Social media engages community

Article image - Social media engages community Council staff at the RH Dougherty Awards.

Upper Lachlan Shire Council in New South Wales has developed its Facebook page as a tool to actively engage with the community.

The Council was recently recognised in the LGNSW 2017 RH Dougherty Awards ‘Reporting to Your Community’ category for the project.

By making their Facebook page more relevant, informative and engaging, page ‘likes’ increased by 47 per cent in just seven months and Facebook evolved to become one of the Council’s key communications tools.

Mayor Brian McCormack OAM said historically, Upper Lachlan had employed a variety of channels to promote Council news, achievements, announcements and updates, including the fortnightly publication of a Council Information Page in the local newspaper, a weekly Mayoral radio interview, the publication of a quarterly newsletter to ratepayers and the issuing of media releases and alerts.

“While these had proven an effective means for communicating with the Shire’s older demographic who are typical consumers of mainstream local media, Council received some feedback from younger members of the community who felt they were not being adequately informed about Council issues and events,” Mayor McCormack said.

“Therefore, in June 2016 we sought to actively engage with a younger demographic by employing our Facebook page as a prominent communication tool and a channel for greater community engagement and interaction in a way that had not previously been undertaken in the Shire.”

In improving the page, Council sought to change the way information was presented, by ensuring, where applicable posts are accompanied by a photo or image. As much as possible videos and photo galleries were also added to the page to better engage with the target audience.  

Upper Lachlan also used its Facebook page to give a ‘face’ to Council staff by posting news on key appointments and achievements.

This was extremely well received by the community, with most of these posts garnering in excess of 1000 likes, which, with a total population of 7841 is an impressive result.

Mayor McCormack said in addition to communicating Council’s news and achievements, the Facebook page has evolved as a tool to gauge community feedback on ideas and issues, quickly and concisely, in a way Council was unable to capture information before.

“If an issue is overwhelmingly popular or unpopular Council will usually know within hours of a post going live on Facebook.

“While this feedback in no way replaces formal submission periods, Facebook assists Council in keeping its finger on the pulse of community views and expectations,” Mayor McCormack said.