Love it or hate it? With social media, it’s easy to be torn between the two.
It’s a great way to keep up with friends, share pictures of the kids, get recommendations, and be entertained. In the wrong hands, it can be manipulative and a weapon.
You can use it to expand your horizons or build a bubble. You can efficiently keep tabs on news and professional topics or get sucked into hours of mindless nonsense.
It’s definitely changed the world – for better and worse. Even if you don’t use it yourself, it’s affecting you. And it affects, in direct and indirect ways, how we operate at the County.
We’ve been taking full advantage of the powers of social media. It’s been an incredible tool for getting the word out to the public about the vast variety of things we do. Public health alerts, election deadlines, trails to hike, job openings, disaster preparedness – you name it. Our main County sites have a little of everything, while dozens of others are devoted to specific topics.
Following these sites as employees is a fun and convenient way to stay current on what the County’s up to. Particularly as we head into peak fire season, you can make our social media one of your options for staying informed in an emergency.
The staff responsible for these accounts do a remarkable job. They’ve built some of the largest followings for county government sites in the nation: we have the third highest number on Twitter, fourth on Facebook. We’ve earned national recognition for our efforts. (Reminder to any employees thinking of starting a County social media account – contact the Communications Office first.)
But if you think of the County’s social media channels as simply an avenue for promotion, you should be aware of how much they act as customer service tools. We daily get requests or questions through these channels for everything under the sun. This is the primary way an increasing number of our customers interact with others, and we should try to work with them on their terms when we can.
Social media can give individuals a voice in a way that’s never been possible. A customer’s complaint used to go no further than her family or friends. Now, one negative tweet can instantly turn into an avalanche of criticism. But a well-handled response can win people over and do wonders for reputation.
These comment-and-response cycles take place at dizzying speed. They’re a part of, and contributing to, the general acceleration of our daily lives.
That kind of interaction raises people’s expectation of how quickly they get attention, not just through social media but in general. We need to be aware of the mindset our customers have when they come to us. It may mean added effort at managing expectations, while also working toward meeting them.
Along with speed, the hallmark of a lot of social media is brevity. That can be good in our busy lives. But brief to one person can come across as terse to another. If that’s not your usual way of communicating, it may sound outright rude or unprofessional. We deal with all kinds of people, both externally and within the County. Remember the age-old writing rule to consider your audience, then adjust how you communicate as needed.
We must skillfully reduce complex, dry or wonky information into brief, flashy and simple communication. As social media penetrates deeper and deeper into our lives, it’s easy to focus on the positive or negative communication and forget the silent middle. When following the dialogue out there, it’s important to remember we’re often gazing into a funhouse mirror that overemphasizes the edges. Step back now and again to maintain clear perspective.
It’s been only about a decade since social media went mainstream. It would’ve been hard to imagine the twists and turns of its evolution, so we can expect to be equally surprised by where it will take us. Continuous improvement is our mode of operating at the County, and that includes continuous adaptation. We’ll need to stay attuned to the way social media reshapes the world we work in and be ready to harness or respond to the forms it takes.
A post of the ever-popular Annie's Canyon from the County's Instagram feed.