Governments have quickly realized the power of social media. Its widespread network and millions of users has become an amazing platform to reach people and better understand what they do and how they think. Social media has the potential to open up conversations, distribute important information and (more recently) to empower government with the ability to even spy on its citizens.

Some see social media as the key to forging a new relationship between citizens and the state. While there are many debates as it relates to the role that the government should have in this ever-growing social media world, one thing that cannot be denied is the implications of social media. Whether we’re talking about citizen engagement through social media campaigns or information distribution from people like Snowden and Assange.

In the past few years Governments have focused on using social media for 2 things:

    1. Push communications used for anything from natural disasters to slinging press releases. Delivering a message that is crafted by the government to provide information or influence the perceptions of citizens.
    2. Opening two-way communication between citizens and government to help drive conversation about relevant issues and makes government more accessible.

Two-way communications is the most revolutionary of the 2 uses. 10 years ago major governments and other large organizations had much more control on what was released and as individuals our access to our distribution methods was almost nonexistent compared to today. Nowadays when an organization refuses to comment the conversation continues on without them.

So where do we go from here.
Here is a stumbling block. How do we expand this to reach out further than those who know how to complain correctly? How do we set out to fix problems from people who did not even know their government could solve them? How many complaints get missed because they don’t know who to direct their frustration at? If governments want people to be more engaging isn’t the first step to listen, respond back and solve problems?

The next step for government departments is joining conversations that don’t mention them first. Social media is frequently used to express frustration. Imagine if you complained about sidewalk closures, transit frustration and were quickly engaged by those who are involved. It would be a magical moment. But it’s a moment that isn’t too far off from a reality.

Government agencies around the world are using social media to communicate with citizens. Beyond agencies, politicians like Cory Booker are also using social media as an on the ground approach to helping those within his community.

One of the most recent events that demonstrated this opportunity was the recent flooding in Calgary. The Calgary police used social media to keep in touch with citizens who were in danger, who had questions and were looking to offer help. It’s these situations where it’s important for the government to be plugged in and ready to respond. It’s at this time when the government must use technology for the greater good of the community! Here’s how they can start:

Embrace Two Way Communication
Open up dialogue and make social media the fastest way to get a response out of your government. These answers would be public enabling it to reach many more people. Common questions through traditional communication channels have to be responded to multiple times but on social media answers to pertinent questions of the day can be answered once. Develop aggressive benchmarks such as respond within the hour. If the tweet does not require a response you can use the ‘Favorite’ feature to let users know that they were heard. Opening up conversations and nurturing them should be they name of the game here. It’s important to not lose sight of that.

Track Complaints & Gripes
When citizens complain on twitter many municipalities redirect them to their 311-response center. These social media channels should be closely linked to a government’s reporting function. This would enable the responders on social media to respond with “I’m on it! Your report number is 72355.” shortening the multiple steps to file a complaint. Leadsift is a software that will soon allow government agencies to find customers complaining or reporting issues. They wouldn’t even have to mention the city’s twitter account.

You’ll be able to use location based tracking as well as our lead identification algorithm enabling government agencies to swoop in to fix the issues without having to comb through all the posts that don’t apply.

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