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Your say on social media

From 28 May 2013 – 7 June 2013, the Department of Human Services sought feedback on the way we use social media to communicate with external audiences.

We have been using social media to engage and communicate with our customers and the Australian public since 2009. Social media is a fast growing, constantly changing environment and, subsequently, our approach to social media needs to continue to evolve and improve.

Department of Human Services - Use of Social MediaMore than 1,200 people visited speechbubble during the fortnight it was open, and they contributed about 130 comments across three discussion topics. The comments were rated more than 200 times with the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ system. There were also about 150 online surveys completed. The discussion topics were based on our department’s current use of social media, what we can do to improve our use of social media in the future, and what you think about using social media to connect with government in general.

Your feedback was very helpful, thank you. All of your comments are now being used to help shape our approach to social media over the next 12 months. Some examples of how we’re already acting on your feedback are described below.

You told us that you thought it was great that our department is using social media to support our customers and the Australian public. However, you also said we need to raise awareness of our social media accounts and the support they provide. For example, one participant said we, "…should be looking at ways of boosting the number of followers on social media to ensure the notifications are getting out to the people that need to read them."

Family Update - FacebookRaising awareness of our accounts is something we have already been working on. In fact, over the final week of June (24–30 June 2013), our Family Update page gained more than 500 new members. This has been the result of promotional activities, such as promoted posts on Facebook and our recent webcast on payments and services available to families. Based on your feedback, we are now looking at new ways to promote our social media accounts, including making them more visible on

You told us we should use more personalised language when we answer questions and more humour in our social media messages. One participant said, "You should tailor your online communication to the situation you are dealing with. If someone was enquiring about bereavement it would be appropriate to be more formal, however if someone was just making a general enquiry about a payment, I think it is appropriate to be more informal. At the end of the day, customers want to know they are dealing with a human being and not a machine." We have taken this feedback on board and will aim to use more personal language on our social media accounts.

We also received feedback that we should be quicker to reply to questions when they’re posted on our accounts, even if it’s just to let people know that we’re working on an answer. We are working on our internal processes to try to speed up our response times, and will take your feedback on board to help support that. We will also commit to letting people know if we won’t be able to provide a response on the same day a question is posted.

A feature that several people said they would like us to use is live chat. One participant said we should, "…have live group Q&A sessions online where someone is able to respond to customer queries in real time. This is a more effective use of staff time as one staff member can interact with multiple customers at once. Customers who have concerns about their privacy in a group chat could be directed to a one on one chat? I recently interacted with a company via a live online chat. This communication method was suitable for me because the enquiry was relatively simple and meant I didn’t have to wait on hold for a long time."

Student Update - FacebookWe have received similar suggestions before and have trialled live chats. For example, we ran a live ‘Questions & Answers’ session on our Student Update Facebook page in February and March 2013 where we answered hundreds of questions from students in a few hours. We run live chats alongside our webcasts where we either answer questions within the chat or send them through to the panel to be answered as part of the webcast. We have also used live chats to support online communities such as Next Step. Based on your feedback, we will look at how we can provide more live chat opportunities.

Thank you again for your feedback and support. We will continue to engage with you to look at how we can improve the service we provide.