Reaching GenZ Using Social Media With Heather Daniels

Tyler Podcast Episode 49, Transcript

Our Tyler Technologies podcast explores a wide range of complex, timely, and important issues facing communities and the public sector. Expect approachable tech talk mixed with insights from subject matter experts and a bit of fun. Host and Content Marketing Director Jeff Harrell – and other guest hosts – highlights the people, places, and technology making a difference. Give us listen today and subscribe.

Episode Summary

More than half of Generation Z say they prefer to receive information from government via social media. Heather Daniels, Sr. social media specialist at Tyler Technologies, joins the podcast to talk about why this is true, and what government agencies can do to better reach this very important generation.


Heather Daniels: I think you always want to include topics of discussion that are on trend, but also relate them to your overall goal. You don't just want to be speaking into the dark about things that may not be important to everyone else. They're just important to you and your organization.

Jeff Harrell: From Tyler Technologies, it's the Tyler Tech podcast, where we talk about issues facing communities today and highlight the people, places, and technology making a difference. My name is Jeff Harrell. I'm the director of content marketing for Tyler Technologies, and I'm so glad that you joined me. Well, we did some very detailed generational research in partnership with the Center for Generational Kinetics. We're going to continue to dive into that research, because one thing that we learned is that generation Z prefer to get their information from local government via social media. Today, we want to dive into what exactly that means with the perfect person who is our social media expert at Tyler Technologies, Heather Daniels. She is the senior social media specialist with Tyler and knows a great deal about how important social media is in the public sector. You're going to really enjoy this conversation, and there's going to be some statistics in here you're going to find probably really hard to believe. Very interesting conversation. Here is my conversation with Heather Daniels.

Relate them to your overall goals, you don't just want to be speaking into the dark about things that may not be important to everyone else.

Heather Daniels

Senior Social Media Specialist

Jeff Harrell: Well, Heather, I'm super excited to have you back on the Tyler Tech podcast. We did some research just a couple years ago that we want to dive into today. I know that for different generations, they want, what we found out with this research that we did with the Center for Generational Kinetics, different generations want to engage and get information from government in different ways. Gen X, like myself, we go to websites, we send emails. My dad, who's a boomer, he'll walk down to the government office and have a face to face conversation. That's a little bit limited obviously now with COVID, but for Gen Z, what we found out is they want to get their information from government via social media. So I'd love to dive into that and just understand from your perspective, what does that mean for government agencies who want to connect with this really important generation?

Heather Daniels: Jeff, thanks. Glad to be back again. This is a great topic, but by my own admission, I am an xennial. The in between generation. I refer to it as the generation of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Jeff Harrell: There you go.

Heather Daniels: My childhood was very much analog, but my adulthood very digital. So my phone of years were AOL, Yahoo, chatting, and emailing, Because this was my preferred method of digital communication. When I think about Gen Z, that generation born between 1996 and 2012, they are true digital natives with technology, always being integrated into their lives. Never really knowing life without social media, so it's not surprising that the most generally digital native generation prefer to get their information from government from social media platform. Social media, in the sense, makes it a lot easier for governments to connect directly to Gen Z. So what does that mean? That means moving forward, post pandemic government must continue to bring functions online, invest in highly tech literate team members to manage the online transformation that's undergoing right now.

Jeff Harrell: I think often, you see social media accounts more about showing what's happening in offices or especially probably with Facebook. But if Gen Z is really looking to social media for information, I imagine government entities need to think a little bit differently about how they're using social media.

Heather Daniels: Yeah, definitely. Gen Z is always going to be that generation that has that social first lens. They are driven totally by their high usage of real time, digital communication. Connecting with this generation really means prioritizing content that nurtures that two way interaction and social conversations that are extremely relevant to that generation.

Jeff Harrell: I think a lot of times, people like myself in Gen X, we think of Gen Z as disconnected perhaps from government. But the fact that they're using social media to get information from government, and the fact that social media is this continuous flow of information, it may be that actually Gen Z is getting or looking for more information from their government. Would that be the case?

Heather Daniels: Yeah, I think so. I think not only are they looking for more information, they're looking for, again, information that pertains to them, the issues that they care about. They're looking for real time information happening now. I think the timeliness of it, the delivery, meaning that it should be on the method of communication that is most preferred by Gen Z. I think all of that really matters in terms of engaging this particular generation.

38% Satisfaction

Jeff Harrell: I think what's great about social media is you can be really, as you said, real time with your information. It's easy to share information. I'm thinking of websites. Those are more difficult to update in real time, but social media is a little bit easier. So in some ways, this is good news, I think, for government agencies who want to get out realtime, important information to this important generation. So here's a question I have, because the research also showed that only 38% of Gen Z is actually satisfied with the kind of information that they're getting from government. Why do you think that is and what can government do to maybe change that perception?

Heather Daniels: There are barriers that I think every generation encounters when they're engaging with local government. Everything from long waits, long wait lines, difficulty finding the information that they're looking for, even down to the fees that are involved with obtaining services. So it just creates an overall frustrating process. I think for a generation like Gen Z, again, that generation that is true digital natives, they find it's very off putting and would prefer interactions with government that's relatively easy, quick, and efficient.

Jeff Harrell: You think a lot of that dissatisfaction is more about maybe the old ways of doing business, so to speak. Like you said, the lines, going in to do something versus really focusing on ease of use, that citizen experience, sharing that information through social media.

Heather Daniels: Absolutely.

Jeff Harrell: Based on that then, Heather, what can the public sector do to really help push... You talked a little bit about it, but what are some specific things that they can do to help push that satisfaction number up?

Heather Daniels: Yeah. What is going to make online interactions better? I think, again, as long as the technology is clear and easy to use, I think though Gen Z is really looking for better connectivity between government offices, some sort of level of improvement with data security and just creating integrations with services that Gen Z has already used. That single sign on method, sign in with your Google account, signing with your Facebook account, something that is familiar to this particular generation. We're really talking about modernizing technology, creating a more connected community. I think this would help the public sector increase overall satisfaction.

Jeff Harrell: You're really talking about thinking beyond just social media, really into that overall digital experience that Gen Z is now expecting, because they see it in their personal lives. Like you said, single sign on using Google to sign onto things. They're expecting that same level of ease and connectedness in their interactions with the public sector.

Heather Daniels: Absolutely. I always say, "Well, is it art imitating life? Or is it life imitating art?" So the lines always get blurred. Yeah, and we're just at this point where everything needs to have that very familiar type of place and space at the same time.

Bringing Satisfaction Up

Jeff Harrell: I know Gen Z, when we looked at the research, they were the lowest when it came to being positive about government. I think only 37% said they actually felt positively about their local government. What can governments do? We can focus on social media as well, to help bring that satisfaction number up.

Heather Daniels: Yeah. Generation Z has a greater expectation for government to address all of the social economic issues that are important to them. So healthcare, things like civic engagement, racial equity, the environment, all of these things are important to this generation. So I think overall sentiment, is really what we're talking about, would increase if the public sector had more of a voice and was more transparent on social media in how they are working towards addressing these issues.

Jeff Harrell: It sounds like for the public sector, and this is something we look at from a Tyler Technologies perspective is what is our social media strategy around sharing information, being transparent? So it sounds like, and I think some government agencies are probably farther ahead than others, but having that clear social media strategy that says, "Here's the kinds of content we want to share. Here's the video. Here's the things that mean something to each generation." Being a little bit more strategic about that feels like it's really important.

Heather Daniels: Absolutely. I think you always want to include topics of discussion that are on trend, but also relate them to your overall goals. So you don't just want to be speaking into the dark about things that may not be important to everyone else. They're just important to you and your organization.

Jeff Harrell: Hmm. That's good. So thinking about your constituents first versus thinking about maybe information you want to share. That's great. This statistic also is a little bit interesting. As we looked at the research, 66% of Gen Z said that politicians ignore their generation. This is exactly, I think, what you were just talking about. Heather, what can governments do to bring this number in the right direction in terms of feeling like they're being ignored by government?

Heather Daniels: I don't think it is a case where Gen Zers are not engaged. I think for the most part, Gen Zers have a positive perception toward local government, but I think the perception is though I'm served by local government, I'm just not engaged by my local government. There needs to be more real time communication on the digital channel of their preference.

Jeff Harrell: That makes sense. I think we even saw in some of the research, too, that they felt like government and government systems were built for not their generation. So putting a focus on, like you just said, how they want to intake information, content, and the topics that they're interested in, putting a focus on that is certainly important. This statistic, another one that was a little bit eye opening, only 39% of Gen Zers said they trust government more than they trust social media. They've got social media as a tool. How can the government leverage that tool to build better trust with this younger generation?

Heather Daniels: Yeah. Again, this is about the optics. What is really playing out online? This is really about being a transparent and an authentic brand on social. Any type of open dialogue in real time. AMAs. Hashtag AMA, which is an ask me anything sort of campaign. Behind the scenes, the ability to chat openly on social media, just being available and easily approachable is tactics that I think government could use to increase that trust that is missing amongst this generation.

Jeff Harrell: Yeah. I want to dig a little bit deeper into that AMA, because I know that's something that's pretty popular. Ask me anything. You let businesses do that or personalities do that to give people a little peek into a little bit more about them. You're saying that government agencies can use the same approach. They can have an ask me anything in real time reply to some of the things that are on the minds and hearts of their younger constituents.

Heather Daniels: Absolutely. It creates, again, that bidirectional, open communication. It allows the generation to feel as if they have a say, that they are being considered, that their voice matters.

Jeff Harrell: A government agency's listening to this right now going, "How would I pull that off?" Get real practical here. How do you actually execute something like that?

Heather Daniels: I think really one of the things that you want to look at is what's being talked about within your social space. You really want to find the topics that you can make a connection to that Gen Zers are really communicating about. You want to take that topic and turn it into a more detailed discussion. Perhaps it's you want to spotlight or perhaps it's you want to highlight what your agency is doing to address that particular issue. Maybe you want to do a behind the scenes or you want to do some sort of polling, which is always great. I think though the important thing is to be on brand, but be on trend all at the same time. It's a juggling act that you have to do where you don't want to lose your brand in the noise. You want to create or carve out a space where you can exist within this larger topic of discussion. You just want to make it relate to your goals, your mission, and your value as a government entity.

Jeff Harrell: It sounds like you want to put a little bit of parameters around it. In other words, you identify a topic you think would be important to your constituents, and you say, "Hey, ask me anything about this topic." Then, dive into a little bit more of a deeper two-way dialogue or asking questions, doing poll questions. But it sounds like the point is just making sure that there's a two-way, like you said, bidirectional dialogue, but also that you're listening. You're hearing what your constituents have to say.

Heather Daniels: Yeah, definitely. If you are struggling for a topic, you can always use your polling questions to poll your audience. What is that they would like to hear about? And let them drive the conversation.

Create the Connection

Jeff Harrell: Oh, I love that. A poll on what would you like to know more about? And then dive deeper into that answer with an ask me anything. That's great. Very practical. Love that. Well, any final advice to government entities out there wanting to up their social media game and their presence and their usage, knowing how important social media is to this Generation Z?

Heather Daniels: I would say first and foremost that representation matters. If you are pushing out social media content that doesn't have imagery that relates to Gen Zers, then you definitely miss that connection right off the bat. If you are not pushing out your content in a format that appeals to Gen Zers, you're going to miss the connection as well. Not only that, you also have to make sure that your content is super engaging. A lot of times, you can achieve that by using UGC, which is user generated content, where you let your brand speak for itself through all of the great mentions that other people in your community are talking about as it relates to your business. Fantastic quotes of the day, again, quizzes, polls, anything that the person on the other side of the screen has to really interact with. If it's something that's static and doesn't really engage at all, then they're probably going to keep scrolling. I would also say social customer care. Always keep that in mind. Again, this is a generation that is from that perspective of immediacy. If I get online, I'm going on Twitter, and I'm voicing my concern about an issue, I expect to be responded to in a very timely manner. Just responding immediately and not within the next business day, I think is important. It's a concept that I think a lot of government struggle with.

Jeff Harrell: That's a great point, Heather. I tried to chat with a business yesterday that I had a little issue with, and it was a bot. I was chatting with this bot, and then it said, "All of our agents are busy. Please leave your email, and we'll get back to you in five to seven business days." That didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. That was not the kind of immediacy to the issue that I had that you're talking about here. So I think this is a great piece of advice, which is the communication should not be one way. It should be two-way bidirectional communication, but it also should be timely. Because I think then, you're feeling like you're meeting the needs, and your constituents are feeling both heard and that they're important to their government. Heather, this has been great information. Listeners out there may have follow up questions for you. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Heather Daniels: Yeah, Jeff. I'm everywhere and nowhere all at the same time on social media. So the best way to reach me would be on LinkedIn.

Jeff Harrell: Awesome. The best way to find you is just Heather Daniels?

Heather Daniels: I think there are a lot of me on LinkedIn. My middle initial, which is L. So it's Heather L. Daniels.

Jeff Harrell: With Tyler Technologies. When you see the Tyler Technologies, you'll know you have the right one.

Heather Daniels: Absolutely.

Jeff Harrell: Awesome. Well, Heather, thanks for this great information and insight into social media and Gen Z. We really appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much for joining us.

Heather Daniels: Thank you.

Jeff Harrell: Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation. If you want to get your hands on the gen research that we did, you could get that research by going to our resource center. Go to, click on resources at the top of the page, and then in the search bar, just put gen research. That will take you to the actual gen research document. You can download that. It's got all the information we talked about today and more. Hope that you enjoy that resource. Well, thanks so much for joining me. We have a brand new podcast episode that drops every other Monday, so make sure you subscribe. We've got lots of great podcast episodes planned throughout 2022. Again, thanks so much for listening. This is Jeff Harrell, director of content marketing for Tyler Technologies. We'll talk to you soon.



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