Social media is to local government as Kim Kardashian is to Kanye West – a combination with the potential to become the celebrity power couple of the government 2.0 movement.

Let me explain.

The work of local councils lends itself to use of social media as a communication platform in a way which is entirely unique amongst other levels of government.

I was reading an article on local engagement recently which I thought really hit the nail on the head in terms of this equation. It said, “People may feel powerless about influencing national politics, but muck with the main street and everybody has a view.”

Social media thrives on opinion and engagement. It’s all about creating a two way conversation. As providers of services essential to the wellbeing and functionality of communities, councils with a strong social media base can reach their communities in real time, providing updates on everything from extreme weather to lost dog notices. Target audience? Their backyard.

For the local government arts and culture sector, social media is even more of a dream match. In fact, it might just be the Brangalina of digital engagement. Its visually appealing, creative and engaging nature is tailor made to filter through popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

A few of the best

Smaller regional councils Cairns Regional Council are encouraging their art galleries to run their own social media sites – an approach which pays off in terms of providing more personalised, tailored accounts which showcase exhibitions and workshops from the inside. Check out Cairns’ Instagram account to see what I mean.

Then there are councils like Logan and Redlands – both with very well established social media bases – who do very well at integrating arts and culture news and updates into their broader content. As a ‘good news’ source, art programs and activities are a fail-safe fall back. Their Twitter accounts tell this story.

Overcoming barriers

So, where does your council fall on this spectrum? If your council is like any of the council’s I’ve visited so far this year, you could be encountering some barriers on your way to social media stardom.

Lack of understanding, limited resources and misconceptions about the nature of social media are some common themes I’ve encountered.

My advice in these instances is twofold:

1. Get visual. Share examples of the way other councils are using social media to showcase and promote their work in arts and culture. Barriers tend to be broken down when people can actually SEE what you are talking about for themselves.

2. Get your elected member on board. By this I mean chat to the councillor responsible for the arts and culture portfolio. Encourage them to take the leap into using social media to communicate with their constituents, if they haven’t already. Check out our Twitter list featuring real time updates from elected members across Queensland if you’re in need of a little inspiration.

Top tips for engagement

  • Share photographs and visual imagery. You’ll more than double your engagement.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Focus on one social media platform, build your base and target your updates.
  • Don’t just talk – listen.

Instagram recently released a guide profiling eleven brands using the platform to create engaging content, with the aim of inspiring others. It encourages users to ‘share experiences’ offering a view into the world that your organisation (read: council) makes possible, through the eyes of the people who use your services.

Find inspiration everywhere!

Photo credit: Cairns Regional Gallery Instagram

About the author: Samantha Dean

Samantha Dean
Samantha Dean

Samantha is a Communications Officer at Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) and is responsible for the Association’s social media platforms. Find LGAQ on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.


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