Ask Me! Turn That Frown Upside Down

Posted on March 19, 2018

Ask Me! Communication Conversations with Claire is a new recurring blog series with Claire Bouchard, a seasoned local government communications professional located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Send your local government communications questions to Claire via email and she’ll answer in a future blog post.

At our local university, and maybe at yours too, there is a big tree stump outside the student center. In a sea of concrete pavers, mini landscaped islands, bike racks that line the parameter like a fence, stands the stump. A very humble podium. It has one purpose. Share your opinion for all to hear.
Free speech. One of our country’s fundamental rights. And possibly one of our government’s thorniest thorns. Free speech is prickly. It stings. It harms. It also unites. It is woven into the fabric of our country and culture so tightly that it is one of the most well-known American tenets.
If your community manages a social media account, you have likely butted heads with this right. How did it go? Consider these tips when faced with the First Amendment of the Constitution on your social media platforms.

  • Acknowledge the post. Almost all but the nastiest posts deserve a “thank you for visiting our Facebook page”.
  • Remind the person of your rules of engagement and social media policies, and link to them. And enforce them if need be.
  • If the post includes false information, post correct information in order to realign the conversation and thread.
  • Watch for public policing. I’ve seen the public come to the rescue on issues like this before – other followers will jump in the conversation and call out the person and request more civil dialogue.

Social media posts rarely rear their heads again after a day or two of this kind of engagement. Soon, they are buried by the newsfeed and people are onto the next post.
Being a government agency, everything you do is in the public’s eye – from budgeting, to mowing the grass, to managing social media accounts. A negative response will likely appear in your feed. How you handle it sets the tone for future engagement, and either builds credibility with your followers, or alienates them with your reply.
Let’s turn this frown upside down and talk about preventative measures.
Just like exercise, drinking water, and washing your hands keeps you healthy, maintaining core social media practices goes a long way in the health of your feed and followers.
Shift Online Negativity – Embrace These Top 4 Prevention Tips

  1. Ask questions – gear the conversation around important and FUN community issues – this is social media, not a boring annual report.
  2. Include images that are interesting, engaging, and…fun!
  3. Link to the topic’s webpage for more information – you don’t have to add every detail to your post.
  4. Create or repeat compelling hashtags for people to follow, and for you to track engagement.

So, go grab a stump and start engaging your community online. Pull people in and around you to feed the conversation and create a credible place for truth, authenticity, and fairness for all.

Watch for future communications blogs, where we tackle your questions and concerns. Submit feedback or questions on topics you want us to cover. Email Claire with your questions!

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