From 10-11 November 2014 I attended the Akolade Social Media in Government Conference in Melbourne. Here are 26 takeaways from the event.

  1. A real challenge for government Facebook pages is making content interesting. Mark Bayly from  said the most common reason to unlike a Facebook page is uninteresting posts. This underlines the need for creative content creators in government organisations.
  2. Information is a key driver for government Facebook pages: people may not necessarily like or comment on posts but they still want information.
  3. Government organisations should use storytelling with real people to get messages across in videos. Talking heads don’t work.
  4. Local Facebook pages are working for both Victoria Police and New South Wales Police. Victoria Police report a significant number of crimes are being solved through these pages.
  5. Victoria Police have a great segment: “Quiz a cop”. Can you wear thongs (flip flops) while driving? Yes, yes you can. How else can government Facebook pages use this segment idea? “Ask a librarian” is something we use on our website which we are also thinking of using on Facebook.
  6. Australia Post social media care team has 15 staff operating until 11pm at night handling around 150 questions a day. They have 5 different apps with self-service making up 60% of transactions.
  7. Online chat is a growing customer service channel: for Australia Post it’s been up 200% for the last 2 years. AusPost are also on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, blogs, forums and product review sites. Some councils are also using online chat: the City of Adelaide is one that springs to mind.
  8. Australia Post uses Hootsuite: training is included in induction. However, they may look to another solution as their team and enquiry volumes grow.
  9. Lessons from Australia Post:
    1. Be where customers are
    2. Ask for input
    3. Find advocates
    4. Be real
    5. Know things change
    6. Have a balance between your guidelines and your brand.
  10. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is based in Canberra, Australia’s largest landlocked city. It uses social media in search and rescue operations in the following ways:
    1. As a source of intel
    2. For sharing information
    3. For promoting safety messages
    4. To inform the media.
  11. Mal Larsen said AMSA’s biggest challenges for their comms team were:
    1. The 24/7 news cycle
    2. Requests for interviews from operational staff while they are focused on incidents. AMSA were inundated with 700+ media queries about stranded ice-breaker Akademik Shokalskiy last Christmas.
  12. Use Twitter for the media: When the search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet #MH370 search moved to Australian waters, AMSA issued a media statement and advised all future updates would be via Twitter.
  13. Have people in your team who can create maps and visuals: the media love maps and other visuals and there are huge benefits to getting this information seen by a mass audience.
  14. Not all government agencies are on social: When the search for #MH370 moved under the sea, another Australian government department took over. They don’t use social media so all updates stopped!
  15. HistoryPin is being used by an increasing number of government agencies: Vic Roads use it to show roads as they are now and as they were in the past. Redland Libraries are also using HistoryPin to bring local history to life for a number of projects.
  16. Fascinating talk from Dr. Peter Steidl with a key message: Be very clear about your objective with behavioural change. Is your audience trying to change? Are they not? How can you measure it?
  17. Participation is higher when you activate a goal in advance. Loyalty cards with 2 stamps, 8 to go had a better take up than a card with 8 empty stamps.
  18. Anne Elise Shea from University of Melbourne said losing control of their Instagram account to students was the best thing that happened to it.
  19. Anne Elise Shea said for every new social channel University of Melbourne use, they first understand the platform and have analytics for who’s using it and what for e.g. they use Twitter to talk to people aged 25+ and people overseas not prospective students.
  20. 16 years olds find it creepy that older people and their parents post every photo they take on Facebook.
  21. Rebecca from Fed Square’s top tip: overlay text on your images for social media, people are busy and flick through their news feed
  22. Department of Human Services collect data from phone calls in real time: what are people calling in about right now? That influences their posts on social media.
  23. Key message from NSW Police: have governance around social media when it’s rolled out to staff. An unexpected consequence of their officers going online was that that many of them had requests for dates!
  24. NSW Police top 5 lessons:
    1. Get approvals for profiles
    2. Authorisation to represent NSW Police
    3. Branding / reputation
    4. Monitoring
    5. Evaluation.
  25. Tiffany White from the City of Darebin in Melbourne said that only 10% of residents listed social media as their preferred way to get information from their council.
  26. The top 5 City of Darebin complaints via social media are: bins, roads, rates, parking fines, parks maintenance issues.

A final note, kudos to Jen from Akolade. She saw us tweeting about the lack of power points for charging devices and got the hotel to bring in some power boards!

36 skills for digital comms pros

You can view my presentation from the conference on Haiku Deck: 36 skills for digital comms pros in government

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