How do public services use social media?
By definition, a ‘Public Service’ is a service that is provided by the government to people living within its jurisdiction, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services. Public services span through a plethora of services in the public domain; from the military to public housing.
Social media has totally re-invented the way companies do business. Social media can be used for selling, creating a brand, customer service – just to name a few. Not only is it cheap for companies/organisations to use social media but it’s also more effective at engaging with customers.
Social media certainly isn’t just for private sector companies, the public sector use it too – rightfully so! With austerity in full force at the moment, it offers a fresh perspective to saving money, as well as actively engaging with the public, for the public services.
A key reason why public services use social media is because it’s easy to engage with customers outside of ‘office hours’. A library in Boston, USA, found that the out-of-hours interaction was a great idea. The library used ‘in-the-moment’ social media by taking advantage of the news at the time. An example was during severe weather, which was naturally trending on Twitter, so they were using a hashtag to engage with people at the time. A simple, yet effective use of social media as they are promoting their brand, and at the same time, publicising themselves to their community on Twitter.
Through research, I’ve noticed that the police services are one of the best public services on social media. They get the public involved and use social media to help spread news faster to catch criminals. However, they use smart wording, as to not encourage ‘vigilante-style’ citizens, which is a practical but brilliant form of engagement.
Even though social media’s use is growing exponentially, there are always the critics. In my opinion, I think people need to keep up with the trend. Social media is here, whether you like it or not. On this occasion though, I can sort of see the reason for concern – public service HAVE to get their message across clearly, one Tweet/Facebook update that isn’t worded very well could have disastrous consequences.
On the flip side to the seriousness of the public services use of social media, I find it great that the police use social media to even try and crack a joke from time to time. It sounds silly, but an amusing tweet can really engage with the audience. The people who work for public services are human after all. Other police forces have followed suit, which is a great result. Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, said that the Facebook page has helped police to engage with young people.
As much as social media is fantastic for the public sector, it will never take over completely. I believe a ‘snowball effect’ will come into play; it’ll take a few more success stories to get the ball rolling. The growth of social media is great for businesses (public, private and charity). It would appear social media is continuously evolving for the greater good!