As part of your membership benefits, the Alliance staff provide research services for local government member submitted requests. Topics can range from pressing issues to emerging trends. This benefit is made possible through our partnership with Arizona State University Marvins Andrews Fellowship

Specific Research Request: What is a good way to manage social media interactions outside of regular working hours?

Synopsis of findings: After reviewing many different cities, most are in the process of developing a plan to be more engaging with their local citizens after work hours. When they have concerns on issues in the community after business hours. Most cities that are effective with quick responses to their residents are those that have small populations and good relationships with their city/town manager.

  1. Amarillo, Texas: City Leaders Turn to Social Media to Reach Residents 

Mayor Ginger Nelson, has taken full advantage of social media since becoming Mayor in 2016. Nelson has used Facebook posts and graphics to spotlight city workers and initiatives, and she recently appeared in videos using a whiteboard to explain local taxes. In her first video, which has been viewed more than 10,000 times, Nelson detailed hotel occupancy taxes, or HOT, a key funding component of a downtown revitalization push. Nelson used Facebook to broadcast live what was billed as the first “State of the City” address. The event included a professionally produced video featuring city staff and highlighting city projects. The nearly hour long recording of the event on Nelson’s Facebook has been viewed more than 5,300 times. City of Amarillo, also offers live and interactive website action with its citizens. Nobox Creative 

 whose marketing firm manages Nelson’s social media account, said people are just now figuring out the power of social media as a communications tool after it has spent years relegated to IT departments. Facebook, she said, is “a live, interactive website. It’s now where you go if you have a complaint. If you need a question answered, you expect a response within minutes.” 

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  1. Social Media Management in Public Sector  

Today, we are observing an interesting shift in social media staffing in local government. Agencies recognize the value that communicating on social networks brings to their citizens, and a social presence is often an expectation by both leadership and the public. Now, agencies are getting serious about developing roles specifically for social media. Social media management in the public sector was a lot different in the early years. There was a good deal of hesitation about even having an official social network profile as an agency, let alone actually spending taxpayer dollars to hire someone to manage those accounts.    

Social media management began as an “other duties as assigned” function that could be handed down to existing staff. It was an Internet technology after all, so it made sense to give the responsibilities to the webmaster. Having served on the board of the National Association of Government Web Professionals, I saw this shift unfold in cities and counties across America.  

Although many government social media managers do not actually have the words “social media” in their job title, we are seeing more and more agencies dedicate positions to social media-only roles. For instance, PIO Jennifer Davies’ primary job responsibility is managing social strategy for Las Vegas.  
The PIO job title takes the lead in social media in other public-sector agencies as well, such as law enforcement. Social media survey data from the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2014 shows that the PIO is typically responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency’s public-facing social media accounts. The distant second and third most popular roles for managing social media in law enforcement are command staff and the chief executive.    

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  1. Staying Connected through Social Media 

In the town of Gilbert, Ariz., there's a core team of digital journalists, video specialists, a data and technology analyst and a digital communications strategist. They manage Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat accounts, but they "can't be everywhere," says Jennifer Alvarez, Gilbert's digital media and marketing officer. "Social media is a 24/7 job." 

To expand their reach, three years ago the Gilbert digital team started to offer Social Media 101 training to its employees. Six months ago, it created a more formal ambassador program, with a series of five lunchtime sessions. When an employee completes those sessions, he or she becomes a Certified Gilbert Social Media Ambassador -- a title that doesn't bring any monetary reward but is a source of pride and also helps employees promote the work of their own departments. 

"Employees are our best advocates. We want them sharing our content with their friends, families and networks," says Alvarez. 

If they have trouble with complaints, requests or questions prompted by shared content, the digital team is available to help. 

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  1. Must employees be paid for managing social media after hours or it should be considered volunteer work? 

FLSA (Fair labor standard act) requires employers to pay its employees for all hours worked. Work is physical or mental exertion whether burdensome or not controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer they should be paid. If employees are exempt they should be able to get extra benefits if required to manage duties outside of work. If the employee is non-exempted they should be encouraged to manage social media websites and have the opportunity to be compensated overtime for their work outside of normal business hours.  

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