With the development of online communications and social networks, local councils have been forced to operate on an increasingly large number of communication channels. As well as maintaining traditional means of communication, they’ve had to deal with a proliferation of ever-evolving online platforms in order to stay relevant and accessible. One of the ways they’ve managed this is through the introduction of automated technologies and dedicated social media teams. However, neither is particularly useful if they’re not well-focused and clearly targeted. Here, we take a look at how councils should be using the social networking giant – Facebook – in 2018.
Local councils and technology adoption concerns
One of the biggest challenges facing local councils is how they encourage widespread adoption of new technologies across a diverse population. Implemented poorly, technologies like chatbots and IVR can often cause more problems than they resolve, and result in users shunning services because they’re unwieldy or inefficient.
A key way of preventing poor implementation is the thoughtful and considered targeting of services and technologies. Rather than rolling out automated technologies across an entire region, local councils can focus them on those parts of the population that are already relatively comfortable with their use.
Facebook for university students
When it comes to local councils using Facebook as a means of communicating with residents, there’s plenty of information available that can inform councils as to how the platform is best used. One of the most striking statistics acquired by Inform suggests that local councils, by not engaging fully with Facebook, are missing out on a huge untapped resource, one that Universities are using much more successfully.
To illustrate, we took a look at the difference between Facebook followers for UK Universities and their counterpart local council. The discrepancy between the two was astounding, showing a far greater number of Facebook followers for universities than for councils. Birmingham University, for example, has nearly 11,000 more Facebook followers than Birmingham City Council. In Southampton the difference is even more marked, with University boasting 97,000 more followers than Southampton Council. The takeaway? Councils could be doing a lot more to engage with their student population on their platform of choice, and may look to Universities for best-practice on Facebook engagement.
Targeting Facebook users
These statistics demonstrate the need for local councils to tailor their approach to particular demographics. Though Facebook may be dwindling in popularity amongst other parts of the population, it is clearly still a powerful tool for reaching out to university students. Facebook Messenger also has great channel shift potential and has proved itself an excellent platform in which to integrate automated technologies, such as chatbots. With high user rates amongst the targeted demographic, local councils could begin to use Facebook as a first point of contact for issues relating to university students, such as providing the right certification documents for council tax exemption. Not only does this streamline higher education enquiries, it ensures the entire local council customer service process is more efficient.
Though Facebook may not be a suitable communication channel for all local government services, it is particularly useful in regards to university students. Working closely with experienced chatbot developers, local councils could use the social network to implement automated customer service solutions for a demographic that is likely to shun other means of communication. Such a service increases participation, reduces costs, and provides solutions to user problems in a far more efficient manner. Though Facebook may not be the world’s biggest networking site forever, in 2018 it will be an important channel for those councils looking to deliver improved services to specific segments of the local population.