You’re on it. You get it. You may not even like it. It’s social media.

We all know that social media has changed how local governments communicate with their residents. We acknowledge you’ve got to deal with touchy subjects, appropriate responses, posting frequency, engaging content, all while posting striking pictures and edited videos.

We get it. In attempts to refresh your social media perspective, here are key digital communication tips for local govies reaching the public.  


Government communicators are not always relaying the most positive news. Things like rate increases, construction inconveniences, and other policy updates can stir up angst, debate and even hostility on your social media channels. Mix that with multiple users and procedures, it may get tricky.

Most governmental organizations have a Social Media Policy to help with things like voice and tone. Want to refresh yours? Check this out: social media policies


  • What is positive about the subject?
    How will this decision positively affect your community and what are the points that your residents will appreciate?

  • How can we soften the blow?
    Consider using softer language, but remain consistent with messaging.

  • Is it okay if people vent?
    Not everyone is going to agree with everything and not all feedback is created equal – consider who is posting and what their history with your organization has been. There are people in this world who are going to complain about everything. Their negative feedback has less weight than a resident who typically engages in positive and constructive conversations.

  • What’s your voice?
    Is your municipality serious and straight-laced? Fun and quirky? Figure out how you want to speak to your users and stay consistent! Even in giving bad news, it’s important that your voice reflects your brand.

  • What’s your schedule?
    Residents want to stay up to date with your information, but they don’t want to be flooded with your posts. Develop a frequency plan and stick to it. For emergencies or major decisions, you may need to increase the frequency with which you check and reply to posts on your accounts.

  • How will you respond?
    You and your team need to have a plan for comments and questions. Be sure to respond to engaged community members in a timely manner, even if the only thing you can say is, “we’re not sure about that right now, but we are checking and will get back to you soon.”

  • How will you track?
    Analytics for social media can be as robust as you need them to be. Explore what’s available to you by using the “View Insights” tab on Facebook and analytics on Twitter. You can determine the messaging that is getting the most response and tailor your future posts accordingly. For difficult subjects, you might find a spike in engagement. Take note and see if there are.


We’ve found that NextDoor is a great way to engage residents on a personal level. With email notifications and the ability for real time conversations, this platform is rising to the top of our favorite social networks, especially for difficult conversations. Most NextDoor users are engaged and active in their community and represent the types of people who will likely care about what you have to communicate.

No one wants to hear that a policy they don’t agree with is going into effect or taxes/rates are going up. But, with a little consideration and an extra layer of thick skin, you can be sure to weather the storm - at least until the next controversial Council meeting.


Alex Smith
Communications Specialist at Slate