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Have you checked Facebook today? Did reading a Tweet make you chuckle on the bus to work this morning? Did you post pictures from your family get-together last weekend on Instagram? For a lot of us, social media have become a part of our daily habits. That’s why social media have also become an effective way to provide civic information to the public.
Election authorities recognize there’s value in using social media, but maintaining a social outreach program takes time, effort, and coordination. To help make using social media more manageable, the Boston Election Department recently turned to Hootsuite, a web-based social network management tool, to streamline their work.
“It made it easier to manage our various platforms,” explains Election Commissioner Kyron Owens, “because everything is located in one central location.”
Known for sweet baked beans, Fenway Park, and getting lots of snow in the wintertime, the City of Boston is also home to some 390,000 registered voters. To serve this large voting population, Boston’s Election Department employs 32 staff members and manages over 400 polling places. This fall, the department will be hosting early voting for the first time in Boston, encouraging civic participation by extending the voting period and allowing voters to cast a ballot at a location that’s convenient for them instead of an assigned polling place.
That same desire to integrate elections into the busy lives of Boston’s citizens is what’s behind the Election Department’s social media outreach efforts. Kyron, who is the Democratic Member of the Board of Election Commissioners, says that his office turns to social networks for the full gamut of community outreach.
“We use our social media to engage with the public, make them aware of upcoming election dates, election-related deadlines (like the voter registration deadline), any events we are hosting or collaborating on, polling location hours of operation, and we use it to advertise our initiatives and support other initiatives that are related to elections,” he explains.
Like any form of communications outreach, however, social media campaigns require a time and energy commitment. That’s especially true if you use more than one platform. The Boston election staff uses both Facebook and Twitter, for instance. “Managing these platforms independently is a problem,” Kyron acknowledges, “because it is quite time consuming, so we were looking for a way to centralize that aspect.”
And as if reducing maintenance time weren’t ambitious enough, the Election Department wanted to expand their reach at the same time. “We wanted to use our social media platforms to reach more people living in Boston,” says Kyron. In other words, they were looking for a way to get a greater outcome while investing less time.
He and his staff first heard about Hootsuite from colleagues in Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology who were already using the platform to manage the City of Boston’s social media networks. Along with Board of Election Commissioners Chairman Dion Irish, Kyron tested Hootsuite to see if it could simplify their social media maintenance, too.
Their initial impressions of Hootsuite were positive. “Hootsuite was very user friendly and easy to learn how to use and navigate,” Kyron recalls.
Hootsuite acts as a central control panel for your social networks, meaning that you can monitor your social media activity and view things like mentions, new followers, likes, and Retweets all from a single dashboard. The Boston Election Department connected its Facebook and Twitter profiles to Hootsuite, allowing Kyron to view both accounts without going to two different places.
Even more convenient is the way that Hootsuite allows you to post messages. From a single “compose” box, you can draft a message that will be sent from all of your social media accounts at the same time. “You can post to both platforms with one click!” explains Kyron. And you can choose to send your message immediately or schedule it to be sent in advance if you prefer.
Boston’s election staff found that consolidating their social media procedures with Hootsuite was quite beneficial. Not only did it save time, but it successfully enabled Kyron and his colleagues to expand their reach and impact, as well.
Part of the change was easy to quantify. Kyron said that he saw an increase in the number of followers, Retweets, and likes that the department received on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Even more significant, however, was the depth of engagement that they observed. “We decided it was a success,” Kyron recalls, “based on the number of interactions we have had since we started using the technology. We had an increase in questions and conversations being held on social media. It was exciting to see people take an interest.”
Kyron attributes these developments to the fact that Hootsuite makes social media management easier. “I believe the cause was just the increase in our activity and then also the content of our tweets,” he says.
This makes good sense. The fact is, when it requires less effort to post to social media, you can post more frequently, making it easier to achieve the 2-3 posts per day recommended by social media engagement experts. And having the ability to post the same message to two or more platforms from the same dashboard creates greater reliability and consistency in your outreach.
Ultimately, Hootsuite delivered the outcomes that Kyron, Dion, and the rest of the Boston Election Department had in mind. It helped staff manage the election office’s social networks more efficiently, and at the same time, it put them in a position to achieve greater audience engagement.
And even though it’s always good to save staff time and energy, it’s that second goal that’s especially important. Asked about what he sees as the biggest benefit of Hootsuite, Kyron replied, “the ability to use this platform to be able to expand your outreach efforts in the community that you serve.”
If you’d like to get started with using Hootsuite, our new tech tutorial on the topic is a great place to begin. In addition, Kyron has volunteered to speak with other election officials curious about his experiences using the program in Boston. You can reach out to him at email@example.com.
“The results of the technology were very good and positive,” he concludes. “Anyone who is curious about this technology I would encourage them to test it out because I believe they will find it to be beneficial.”
What inventive methods has your election office developed for managing social media? We’d love to share your success story. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your social media management strategies.