The good news is that approved social media sites are relatively inexpensive tools, as they really only require the cost of labor -- creating the content, vetting it, posting it, monitoring the sites and responding to constituents' postings. This method of communication is fresh and easy to use, and millennials are very comfortable perusing these sites for information and insights.
The key question then becomes: how do we make our message catch -- and keep -- their attention?
According to a study done in 2010 by the Pew Research center, 90% of millennials use the Internet and 75% of millennials have created a social networking profile. It is important to remember though, that social media users are looking for more than just information when they browse. Several studies have shown that people participate in social media for socializing, entertainment, and self-status seeking, on top of strictly searching for information.
Social media is a setting in which two essential processes take place: peer-to-peer influence, and interaction-creating connections. These processes, along with the nearly instantaneous speed of the Internet, make for the perfect vehicle for distributing messages. Government organizations can tap into and creatively utilize this space to generate a "viral" campaign. Package your message in a medium that can be easily distributed from peer-to-peer and dress it up in the latest/dominant trends and fashions of your audience. And enjoy how effectively your constituents will help you share your message.
Here are some tips on getting a message to go viral:
- Plug in: Take a look at current dominating mediums that your audience is latching on to. In addition, popular themes can serve as a powerful tool for getting those initial contacts.
- Do something unexpected: Rather than emphasizing what is great about your message or product, do something that draws the attention of your target audience to it. The message promotion should be visible but subtle.
- Follow up: Give your audiences more of what they like. If you have a great idea, play with it and reinvent it for as long as you can. People say millennials have short attention spans, but they also know what they like and will only share brands they trust to deliver.
- Allow and promote sharing: Make your content as accessible as your organization's guidelines allow. When appropriate, create opportunities for people to participate in your campaign: ask for insights, suggested themes, etc.
In 2011, the "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" campaign swarmed the U.S., inspiring families all over to "get prepared." Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Dr. Ali Khan, pointed out, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack." This campaign creatively provided information on staying safe, outlined how the CDC operates in potentially dangerous situations, and allowed anyone to make their own preparedness videos to share on the site. The campaign was so successful that from it, the CDC developed lesson plans for educators, t-shirts, posters, and even a graphic novella.
The government sphere has the power to distribute important messages creatively and effectively. Government organizations' passions no longer have to suffer the limitations of yesterday. It's about time we caught on. With the power and accessibility of social media, combined with a little creative fortitude, government organizations can really leave a lasting footprint in the web-space of tomorrow.