Janine Marin - communications expert

Social media engagement should not be the end goal in government

It’s not just about engagement anymore.

In social media marketing the word ‘engagement’ gets thrown around a lot. Yet, very few brands know how to achieve it. I often hear them ask, ‘How do we increase our followers?’ Or, ‘How do we grow our reach?’ These are the wrong questions. Instead, we should be asking, ‘How do we build a relationship with our audience?’ And, ‘How do we connect?’ 

Why is connection important in social media?

Connection is a basic human need. In fact, psychological theories put it as the most basic emotional need. It is the feeling of belonging and being part of something bigger than yourself.

In social media, connection helps you feel a part of an online community. It brings a deep sense of social camaraderie, kinship and feelings of shared culture, values, needs and even mission. Plus, it is the key to creating long-term engagement with your audience, so, it’s not just important, it’s essential. 

Numbers don’t lie. Studies show 82% of customers with an emotional connection to a brand will remain loyal and engaged with that brand. I’ve heard this phrase before and it’s stuck with me ever since and it’s one I tell my clients all the time: people do business with people. 

So, how do you create connection?

Connection is made when people believe in you, in what you do and why you do it. You can create connection with your social media community in three ways:


1. LISTEN to your audience.

To connect with your audience, you must demonstrate that you understand what they care about and find authentic opportunities to add to their experiences. This means listening not just to respond, but to understand and empathise.

The key takeaway here, then, is that you aren’t just listening to your audience. For example, I was working on a social media strategy for a waste services team  in a council and they were focusing on listening to their immediate audience only. What I showed them was that we needed to also listen to the audience on Council’s other social media pages, too, and by doing so we found a lot of opportunities where the team could add value and build stronger rapport. 

2. VOICE – tell your brand story. 

Government organisations often balk at being referred to as a ‘brand’. But they are. And as with any brand, storytelling is a powerful tool. 

As Seth Godin says, ‘When people consider whether a brand is for them, they have this in the back of their mind: “People like us, do things like this.”’ 

To cement connection with your audience on social media, your content, conversation and community must stand for something. You must answer the questions: what do you stand for and is that clear to your audience? 

3. GIVE – your personality, time and service. 

Building connection requires acknowledging consumers as individuals and creating relevant experiences for them. The key for government, then, is to be relatable. You can do this by showing your personality, giving great service and putting in the time.

So, to break this down:

Showcase your personality. Customers want to know who they are dealing with. They want to know you personally. Showing your audience who is behind the page (and the organisation) allows you to be proactive in your customer service and create relatable content.

Give great service. Like Jay Baer said, ‘What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focussed on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?’ Think of your social media community as real people who are knocking on your door. Being useful and informative is great service and something that all Government agencies can easily do.

Put in the time. Interact positively, have relevant content and regularly update your socials. This will build trust, engagement and loyalty with your consumers. 

Listening, sharing your voice and giving your time will build connection, which is the glue that makes community engagement stick.

Need help with your organisation’s social media?

Janine and her team help departments with their social media policy, strategy, content planning and creation, communication plans, and provide custom social media training. 

Contact Janine for more information.


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