Janine Marin - communications expert

Social media in government: the number one mistake government departments make

Social media in government: the problem

“Budget” – this is the holy grail in government. I know, because I’ve worked in government and still do as a social media trainer for government departments. There’s such a need – and urgency – for government to connect with their constituents and social media is their vehicle of choice. The thing is, though, with social media being as saturated as it is, it’s hard to cut though the noise. Especially for government which has to compete with lack of resources and rationed budgets. A lot of the time government departments outsource a portion of their budget to agencies to run social media campaigns, create strategies and do ‘fancy stuff we can’t do ourselves’.

Herein lies the problem and opportunity: lack of resources and trained staff, little time and budget hinder government doing innovative things online. However, the social innovation that government organisations need isn’t bought – it’s cultivated through developing staff in social media.

I like to think of investing in staff is a bit like investment in a property –  invest now for the long-term gain. And there is a need to do this.

A 2017 Leaders Report showed that “Nearly half of government respondents say they lack an understanding of digital and social media.”  Adding to this, a Deloitte study found that only 34 percent of government organisations surveyed had sufficient skills to execute its digital strategy, and just 33 percent of government employees said they were provided the right resources or opportunities to obtain the digital skills they need. There is a skill shortage of social media in government, which is fair enough considering social media is a scary space to play in and some government employees had social media duties dumped on their lap loaded with expectations yet little support.

Social media in government: what needs to change 

The goal for government is community engagement, and a sustainable model to increase – and maintain – this is through staff. I see government spending on digital agencies to run a great campaign that garners attention, engagement and follower growth but once the show’s over and curtains are drawn the engagement that was built crumbles because there isn’t sufficient skills, support or resource to maintain it in-house. What needs to change is for government to focus on developing their staff in social media because the greater the investment in up-skilling staff, the greater community engagement Government Departments will have.



The correlation between skill development, community engagement and social media maturity

One thing I often see when training staff, is the passion they have to make a difference to the community they serve. They love what they do and they see the impact they can achieve on social media. So, imagine what investing in staff who are passionate about their job can do for government organisations (and employee engagement).

Staff will come to work excited, confident and full ideas, dramatically increasing their department’s capability to innovate and engage online.

How upskilling staff increases community engagement

There are three core areas to upskilling staff to increase engagement:

  1. Knowledge – theory, news and trends
  2. Skill – strategic, technical and relational
  3. Practice – implementation, experimentation and evaluation


Investing in these three upskilling areas gives you these results:

  1. Growth – followers, awareness and trust
  2. Innovation – impact, influence and leadership
  3. Sustainability – control, collaboration and advocates

If governments want to halve spend, triple social media ROI and increase employee engagement they have to start on the inside and invest in the people that matter most to their organisation: their employees. Doing this will not only increase community engagement but also strengthen the relationship between organisations and the communities they serve not just for tomorrow but for the long-term.

Social media in government training days 2018

The next social media training day for government is in Sydney, February 15. It covers strategy, trends and practical advice. Find out more here

Custom social media training for teams, councillors and individuals available – click here or email Janine for more information.


Social Media 101 for Councillors

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