7 Things I’ve Learned from Developing Social Media Content for a Federal Stats Agency

Admit it: when you log on to your social media every day, the last thing you’re looking forward to is seeing content from a federal statistical agency. And who could blame you? It doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as content from your favorite celebrity, sports team, or public figure.

But look at the Facebook and Twitter pages for our client, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card) and maybe you’ll ask yourself: Why have I not been following NAEP?

Developing the social media content for NAEP has been an interesting experience during my time at Hager Sharp. By setting the groundwork for content monthly and reporting on its metrics, I’ve been able to gather some insights on what works—and what doesn’t. To my surprise, much of what I’ve learned goes against some of the traditional norms preached by social media “experts.” Maybe it’s due to the nature of NAEP’s audience—researchers and educators—but there are some things that could be applied to other types of audiences too.

Here are seven insights you might consider for your own social strategies:

  1. Get clever with memes and GIFs. Sometimes the best way to make a good impression is to make someone smile. With NAEP, we have learned to do this through use of memes and GIFs, which when effective, are great for earning link clicks towards items and results.
  2. Load up on the image text. There’s a familiar saying that “less is more” when it comes to a lot of things; however, for NAEP that’s not always been the case. Twice this year we’ve shared some text-heavy tablescharts, and infographics describing NAEP’s assessment process. The result: image clicks. Of course, we have an audience that’s largely familiar with data and research. It’s all part of our strategy of bringing NAEP item contents in a more visually-appealing way, leading to link clicks which count towards engagement metrics.
  3. Weekends are great for long-form content. If you have a video, lengthy article, or detailed infographic to share, chances are you might get the most value out of it if you post on the weekends. We have learned this by sharing videos from NAEP’s social media accounts on the days where followers may not be as preoccupied and have an extra minute to spare learning more about NAEP’s work.
  4. Don’t underestimate photos of people; they go a long way. While it’s true that livestream videos have been all the rage lately, don’t forget that sometimes pictures will do the trick just the same. The reason for this is two-fold: first, people love seeing people they know; and second, people love putting a face to a brand or organization. Use pictures to help build that personal connection with your followers.
  5. Share other’s content, but don’t forget to tag them. If your organization’s goals include thought leadership, it’s tough to get there by just posting content about yourself. Through managing NAEP’s social media accounts, we have learned that sharing others’ content helps in the long run by increasing our reach to new followers; especially when the content is useful to them. Because when you tag an organization’s social media handle, it appears in their notifications and on their timeline to followers.
  6. Encourage competition. Whether they admit it or not, everyone loves the feeling of being better than someone. The same holds true when sharing NAEP’s state results. Not only do people want to know if their state’s education system is progressing or regressing, they also take pride in knowing whether their state’s results are better than another’s. Share content that affects your audiences in a way that encourages their involvement or engagement.
  7. People value transparency. What each of the previous insights comes down to is being open with your followers. Some of NAEP’s best performing posts are the ones that allow followers to demystify its complex process.

Social media is an important part of a comprehensive communications effort when it’s used to form relationships. Without question, developing content for NAEP’s social media is a never-ending challenge that’s been really enjoyable for me.

Who knew you could have this much fun with a federal statistical agency?

Cedric Brown
Account Executive