As the sole organisation representing all of South Africa’s municipalities, SALGA has the immense task of co-ordinating a number of their members’ activities, including communication. And as South Africa grows in the social media space, SALGA must respond with current and relevant solutions not only to reach its members, but also to assist the general public in communicating effectively with their local municipalities and their public representatives.
Enhancing the Reputation of SALGA and Local Government through Social Media
SALGA recently launched new social media platforms, and revived existing ones with huge success. Communications Manager at the national office Tahir Sema says the social media platforms are aimed at enhancing the image of the organisation in the general public, as well as affording SALGA the opportunity to inform, educate and participate in topical issues that are affecting the local government sector.
Sema explains that the use of social media sites results in a much deeper penetration into the collective conscience of society. As such, SALGA has established a vibrant presence on the following platforms:
- Facebook is a popular, free social-networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and videos, send messages, and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. It’s estimated that there are around 11.8 million South African Facebook accounts, and SALGA has about 11 000 Facebook fans already, who are kept informed about the organisation and the municipal sector on a daily basis.
- Twitter is an online social-networking service that enables users to send and read 140-character messages called ‘tweets’. SALGA has about 1 380 Twitter followers, who not only receive hourly updates from SALGA, but also use the platform to robustly engage SALGA on key issues, including the delivery of basic services. Twitter is growing fast in South Africa, with about 6.6 million users.
- YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share original videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe, and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers. SALGA’s YouTube account has 10 professional videos, which revolve around SALGA and its projects, with about 143 views. There’s certainly room for improvement on this particular platform, especially once broadband internet becomes more accessible in South Africa.
- Flickr and Instagram are popular photo-sharing and hosting services, with advanced and powerful features. Both sites support an active and engaged community, where people share and explore each other’s photos. SALGA recently uploaded dozens of photos onto its Flickr site, which are available to view and download in high resolution for publishing purposes. Work has also begun on an Instagram account, which will be more accessible to the public, especially the youth.
‘Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are the best new communication tools to come out in years,’ Sema says. ‘These platforms are true two-way communication tools, allowing people to engage directly with the organisation, the sector and its services. It is a great way to influence people and behaviours, keeping people updated in an up-to-the-minute way. These platforms also give us quick and direct access to “influencers” and the press.’
Sema believes that social media is one of the easiest ways to find out quickly what’s going on in the world – from international news to what’s going on locally.
More importantly, though, is the increasing number of hashtag #localgov messages about the sector from the public and public sector employees, who are now using the hashtag to share learning experiences, connect with each other, and exchange knowledge around improving the public sector.
SALGA knows the power of social media platforms in society as a great space to share information, links and views. It is also a simple and effective signposting network for people in local government to use. According to Sema, local government can learn a lot from the non-hierarchical nature of social media platforms, as destructive hierarchies are one of the sector’s least attractive features.
The City of Cape Town and the City of Johannesburg have the most popular and active Twitter accounts in the local government sphere. The former often has its followers in stitches by dispensing useful information, advice and responses in a harmless but humorous manner. It is indeed more active than many corporate accounts, acting as a mini call centre for Johannesburg residents, with more than 82 000 tweets so far.
In the near future, SALGA will be investing more time and effort into these platforms to ensure the organisation reclaims its rightful place as the voice of local government in South Africa.