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Best Social Media Platforms Revealed for Cities

August 25, 2016
Whether or not cities know it, their residents are talking about them with friends, family and more importantly, publicly on social media. This reality illustrates why the experts at the Government Social Media Organization (GSMO) encourage governments agencies to be a part of those conversations by using social media to tell their stories, listen to residents and have an open dialogue about issues that matter.
 
This can be accomplished with the use of a variety of social media channels. Depending on the city’s goals, each platform offers unique and helpful tools to engage with citizens.
 
Best social media platforms for cities:
Facebook: The largest and most well-known social channel boasts more than 1 billion users worldwide. While it is the largest and arguably the most flexible platform for engagement, it is also the most difficult to master.
 
“The company constantly makes changes to the algorithm that determines who sees a page’s content, which can be frustrating for social media managers just starting out,” said Kristen Waggener, GSMO’s Advisory Team. “But, the site’s flexibility gives social media managers the ability to post a variety of content while also responding to relevant conversations about current topics.”
 
This content can include links, photos, videos and events.
 
Similar to large, for-profit brands, governments are encouraged to post engaging content that makes users want to like, watch and share their messages.
 
“Posts with photos of people, news articles, live video and relatable content tend to do best,” said Waggener.
 
Cities have the ability to get their pages verified by Facebook, which provides a layer of authenticity and trust.
 
“This is especially helpful in emergency situations where important information may need to be disseminated quickly,” she said.
 
Twitter: Twitter is best known for being the platform that many social media users turn to for breaking news because of its real-time posting environment. Messages are limited to 140 characters, and cities can include links and photos as rich content within their tweets. Twitter recently announced changes to its traditionally reverse-chronological timeline, but users are still able to find and post relevant content through the use of strategic, topic-related hashtags.
 
Twitter is one of the most effective social channels for monitoring via hashtags and geographic searching. Cities can gain tremendous insight into conversations through monitoring simple Twitter searches.
 
“Small tidbits of information are best for Twitter,” said Waggener. “Users are more likely to read and share posts that don’t require them to click through to a website or article to get the information they seek.” GSMO also advises cities to get their Twitter pages verified.
 
Instagram: This is a primarily image-focused platform in which photos must be uploaded natively through the company’s mobile app. Users tend to skew slightly younger than Facebook and Twitter. The company is in the process of rolling out analytic tools in the near future, which will make measuring success on this platform much easier.
 
Beautiful photography does best on Instagram, including scenic landscapes, food and drink, and artistic shots. Engagement comes from strategically using relevant hashtags in post descriptions to increase visibility. Instagram does not support the use of links to other sites and information within photo descriptions.
 
YouTube: Cities with resources to create videos should use the power of YouTube to amplify their messages on one of the Internet’s biggest search engines. Content posted to YouTube can be shared on other social media platforms, which can save time and provide a broader audience for cities’ messages.
 
There are many other channels that can be used to achieve specific goals, such as Pinterest for evergreen content searchability, Google+ for search engine optimization, Snapchat for millennial engagement, and LinkedIn for recruiting and brand-building.
 
For more detailed information and suggestions on how to navigate the social media sphere, GSMO facilitates an active online forum where other government social media managers have conversations about current topics, which can be found on the Main Forum section at www.gsmo.org. The organization also hosts a bi-weekly Twitter chat on Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time on various government social media topics.