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State government celebrates 10th annual Social Media Day in Michigan, looks back on 10 years of social
State government celebrates 10th annual Social Media Day in Michigan, looks back on 10 years of social
Michigan became the third state in the U.S. to officially recognize Social Media Day in 2012.
June 30, 2022, marks the 10th annual statewide celebration of Social Media Day in Michigan and the 13th global celebration of Social Media Day worldwide. First recognized by Mashable in June 2010, Social Media Day acknowledges the impact of social media, and the role it plays in our daily lives and global communications.
Image from the State of Michigan’s Facebook page promoting the first official Social Media Day proclamation. The proclamation is dated June 30, 2012, and signed by then Gov. Rick Snyder.
Looking back over the past 10 years, a lot has changed with the state’s use of social media. In 2012, social media was evolving rapidly with the introduction of new platforms like Google+ and Picaboo, now known as Snap Inc. Platforms were introducing new functionality and leveraging new technologies to engage and connect people from across the globe. Facebook announced in October 2012 that it reached over 1 billion active platform users per month, and Pinterest became one of the hottest websites of the year. That same year, Facebook shelled out more than $1 billion for the acquisition of Instagram. Thinking back, that seems like a real bargain when compared to the pending $44 billion acquisition of Twitter this year.
On April 11, 2011, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division claimed a world record title for "Most Fans on Facebook in 24 Hours," with 1,575,161 likes. While the record is dwarfed by the viral nature of content in today’s rapidly evolving social media landscape, the recognition highlighted the influential impact social media could play in business at the time. Recognizing this, and the need to align government messaging, the State of Michigan in May 2011 hired its first social engagement coordinator. Focused on coordinating content across agencies and establishing a central governance structure, the position was one of the first in the nation tasked with coordinating a statewide network of decentralized government pages, profiles, and accounts.
“As an early industry adopter, the State of Michigan used social media to extend traditional channels of constituent engagement,” stated Andrew Belanger, statewide social media director and digital content administer with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB). “Michigan recognized early on the importance and power of social media, and the role it could play with constituent relations and government communications. By leveraging platforms where Michiganders spent their time, we were able to share information on our state programs and services, while engaging in two-way dialogue.”
The state’s early social media program saw many successes. In November 2011, it adopted a statewide social media policy covering an estimated 139 executive branch accounts. It also created a social media board, established best practices, and implemented branding across accounts.
“Although the results were not immediate, our work early on through the state’s social media program laid the foundation for what you see today,” stated Jesse Ball, a 13-year veteran communications specialist with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). “As one of the longest serving social media strategists at the state, it’s interesting to look back and reflect on how far we have come and how the landscape has changed.”
In its first year, the state’s program jumped from 2.1 million followers in 2011 to more than 4.5 million followers in 2012, marking a 113% increase. The same year, the state’s popular Pure Michigan campaign launched its world-renowned Instagram account and surpassed over 400,000 Facebook fans, making it a top-ranked state tourism agency on multiple platforms. Just two years later, in 2015, the team celebrated reaching 1 million fans on Facebook with an interactive photo installation along the Detroit riverfront. Bringing social to life, the installation leveraged fan-generated photos and earned industry recognition for its creativity.
Detroit Riverfront Photowalk
The work of Ball and so many others across state government has helped catapult the state’s social media program into the national spotlight. By leveraging the latest platform features and ensuring content is accessible, Michigan government is now reaching over 7.5 million followers, far more people than could ever have been imagined 10 years ago.
Over the next few years, the state’s social media program continued to grow its following by innovating, collaborating, and sharing coordinated messaging around holidays, special events, career opportunities, and information coming out of the governor’s office.
Throughout the years and across administrations, many posts went viral, reaching a global audience and often tapping into larger societal issues and social media trends of the day.
The Michigan State Police shared a post on “Back to the Future Day” in 2015, which resulted in over 180 thousand shares and 6.9 thousand comments. The post capitalized on the popular Back to the Future movie series featuring the iconized DeLorean. As noted in the post, “Michigan State Police troopers stopped a silver DeLorean today for driving 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. The two occupants, Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly, were given a verbal warning to drive more safety on Michigan roads. Dr. Emmett Brown responded by saying, “Roads?” Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” The post was designed to be funny, play on popular culture, and remind motorist to follow the speed.
“Over the years, our social footprint and our content strategy has evolved,” noted, Breanna Moore, outreach and community engagement coordinator with the Michigan State Police (MSP). “Early on, we were using social media as a reactive tool. As the years went on, we shifted our focus towards being more proactive. Using social proactively allows us to communicate in times of need, challenges us to embrace humor, and empowers us to humanize our staff, all things that help strengthen our relationships with the people and communities we serve.”
In recent years, MSP has launched several regional Twitter accounts. Field public information officers across the state share updates about happenings in their districts, including witty memes, information on active investigations, and publicly available support resources and programs.
In this Tweet from MSP’s Metro Detroit account, an update was shared about a man struggling with the decision to take his own life. The post and subsequent updates highlighted the incident, the help provided, and general information for those seeking help. The highway was closed, and truckers blocked the underpass as first responders resolved the situation.
“Many of our regional accounts have taken on a life of their own,” Moore added. “They are helping us tell our story in a meaningful and impactful way. They act as a direct line to those we serve and protect. If interested, you can subscribe to Tweet updates via our MSP Twitter list.”
In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged state residents via social media to help curb natural gas use due to extreme weather and a utility provider supply issue in Michigan.
Image of a Facebook post from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in early 2019 outlining an important alert for residents. The post read, “IMPORTANT ALERT: Due to extremely high demand for natural gas with record-low temperatures, and an incident at a facility, consumers energy has asked everyone who is able to please turn down their thermostats to 65° or less until Friday at noon.”
The message was shared widely across state accounts, with the short video being viewed over 1 million times. The governor’s call to action resulted in Michiganders across the state reducing natural gas use and averting additional supply chain issues. This is just one of the many instances where social media has been used by the state to keep Michiganders informed about important issues impacting them.
From recalls and consumer alerts to natural disasters and public health emergencies, social media plays a central role in our current communications strategies. Case in point, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, press briefings were livestreamed across social, virtual townhall meetings were held, and countless updates were provided across platforms and mediums to help followers navigate the public health crisis. Among the state’s COVID-19 content strategy, was a $1.5 million campaign from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to promote the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. The multimedia campaign continues to help the state fight the disease and promote vaccine effectiveness via television, connected TV, radio, streaming audio, YouTube, search, print in minority publications, and social and digital media.
Image of a Facebook post from MDHHS promoting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and the state’s website Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine. This and many of the campaign videos use personal storytelling to highlight the importance of vaccination.
Image of a Facebook post promoting the creation of the MI Shot To Win Sweepstakes, a lottery-style raffle that gave vaccinated Michiganders a chance to win $5 million in cash and a combined total of nearly $500,000 in college scholarships. The Michigan's sweepstakes giveaway was powered by Meijer in partnership with the Michigan Association of United Ways and the State of Michigan.
Image of a post highlighting a MDHHS COVID-19 virtual townhall on Facebook.
While the State of Michigan’s social media program is now considered among the top state programs in U.S., it has had its setbacks. When the state’s first social engagement coordinator left their post in early 2014, the position went unfilled for three years. With the move, governance shifted back to state agencies and use once again became like the Wild West. Many agencies hired dedicated staff to manage their once-again independent digital footprints and focused on driving engagement and growing follower counts.
“When I started with the state in May 2014, I worked with other agencies on targeted social media projects, but it was pretty limited,” said Tyler Czarnopis, social media specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Many departments worked in silos and developed their own policies and best practices. As a result, teams handled things differently and there were a lot of missed opportunities to amplify content and share coordinated messaging.”
This model of governance continued until the state doubled down on centralizing use with the hiring of Belanger in 2016.
“I was brought in at an interesting time in the program’s history,” Belanger said. “It really was the Wild West. Rebuilding the program from the ground up was my primary focus. We had outdated policies, rogue accounts, and limited partnerships with platforms. Through an inventorying process, we quickly realized the state’s social accounts had more than doubled, from 149 accounts in 2014 to over 450 in 2016. A large part of my role in the early days was to identify who was sharing what and on what platform. As part of that process, we identified numerous opportunities to streamline outreach and reduce the number of platforms we had a presence on.”
In 2017, the statewide social media policy was modernized, enterprise social media guidelines were adopted, a social media governance council was launched, best practices were implemented, and regular training opportunities were offered to staff. In the years that followed, the state’s social media program has been working to align accounts, expand content strategies, enhance collaboration, and improve customer service through social media.
Some current social media program facts, stats, and highlights are listed below:
- The state’s social media program covers all executive branch departments, including 300+ content authors and 600+ accounts.
- The State of Michigan was honored as the first place 2021 Government Experience Award winner from the Center for Digital Government. The award recognized Michigan's long-standing work of enhancing online government services and improving overall user experience for Michiganders by utilizing mobile applications, websites, and social media. The award emphasized the state’s expanded use of social media and integrating standardized social media feeds across all state websites as part of a larger modernization effort. The award followed Michigan’s placing in the top five states in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
- The social media program’s unified branding project was recognized in the 2022 Granicus Digital Government Awards program. Michigan was named a finalist in the Digital Government Experience category for efforts to align social media branding across all official accounts.
- Several teams have been recognized on the national stage by the Government Social Media Organization through the Golden Post Award program. The DNR was named a finalist for the Best Instagram Presence in 2022 for their work supporting the Michigan State Parks Instagram account. MDOT was named a finalist in the 2022 Best Social Media in Customer Service award category. The State of Michigan earned finalist recognition in the 2020 program for Best LinkedIn Presence, and the DNR’s Wildtalk podcast was a finalist for Best Podcast. Check out the State of Michigan’s award-winning podcasts.
- In support of continuous learning, the state has developed strong partnerships with several social media platforms in recent years. This includes having Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter personnel onsite for hands on trainings and professional development workshops.
- The State of Michigan hosted the first worldwide #SMDayChat Twitter chat in 2017 in partnership with the Mashable #SMDay team (founders of Social Media Day). Subsequent chats were held in 2018 and 2019, which resulted in millions of impressions.
While all the above is impressive by itself, it is important to recognize the state’s underlying effort to use and promote social media as a force for good. Echoing Gov. Whitmer in 2020, “Using social media as a tool for good, to listen, and engage in meaningful conversation, we can create vibrant online communities where people feel welcomed and accepted. I encourage everyone to engage in meaningful positive conversations, online and in person. By embracing civility and respecting and listening to one another, especially during difficult conversations, we can achieve anything.”
This is more important than ever. We all need to be socially responsibly, and we should all work to uplift each other, today and every day. As a positive force for change, we hope you can find some time on Social Media Day to kick back and enjoy the Pure Sounds of Michigan, reach out and say hi to friends and family, connect with your neighbors, and be engaged in meaningful, positive conversation online.
Happy Michigan Social Media Day
-The #MiGovSocial Team
Interested in learning more about the state’s use of social media? For more information on use, to search an online directory of accounts, and to view Michigan Social Media Day resources, visit Michigan.gov/SocialMedia.