Webinar presenter Katie Nelson answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Stand Up, Stand Out: How Social Media Enhances Your Staying Power. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Given the current state of staffing for agencies and the likely effect of economic pressures, where do you place this function in terms of agency priority? In other words what services might have to be reduced to allow a dedicated staff member to maintain this communications platform?
Katie Nelson: I will say that I am no expert on that. Every city is different. So, I do not know what’s perhaps certain cities are facing versus for example my own. I will say this, now more than ever people expect to be able to have services provided to them at the fastest rate possible. You can return something on Amazon in two clicks. You can change to a flight on for example Southwest by simply messaging them and they will work with you within 15 minutes. They have an entire team dedicated to basically their response efforts. Government and law enforcement are notorious for not having anything with regards to services readily accessible online. So, if we are being compared to the private sector and we’re falling behind because people aren’t getting the same level of service at the rapid rate that they expect that needs to be something that we have to really look at and evaluate. More often than not people connect first and foremost in a digital space. I don’t know a single person that goes around and gives brownies to their neighbors anymore, which is an unfortunate circumstance of how our society is right now, but if you can connect with people in digital space first and have the ability to provide them with what they need quickly and efficiently there that should probably take priority because that is not going to change. In fact, I think that will probably only become more relevant and it’ll become more at the forefront of service providing of communication strategies and quite frankly of how people connect within their communities for the foreseeable future.
Audience Question: Can you give one or two do’s and don’ts on podcasts? Do you have any favorite technology? Do you recommend any particular microphones or editing software?
Katie Nelson: Oh, yes, do ensure that people can hear you. if the quality of your audio is terrible, you’ve already lost them don’t go into a podcast without a plan. We have done both a series podcast where we told a story so our serial podcast and then we’ve also done one that’s where we change the topic every episode. No matter what it is crucial that you have a plan going in so that you aren’t sitting there and there’s a lot of dead space or silence in between people talking. You want the flow to be quick and good. You want people to feel like they’re jumping in on a conversation or you want people to feel like they’re being taken long on this story. If you pursue a serial type podcast. I would be happy to share the equipment that we use. I cannot stress this enough. You want something that digitizes your audio well, so we use something called Focusrite. It won’t be cheap necessarily when you dive into podcasting but if it’s called operational excellence. You spend to save. So, if you do pay a little bit more at the beginning your equipment will actually last you several years. The only thing that we’ve ever had to replace are some cords connecting our microphones.
Audience Question: How can specifically city departments distribute information in their own voice if the city they work for wants to take the lead, but the city has multiple things to communicate not just what we have to say?
Katie Nelson: What we have done, and I’ll give an example. We at the beginning of the pandemic, we pivoted to so I’m normally the Police Department Public Information Officer. On March 13th, our city manager who had been in the job a week, I think a week, she decided to create a strategic communications team where she pulled different people from different departments in to ensure that the city’s voice was heard as we kind of navigated this these very uncertain waters and we built something that included internal news or excuse me, an internal and an external newsletter using Adobe Spark where people from various departments were able to provide content that was perhaps impacted by COVID-19, changes to services things like that. In turn, we built this digital newsletter that we now share across all of our channels to connect with people so that they are getting information from everything from the senior center for food distribution for seniors to rec department services, including camps to city services for things like utility payments which by the way, were not necessarily available online until recently that was something that we had to change to change, to our stay-at-home orders from the police department, what was enforceable what was not. So, all of these voices were coming into one channel to ensure that people were getting as much information as they needed but still, they were owning their individuality if you will.
Audience Question: Is there one platform or social media stage that you feel is most efficient to use?
Katie Nelson: I think that really depends on where you are. Nextdoor for us has been the best way to connect with the audience for us that matters most. We have seen the largest grower ship of followers there. However, in other places, I have seen an overwhelming adaptation of the use of Tiktok and I know I mentioned Tiktok in this presentation but places like Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio and some other cities as well have taken that platform and run with it and suddenly that is the place where they are getting the most engagement. That is the place where people are flocking to get information from them. So, all of these platforms that they were traditionally using that were great like Twitter, suddenly now people have moved away from that and they are solely engaging with these cities on Tiktok. I know other cities that have fully embraced Instagram. NYPD was an example where they were doing stuff all the time on Instagram stories, and it was just it’s totally dependent on where you are and as you begin to see shifts in your audiences, are you seeing a huge influx of younger audiences, audience members, for example? Are you seeing more women? More men? Are you seeing older audiences? Those are all things you have to start to consider as you either begin to pivot in what platforms you use or as you adapt and bring new platforms on and you see this influx of people suddenly going this is really where I prefer to get information and then you’re going okay. Well, suddenly we have to take resources away from other places and utilize those in this space more.
Audience Question: Do you know when they will start utilizing data from TikTok in comparison to other media platforms?
Katie Nelson: if we could get clarification on that if you mean the cities, for example. I’m not entirely sure of those answers. I would be happy to ask my friends who are using those platforms. I do know that for example during Jordan Gilgenbach back who is the City of Minneapolis social media coordinator. When he began using Tiktok, I think it was like a month ago or a month and a half ago now. The overwhelming response of that city has had to the adaptation of that platform has been shown alone in the followership. He Hit 10,000 followers I think within a month which the growth rate there for a government agency is crazy. I’m not entirely sure what other metrics he’s looking at right now, but I can certainly ask and get back to you.
Audience Question: April thank you so much for clarifying that. April was referencing the graphs that you shared with all the other social media options.
Katie Nelson: You mean for Pew research. Excellent question. I do not know when they will incorporate that, but I would I’d love to see kind of how new-age platforms are changing the way in which social media is being used by demographic specifically.
Audience Question: What apps do you use to create your images on social media? And I wanted to mention that we use Canva and I have had a lot of success for all of our webinar images, but I’ll let you actually answer the question, Katie.
Katie Nelson: For sure. Aaron is right. We also use Canva I cannot stress enough how important Canva has been over the last two months for our agencies, it has been phenomenal in terms of being able to utilize the various structures that they have and their anything from infographics to poll images to everything that narrows down for like a Twitter post or a Facebook post or an Instagram story. They really have it all. I know that a lot of us are facing budget cuts or our budgets have been just absolutely decimated right now. That being said I if you don’t have the money within your agency to be able to pay for the paid version of Canva, which is like $100 I think $118 a year, maybe think about investing in it personally because what you get from the paid version far extends anything you’ll get from the free version and the free version does enough but since we have paid for Canva being able to save all of our work, being able to copy replicate it. I can actually share infographics and images with other people at other agencies and then they can take that skeleton if you will and adapt it with their own brand branding colors and logos and things like that so that they don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. I’ve done that with Sarasota, Florida, and some other agencies as well. That’s all been a huge benefit of what we use for Canva. There’s also Adobe but Adobe is far more expensive but like our Adobe Spark that we use, for example, that’s free. So, it’s really dependent on what you would like to use.
Host: Folks just a clarification Canva is the website. It’s canva.com. I do want to mention to you that if you bring your own images if you use your own images be sure that you have the right to use that image. There are literally attorneys out there that have automated bots that go search the web for matching images from their clients and they will go after you for thousands and thousands of dollars. So, make sure you use something like we use Shutterstock for our stock photos. Make sure that you have the rights to these photos. I don’t want any of you to get crosswise in something like that.
Audience Question: How do we maintain the agency policy message versus the social media managers’ priorities?
Katie Nelson: That’s an excellent question. I would say that probably there should be a discussion about what’s a priority for the social media manager in terms of content versus what needs to be shared with the community based on what the department is seeing. Everything is really a compromise. There’s never been something where information is put out willy-nilly on our end. There’s always an understanding that this type of content is going at this time versus if there’s something more immediate that needs to be shared at particularly as it relates to law enforcement that will always take or breaking news that will always take precedence over whatever we had previously thought we were going to be sharing that day. So those are definitely conversations that need to be had and that also needs to probably have some semblance of understanding that content-wise whatever is more important to the community when it comes to public safety needs to take precedence over something like a poll about you know changes to bike lanes or anything that isn’t relevant immediately can probably be put on the back burner if there’s something else that’s coming up that needs to go out right that minute. That being said something that some may think is important and they want it to go out right that second and I have faced this several times and it’s really something that’s a little bit more evergreen. It could probably go tomorrow or the next day. There’s always a push and pull. There’s always a give and take so definitely I hope you have somebody that you work with at your organization where you can have those honest conversations and you can be open about okay, well hang on, you know, let’s if this needs to go out right now, that’s fine. But let’s also look at what else we’ve got coming down the pipe.
Audience Question: What do you suggest for safety concerns when it comes to social media?
Katie Nelson: I would always ensure that any new person that you have coming into your agency is trained up on what is allowable and what is not both on a professional and on a personal level. We have training at the Mountain View Police Department where we let all of our officers know about security settings on social media, personally for themselves and for their family members. We talked about ensuring that if there is an active incident going on with regards to our department, basically, the communication channels shut down you do not, you know, you do not have your family members sharing new information about a case with their friends on Facebook or on Instagram or whatever. Nothing is a hundred percent foolproof. Nothing will protect you a hundred percent but being open and honest with that communication with your teams and with people that you work with so that they understand what you’re dealing with on a security level is very important. Because I think a lot of times especially as we see kind of the younger folks come in, the idea of security and ensuring that the right in ensuring that information isn’t shared in a way that maybe your department isn’t ready to share. Getting them to understand that is a little bit more nuanced or for older people in our department who maybe aren’t necessarily as internet savvy as others getting them to understand what it means when we talk about privacy issues and privacy concerns or the difference between professional and personal use of social media. All of those conversations, it really depends on who you’re talking with, but it’s vastly important that they happen because all it takes is one person who posts something that they shouldn’t when they’re on duty, perhaps in their uniform and that just begins to unravel everything.
Audience Question: Is there a simple way to connect Facebook with Instagram to cross-post?
Katie Nelson: I would say do not cross-post ever. That is because people when they see a link and nothing else, are not inclined to click on it because again, it’s just text. People are like cats they need something shiny to look at. I would say that yes, there is you just click on Instagram to cross-post on to Facebook. However, I would discourage you from doing that because at the end of the day you want each platform to stand on its own, and not necessarily everything that you share on Instagram should be going on Facebook or needs to go on Facebook. If that’s what your agency wants right now, yes, if you were to go into Instagram and click on your profile, you could click on – it has the options to share in your settings and it’ll say share to your Facebook profile and you can do it there but again that may not be the best course of action.