Building Trust Through Social Media

“Leadership is an achievement of trust.” – Peter F. Drucker, management consultant and educator

Trust. It’s a hard thing to gain – and even harder to maintain – especially in times of crisis when people are deeply concerned and hungry for facts, guidance, and leadership. A crucial element to generating and sustaining trust is providing consistency in all of your communications, including press releases, on your website, emails, and, importantly, on social media.

Social media is a powerful tool for local governments to inform and to engage with the community at-large. It makes government more approachable, more accessible, and easier to interact with. But to do it right and be effective, local government needs to demonstrate that it’s worthy of its constituents’ time and trust.  

Some good rules of thumb include:


Access to information has never been greater. Answering all lines of questioning in a candid and civil manner provides an environment of welcome openness.


Don’t be flippant. Understand that most people are engaging with you in good faith. As author Douglas Adams said, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”

A human touch

Make sure your followers know that there’s a real person behind the posts. Too often, people feel disengaged from government because they see it as an institution rather than a group of people working on their behalf. Don’t be afraid to be funny. Humor is appealing in most situations – just remember to be tasteful and respectful.

Enlighten and Inform

Share information liberally. Make sure your community knows when board meetings are taking place, when citizen input can be given, what that construction project on Elm Street is all about. If there’s something happening in your town, your citizens likely want to know about it – and they want details. Let them know they can trust you to keep them informed when and where things are happening.

Respond, respond, respond

Stay on top of the comments from your followers, and be sure to reply, even if it means that you have to find the information they’re looking for or take the conservation offline. Be timely in your responses. And don’t remove any comments that are critical of your local government. Removing posts makes it seem like you might be hiding something or are not open to public feedback. Setting rules about the use of profanity and inappropriate or discriminatory online behavior is acceptable. But as long as those commenting are following your rules, it’s important to make sure they know you’re hearing them.

Be accountable

Mistakes can happen. Things can go wrong. Don’t hide from them. Be as open and honest as possible. And be humble. “Trust, honesty, humility, transparency and accountability are the building blocks of a positive reputation. Trust is the foundation of any relationship.” (Mike Paul, former baseball player)

Trust takes time to build. It won’t happen overnight. But careful, consistent messaging that leads to a mutually trustful and respectful relationship will make your social media efforts more lucrative. Posts will have greater impact and citizen engagement will be more positive and helpful.


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