3 Ways the Public Sector Can Use Social Media Monitoring to Improve Policy Outcomes

By Stacey Tomasoni

A 2011 social media report by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government revealed that half of the local government councils in Australia using social media are in the very early stages of incorporating online channels into their communication activities. And we’re OK with that. Because the beginning stages of social media can introduce a variety of benefits to local councils all the way up to federal agencies. Simply listening online through social media monitoring can give government a wealth of valuable information that can help them improve their service delivery to citizens. In fact, listening may be where many government organisations elect to focus most of their efforts, with little to no online presence established.

1. Understand the citizen experience you’re delivering

You think your programs are doing well amongst your constituents. But what’s your sample size based on to draw this conclusion? You could be missing out on opinions being broadcast across social media that paint a more neutral or negative view of your programs or hints from customers as to how the experience could be improved. This is where social media monitoring comes in.

Listening to constituent conversations through social media monitoring gives government a larger, more diverse pool of data to analyse. Datacom has found that listening online can net as much as five times the intelligence of more traditional communication methods like telephone. Listening via social media monitoring can also provide more unsolicited, often unfiltered feedback to give government bodies a more realistic scope of how their programs are affecting their communities.

Additionally, listening can arm you with critical information as to where to focus your efforts to improve the overall customer experience.

2. Provide more education

In Datacom’s experience, nearly half of the enquiries directed at government agencies online are related to how to apply for a certain service or program. This is basic information that your organisation can easily provide both on and offline by listening through social media monitoring. This early stage of social media monitoring can also help government agencies aggregate information to track whether awareness of a program is poor or positive.

Based on this information gleaned from social media monitoring, government agencies can then decide how to better educate constituents. The next step might be to arm your online influencers — which a social media monitoring report can help you identify — with information so they can spread the word. Or, you can decide to take the next step in social media monitoring, which involves reacting to your online audience.

Government can also use this valuable information from social media monitoring to improve online self-help abilities for the public. Organisations that offer self-help tools in the form of web pages, assessments and checklists tend to have higher customer satisfaction ratings. Amongst Australians who contact the government online, 83 per cent report high satisfaction, according to a 2011 report by the Australian Government Information Management Office.

3. Learn what citizens are really concerned about

It’s possible your government agency has gone full-force with programs it believes are catering to the most important needs of the majority of constituents only to find out that you are missing the mark in some area. If you’re not listening through social media monitoring, you won’t know that three quarters of the community you serve are complaining about potholes. Listening through social media monitoring takes you beyond what meets the eye online.

There are multiple applications of this intelligence found online. For instance, local councils can use information gleaned online to increase collaboration with their communities on programs — the No. 3 opportunity offered by social media use according to councils polled in the ACELG survey. The report also noted that a quarter of local Australian councils think social media helps them connect with more removed segments of the population such as youth and seniors.

Even if you have basic social media channels like Twitter and Facebook covered, you could be missing discussions on community forums and lesser-used channels. Social media monitoring scans a vast online landscape that will turn up a wider range of posts about your programs and policies and the issues that matter, enabling you to hone in on what your constituents are really concerned about.

Exploring the online world through social media monitoring listening is a low-risk way for government to begin learning what’s being said about them and the programs they provide. Social media monitoring listening can help public agencies better tap into the communities they serve, reaching more constituents and using the intelligence gathered from these activities to create more effective policies.

Learn more information on how social media monitoring can help your government agency or sign up for our free social media assessment.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.

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