Social Media - The Assessor's Secret Weapon
Connecting With The Taxpayer
Nearly 126M U.S. adults use Facebook; only 22M people read a newspaper every day. Clearly, the way most people get their news and information now is through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram. These platforms are also where community is built through shared videos, pictures, music, and words. In an environment where both information and community meet in the powerful communication instrument that is social media, you, as an assessor, are in a great position to both relate to taxpayers and keep them informed with good information and data, smart information distribution, and thoughtful community building techniques.
Content Is King
As an assessor, you’re in a good position to produce content that people will pay attention to; people seek out and trust experts. Studies show that the human brain pays more attention when it’s receiving information from an expert, a key point in a Harvard Business Review article by Ben Parr. People want to hear from you, they want the information you offer, the statistics you may have, or the developments you think they need to be aware of. Once you know what you want to say, it’s the perfect time to make your content.
Without good content, you can’t master social media. Content informs. Content is shared. Content is the thing that makes social media social. “What?” you may be saying, “I’m not an ‘influencer’. I don’t have time to make content all of the time.” True. As an assessor your time is usually best spent doing property inspections, valuing property, and determining property taxes. But you also interact with the public. For instance, you notify them when property tax bills are going out, how to apply for abatements, and when you’ll be visiting a house or business for a property inspection. This is your content and it’s essential to the community that you serve.
Even though your community wants your information, one of the biggest challenges you’ll experience is getting people to pay attention. That’s why it’s important to be intentional in what you communicate – think about what you convey, how you convey it, and why you convey it. Grab people’s attention with visual elements, engage them with sharp writing, or connect with clear speech. Establish a consistent look and feel to the content so that your professionalism is apparent through the tasteful colors, clear fonts and a consistent format you use. Make it so that at a glance your community will recognize information from the assessor and will know to pay attention.
That’s why it’s important to be intentional in what you communicate – think about what you convey, how you convey it, and why you convey it.
Once you know what the look and feel of your content should be, experiment with different forms of communication. Create a video, post a speech, write an article, share a picture, or some combination, depending on the platform you’re using. A new iPhone or Android phone is all you need to shoot video or high-quality photos, while tools like iMovie or Adobe Premier Rush make it easy to edit what you’ve shot. Software like Canva make it easy to layout and design newsletters, brochures, and posters, so you can combine images and texts with a professional look.
Get Your Message Out
Where you post information is almost as important as having information to post. The assessor’s department website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest – the choices for where to put your information are overwhelming. There are several great articles that detail the pros and cons of each platform. We’ll detail the kinds of content you may make, and which platforms are best to distribute that type of content.
Videos are the most popular form of content on the web and are easy to make using an iPhone or reasonably powerful Android phone. All you need to create a video is access to a smartphone, a steady recording hand and an idea of what you’d like to produce. Because video is so easy to create and because people enjoy watching videos so much, YouTube is the most popular website in the world, with nearly 2 billion monthly active users. Short, concise, informative videos grab people’s attention and are easy to understand.
YouTube and/or Vimeo, the two dominant video hosting platforms on the web, are the best places to initially upload videos. Videos loaded on either video hosting platform are readily found through common search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!). YouTube and Vimeo use their own search feature too, or your videos could be found via social media or a blog post once they are linked in a message. In most cases, embedding your videos into your website, newsletters, on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook is as easy as pasting the video links.
How To Properly Upload Videos To YouTube in 2021 (Derral Eves)
Preparing Your Video For Uploading (Vimeo)
Best Platforms for Distributing Video Content: YouTube and Vimeo
We are all familiar with infographics, which the company Venngage defines as a collection of images and data visualizations that gives an understandable overview of a topic. In fact, if you want to learn how to make a great infographic, we highly recommend reading Venngage’s article explaining the best way to design one.
Assessors are some of the most sophisticated users of infographics because of the need to simplify complex concepts like the assessing process and the various laws that guide assessing. A great example is the City of Quincy's use of infographics throughout their brochure “Understanding Your Taxes”, which explains to taxpayers how property and excise taxes are determined. While assessors are adept at using infographics in their written form infographics are best distributed through Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and on Facebook, uploaded as images.
Best Platforms for Distributing Infographics: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook
Photos are a great way to let taxpayers know what the assessing department is doing, put a face to the names of all of the staff, and convey short bits of information in a way that is easy to understand. Like videos and infographics, photos are easy to distribute on a wide variety of platforms, though LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and your own website are the best platforms for sharing photos. LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook make the process simple.
Best Platforms for Distributing Photos: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and your own website
Text is far from a dead medium – sometimes information is too complex for a video, an infographic, or a photo. In such cases, text, especially when combined with infographics and photos, is a powerful way to share in-depth information. Both LinkedIn and Facebook offer dedicated solutions to publish articles (though Facebook’s solution is rather technical). In the case of LinkedIn, there is no minimum number of articles you need to publish nor consistent publishing frequency that is required. For Facebook’s dedicated solution, called Instant Articles, you do need to publish a certain number of articles with consistency. Publishing an article can also be as simple as embedding a link to an already published brochure or informational flyer that you’ve placed on your website.
Publishing on LinkedIn can be a powerful way to grow your community. The explore page will show content that anyone in your community has liked, on your feed. This means that when a simple like on your article, could result in a diverse group of people seeing your content. It will also be encouraging that new audience will see current community engagers positively interacting with your articles!
Best Platforms for Distributing Articles: LinkedIn and Facebook
Engagement and Analytics
Putting out a lot of content is useless if nobody is viewing or reading the information you’ve published. When people view your videos or read your articles you are engaging taxpayers and citizens. Each platform contains a set of analytic tools that help you understand what content people are viewing, how long they spend viewing your content, and what they’re sharing, commenting on, or saved to view later. Looking at these statistics can help you measure how effectively you communicate. Statistics can also help you anticipate taxpayer needs, allowing you to actively address problems or offer solutions on time.
Besides the tools each of the platforms offer, there are third-party tools that offer even more in-depth information. One tool to consider is Sprout Social, which connects with almost every social media tool. Using Sprout Social you can plan content in advance, choosing the peak interaction time to ensure great engagement. You can also view analytics about which conversations people are having about your subject online. That type of feedback allows you tailor future posts based on the questions that people are asking, making you both helpful and responsive.
Finally, building community on each platform is important and should be a focus once you’ve gotten content published and distributed. Community is built in three ways.
First, community is built through sharing the content you’ve produced. As Mark David McCreary writes that information sharing is an essential part of human identity building. When people share information, they process and remember it better, they connect with their friends, and often feel better emotionally. When people share your information, you’re connecting with their social network, you’re becoming a part of their community.
Second, community is built through interaction. Almost all platforms allow for viewers or readers to respond to a video or an article, either publicly on the post itself or via direct message. Your responsibility is to respond to (and curate) those comments, addressing the needs of taxpayers.
In some cases, you can even interact with citizens directly through events like an Instagram Live Q&A or a hosted Zoom call. Although unconventional, such an approach is a good way to hear citizens’ concerns and address their concerns directly.
When you interact with taxpayers, the assessing department is no longer a faceless part of the larger municipal or county government; it’s a collection of people that citizens can approach with questions.
When you interact with taxpayers, the assessing department is no longer a faceless part of the larger municipal or county government; it’s a collection of people that citizens can approach with questions. In short, the more you engage with citizens, the stronger the sense of community, and the more relatable you become to the average person. When people see you as a person, trust and collaboration become the default, while wariness and mistrust diminish.
Content, Distribution, and Community
When you have good content and you are getting it in front of people and people start sharing your content, you know you’re really helping people understand tax assessing and taxpayers will feel like you’re collaborating with them instead of working against them. Today’s technology makes it easy to inform and collaborate with others and as demographics change, more and more people will expect their information to come from more than a letter in the mail or a website. They will expect to see key information on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, delivered to them on their mobile phone. They will also continue to expect to engage with you directly through these platforms.
The status quo of information sharing is slowly changing and the tax assessor needs to be actively engaged in this process as it happens. Through consistent content production and distribution, the tax assessor can better connect with their community and communicate more effectively.