3 Social Media Lessons from the Government Shutdown

Photo: Twitter Bird - Flickr Creative Commons, eldh
Photo: Twitter Bird - Flickr Creative Commons, eldh

No one is happy about the government shutdown, but, like any bad situation, there are lessons we can learn from it. At Greenough, we spend a lot of time managing social media for our clients, so we’ve been closely watching the effects of the shutdown on government agencies’ social accounts. Here are a few things we’ve learned: 1. Social media never shuts down. Despite knowing full well that no one will respond, numerous tweets continue to mention the U.S. Department of Labor’s Twitter handle @USDOL. The government may be shut down, but the public continues to interact with agencies’ Facebook and Twitter feeds.

This provides an important lesson for all organizations. Whether you’re prepared to respond or not, people are going to send you messages via social media. By regularly interacting with your community and addressing their messages quickly, you’ll build a much stronger relationship with your clients and customers

2. Do something interesting. On October 1, @MarsCuriosity, the Twitter account of the Mars rover, tweeted “Sorry I won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Back as soon as possible.” This tweet was popular, receiving more than 2,700 retweets, 250-plus favorites and numerous replies. During the same period, @EPA received hardly any engagement. What makes @MarsCuriosity so popular?

Rather than posting news about the rover as a NASA employee, @MarsCuriosity writes as if the rover itself is reporting in. This fun and creative spin on NASA brings in followers and, by extension, public support. The lesson for businesses? To gain a stronger social media following, adopt a unique perspective or style. Some customers may actually find your ideas more engaging if they come from your mascot instead of your CEO.

3. Crisis situations require increased social media presence. A great paradox of the shutdown is that while the government is in crisis and effectively shut down, the public actually wants more social communication, not less. During a crisis situation, be it a product recall, a restructuring of the company or a bad quarter, it is important to increase your communication, not decrease it. Doing so reassures them that you are working to solve the issue, avoiding the panic that often comes with silence.

These are just a few things that we’ve noticed during the government shutdown. If you’ve noticed anything, please let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

Contributed by Account Executive Michael Glen