There’s a change in the air with how the public sector is using social media.
Back in 2008, a public body would get credit for even using the platform.
Over time, that changed. Train companies and others with spot-on online customer services raised the bar.
Trouble is, digital expectations grew just as public sector services were cut through waves of austerity. What the public sector used to do, they sometimes no longer do. That’s a tough message to explain. It’s led to a backlash of frustration, anger and abuse online and often the frontline is the comms officer updating social media. I’ve lost count of the number of people who just switch off in the evening where they used to try and help with customer service questions.
“I get told I’m an idiot 9 to 5 online,” one person who looks after social accounts for a council said. “Why do I want to switch on to get told that in my own time, too?”
My advice for dealing with snark online used to be to play the Uncle Keith card. In short, don’t argue with an idiot. To a passer-by its just two idiots arguing. Swearing? Have a zero tolerance.
But over time I’ve seen a new approach.
It’s a very human approach that draws a clear line in the sand. It calls people out when they are wrong and uses facts and humour.
Importantly, it’s an approach that very often goes down very well with people online. Using the crude measurement of likes and comments, public sympathy can be very often with the human and factual public sector response rather than the troll.
I’ve lost count of the number of times in training when I’ve showed people examples of this approach they’ve practically whooped with joy.
“That’s brilliant.” They say. “I wish we could do that.”
The reality is they can.
Of course, each response needs to be judged on its own merit. But if its factually accurate, polite, professional and maybe a touch witty too then, why not?
Some examples of the new polite, human and firm to snark
Example 1: Bournemouth Council
Take, Bournemouth Council. When they asked people to report potholes they were met with snark. Did they back down? Did they heck!
Example 2: South Somerset Council
South Somerset District Council were sent an FOI demanding to know how their council tax was spent. The response is factual but also calls upon Ancient Rome.
Example 3: Dorset Police
I’ve blogged this before, but it’s such a great example I’m blogging it again. They could have left this inaccurate piece of fake news but it was important to challenge it.
Thanks to Tina Stokes and Kristian Ward for this.
Picture caption: Flickr / Documerica.