Friday, January 06, 2012

11 things to consider when using Facebook in government

When websites first starting to become popular it became common for Marketing and Communications teams in organisations to receive requests from various areas saying "we need a website".

Now that social media is firmly embedded in Australia, I'm seeing and hearing about the same type of requests - particularly for Facebook.

So, drawn from a response I provided to one agency who asked for my views, I've compiled a list of 11 things to consider when looking to use Facebook in your campaign, program, consultation, activity or otherwise for your agency.

This looks like a long list, but realistically is no more than should be considered for other channels (particularly online). Many of these areas can be addressed quickly through borrowing strategies and approaches from other agencies.
  1. Purpose Why the page is being created
    There are many different purposes for creating a Facebook page and before you take any steps to create one, you need to consider why you are doing it and what benefit the page will have to your campaign, program, consultation or agency.
    Some of these purposes may include; to build awareness, inform or educate users; to facilitate dialogue and discussion; to aggregate users for future campaigns; to engage key influencers and use them to build campaign awareness; to consult users; or to sell a message, service or product.

  2. Expectations – Targets for the page
    Next it is important to think about what you expect your page to achieve and set some targets to help guide resourcing and reporting on effectiveness.
    This may consider how many fans you expect and the level of activity in the page and, importantly, resulting from the page (through other Facebook pages and other online and offline channels).

  3. Entry Physical establishment of the page
    Next you need to consider how the page will be established. Will you do it in-house or via external parties? Will you develop custom welcome and other pages, what content and design work will be necessary when first putting the page in place?

  4. Promotion Building awareness of the channel
    You will also need to keep in mind that "build it and they will come" seldom works. Facebook is no exception, you need some kind of communication and promotional strategy to draw people to your page and convince them to fan it. Will you target key influencers, leverage existing agency channels or develop a communication strategy that directs people to your page? What benefits will people receive through using the page that will entice them to come and engage?

  5. Integration Cross-channel marketing
    You must also consider how your Facebook page interacts with your other communication channels.

    I call this "completing the loop" - you should encourage people from your website or advertisements to fan your Facebook page, then use your Facebook page to direct them back to relevant content in your website, advertisements or other channels.

    Map out the strategies and processes you'll use to get people back off your Facebook page (or their news feeds) back to your important announcements.

  6. Management and moderationChannel operation
    This is one of the biggest topics you need to consider. Here are some of the questions you need to ask and answer before you launch:
    Who will manage your Facebook page? What type and frequency of content will be provided? What is the approval workflow for content, and how do you ensure that this allows content to be published on a timely basis? How will user content be moderated? How will user content be responded to, including enquiries (which may be off topic)? How will users be able to view the moderation policy and guidelines?

  7. Exit Closing the page or transitioning to an ongoing vehicle
    So you've got your Facebook page up and running but what happens when the campaign or consultation ends?

    Before launching your page, spare some time to consider whether you will need to close it down after a defined period or whether it has an undefined or ongoing lifespan.

    If you know or suspect your Facebook page will end after a given period, consider developing an exit strategy to outline what happens to the page's content and how you manage the relationship with your fans when the page closes.

    You might wish to communicate the lifespan of the page upfront to fans as they visit, or develop a strategy to reuse the page periodically for further campaigns. If you have to close down the page you may want to consider a transition strategy to encourage fans to move to another agency Facebook page or channel to maintain at least some of the relationships - after all it would be wasteful to simply abandon your fans, both throwing away your investment and potentially damaging your future Facebook engagements.

  8. Archiving requirements
    Now we get into some of the more administrative areas you need to consider, starting with archiving. Every government agency has some need to archive material in the public interest and for internal knowledge management purposes.

    Make sure you know your obligations under the appropriate Archives Act and what you are required to store as records and what you are not required to store. This may mean you need an ongoing strategy to keep a copy of all posts (and everything you delete, for legal reasons), or need a tool that captures the RSS feed from your page into a document that you can file on paper or digitally.

  9. Privacy protecting users
    Privacy is a consideration whenever you capture user information. By default in Facebook you capture peoples' name and generally their image, plus whatever personal details they choose to share. Also as you're using a third party service (Facebook), the service has its own privacy policy which comes into play but is outside your direct control.

    You will need to consider whether the type of content that users might share with you in your page may pose a risk to their privacy online or offline and what you need to tell them to ensure they are posting as an informed choice.

    You also need to consider how your agency will capture and reuse any personal information you get from users via Facebook, and your obligations and responsibilities under Australian privacy law.

    Remember that you never know what personal stories users might choose to share in a Facebook comment. Make sure that you have provided enough information so that people can do so aware of the choice they are making.

  10. Reporting Measuring effectiveness and success
    It is very useful to be able to measure how effective and successful your Facebook page has been, relevant to your original purpose (or any channel for that matter).

    There are a number of ways to do this, from using the purely quantitative activity statistics from Insights, Facebook's analysis tool or using qualitative means through the tone of user comments and any perceptible changes in peoples' awareness and attitudes in-line with your campaign goals.

    It may, however, be more useful is to look at Facebook within a whole-of-campaign/consultation review, which looks at the effectiveness of all your channels in combination. Sometimes reporting on single channels can under-emphasise their overall influence on a campaign as these reports may only look at direct outcomes, not at the secondary effects that bolster other channels.

  11. Lessons learnt and sharing
    Finally, it is well worth producing a ‘lessons learnt’ report on operational learnings from your Facebook experience.

    This can provide vital insights to other teams in your agency and to other organisations on how to extract the maximum value from the channel and how to avoid any pitfalls or unnecessary risks.

    If you can, share this report through whole-of-government channels, such as AGIMO's Gov 2.0 group, cross-agency communications groups and even by holding an event for other agencies to discuss your experience.

    By sharing your experiences you are helping to make it easier for other agencies to use Facebook, and use it well. This reduces risk for agencies and helps build on good practice over time.

    It also helps meet one of the core goals of the public service, ensuring we can provide the best possible outcomes for government.

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