagram do not. The alternative is to run a media campaign to drive the migration of users through strategic planning and content. This allows you to show your audience how you value them and want them to stay informed.
There is plenty of information online on how to plan such a strategy, but simply you just need a transition timeline, laid out your goals to clearly follow and understand, prepare for both a soft and hard launch and then simply execute. It is also a great opportunity to directly reconnect with your audience and show them that you value them enough to want to take them with you.
These same principles can be across all major platforms.
Bringing it all together
With so many pages online, it’s important to give your audience a single location where they can find you. This provides them with a clear, simple point of contact and a place they can connect with you easily.
While the social media landscape continues to grow and change, it’s crucial for us as communicators to remain consistent and reliable to our audience. And following the steps to merge and declutter your social media presence is an excellent way to do so.