Government bodies are not know to be very innovative when it comes to communicating with their citizens. Now this probably is a stereotype, but still too often, social media is a ‘bonus’, rather than an integral part of the communication effort for administrations.1 For the last few years, the European institutions experimented with social media, not without success. Here are a few things your company can learn from the European Parliament and the European Commission on social media (in no particular order).
1. Use Facebook events to push your content
You know that Facebook algorithms decide what to show you fans and what content to hide from their timeline. There are a few workarounds to counteract this giving you more control over who sees your posts – one is to create an event. The European Parliament uses this method to inform about the TTIP, the European Commission keeps their fans updated on the Energy Union. By default, you not just receive most of the updates of events that you are attending, but you also get a notification once a post is published. I can’t guarantee Facebook will come up with a method to stop (mis)using events to push your posts, but in the meantime, experiment with the feature and create events for your corporate blog or as an extended mailinglist!
2. Discover the benefits of LinkedIn discussions
LinkedIn is the preferred professional network at the moment. This doesn’t mean however, that you can only use it to headhunt or push your corporate press releases. The European Parliament uses LinkedIn successfully to engage with experts, leading to interesting discussions (f.ex. about the new European Commission). As a company, follow the example, create a usergroup interested in your product or council and get your experts out there to contribute to the discussions!
3. Get an internal social media handbook
The European Commission created an extensive “Internet Handbook” to guide their staff though the regulations applying when communicating about political priorities, stakeholders and campaigns. They publish a PDF with “golden rules“, comprehensively illustrating the do’s and don’ts for social media users working for the institution. If you are a company or institution of a certain size, you need to lay down some ground-rules for your employees: clear and concise social media guidelines might prevent possible communication disasters in the future! One thing missing in the EC’s handbook however: encouraging employees to actively promote the values of the institution. Make sure to add positive encouragement into your company guidelines, inciting your staff to like and share your content – after all, they among all people represent the values of your company!
4. Be local, be personal
Using social media gives you the opportunity to really get to know your customers. In return for this direct contact, they are expecting content that is relevant to them – I’m living in Luxembourg, and I am not interested in your Spanish ad with a special offer that is only available in the US. In order to give their followers what they expect, the European institutions not only create different profiles depending on country, topic or language criteria, they also try to connect with local events to relay their message.
— EU-Parlament in D (@EPinDeutschland) July 15, 2014
You will find European institutions on Pinterest, Vine, Spotify and Google+, see them share videos, infographics and albums, use memes, apps, contests or chats to engage with their audience and build dedicated newshubs. Not everything will work for your company, but if you create a digital communication strategy, leave room for experimentation and creativity if you want to stand out of the crowd!