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Getting Started

Should I Create a Social Media Account?

Before you consider creating a social media account, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my goal?
    • How will you use the social channel? Will you be sharing information regularly? Will you be interacting with stakeholders? Will you be promoting events?
  • Who is our audience, and how do we reach them?
    • Consider who your key audiences are, and whether you’re likely to reach them on a specific platform. Don’t create an account if your audience does not use that platform, or if the platform users are not part of your audience.
  • Are you willing to invest the time/effort to maintain?
    • How often will you be posting? The more often you post, the more likely your content will be seen. If you’re unable to commit to posting regularly, or if you don’t have consistent content, you might consider submitting content to your OpDiv/StaffDiv channels, or the department-wide channels rather than maintaining your own social channels.
  • Do you have a long-term plan for channel management?
    • What kind of tone/style will you use on your channels? Will you focus on news releases/announcements? Specific health campaigns? Behind-the-scenes at the office? A mix?
    • If you want to create an account for a specific event or department, consider promoting content on your OpDiv/StaffDiv channels instead.
  • Do you have enough content and staffing?
    • Minimal effort/management of social media pages will mean minimal engagement. Plan staffing accordingly.
    • It is better to be on fewer channels with more engagement on each than many channels with less engagement.
  • How will you measure success?
    • Determine what metrics you plan to use to measure success. Typical social media metrics include different types of engagement (likes/reactions, comments, shares, replies), but you might also consider metrics like link clicks or video views.

For more information, visit “Social Media Considerations: Should my office be in there?

Which Social Network is Best for My Office?

  Facebook Twitter Instagram
Posting At least once a day Several times a day Several times a week
Timing Content appears in newsfeed for several days Content is constantly changing Content appears in the Instagram feed for up to one week
Style Longer, more evergreen Driven by trends/hashtags Compelling images/video
  LinkedIn YouTube Other (Snapchat, Chat Apps, etc.)
Posting Several times a week As video becomes available At least once a day
Timing Content appears in newsfeed for several days Content lives permanently on channel Content may appear for a limited time
Style More serious Produced videos More casual, point-and-shoot

Approval and Setup

In order to maximize the success of your efforts, your office should:

  1. Create a Management Plan and incorporate it into an existing communications plan that identifies a target audience and specific objectives, activities, and necessary resources allocated.
  2. Obtain approval from your Office/Agency’s program management and the appropriate communications office.
  3. Contact digital@hhs.gov. The HHS Digital Communication Division team may be able to provide recommendations on your plan, assist with promoting your effort, and also provide suggestions on collaboration opportunities with other Offices/Agencies in the department.

Best Practices

Below are some basic best practices that you can use when starting and maintaining social media.

  • The vast majority of the time users spend looking at your content will be within the social media feed, not on your specific account page. People will read your updates among those from family and friends. Consider how you might share the content with a neighbor, friend, or family member, and tailor text and images accordingly (while keeping the voice of the channel in mind). Always think: “If I saw this post, would I find it useful? Would I interact with it?” Make sure to define acronyms that may not be identifiable by the mainstream public.
  • Multimedia makes for great content (photos, videos, graphics/illustrations). Think of other content from your website for inspiration, such as featured stories, announcements, or accomplishments. Conversely, not all content will work on social media. Press Releases are generally written for a press audience, and can be used as inspiration for updates, but should not be simply reposted unless there is an angle that’s of-interest to your audiences.
  • When writing for social media, keep your tone in mind. Remember that the account is representing the U.S. government – be conversational and engaging, but don’t be too informal. Determine how you will respond to comments (if at all). Prepare a strategy to engage with users, and to deal with negative comments.
  • Communicate with your colleagues to find content to use on your channels. Subscribe to lists like the department-wide Digital Digest to receive content updates (make sure to select “Regular” updates). 
  • Social networks are constantly changing, and what works today might not tomorrow. If your engagement or follower numbers are lagging, consider changing factors including content type, post length, and post frequency.

Need Additional Help?

Technical and strategic training and brainstorming are available from the Digital Communication Division. Contact digital@hhs.gov for more information.

Content created by Digital Communications Division (DCD)
Content last reviewed on July 30, 2018