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Yes, Government Social Media Can Be Fun
Featuring an interview with Megan Coyne, the Social Media Director behind @njgov.
The first account I thought of when it comes to Government Social was obviously @njgov, which is run by Megan Coyne. She’s the one responsible for the time New Jersey and Delaware got in an argument, the tweet “NEW YEAR, NEW JERSEY”, and too much more to list here.
On the one hand, these tweets might seem silly or petty, especially coming from the government. But on the other hand, and as Megan states in our interview below, by using these types of posts to build community and followers, it makes the more educational or informative posts (that typically would’ve gotten bare minimum engagement) perform well and ultimately get seen by more people. To me, that’s a win. Read on below for Megan’s thoughts on working in social media for the government, the post she’s most proud of, and her opinions on Central Jersey.
Rachel Karten: Hi! Can you tell me about your current role and any previous social media roles?
Megan Coyne: I currently serve as Social Media Director in the Office of Governor Phil Murphy. In this role, I am responsible for the social media presence of the Governor, the First Lady, and the State of New Jersey. My day-to-day includes writing and editing social and graphic copy, moving content through approvals, posting content, content creation, and overseeing our websites. I’ve been with the Governor’s Office since January 2018—serving as a Communications Intern, Digital Assistant, and Social Media Manager.
RK: What attracted you to working in social media specifically in the government sector?
MC: I was interested in working in government before I was interested in working in social media. I believe so deeply in the power of government to make life better for people, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I felt like I was helping people. I was drawn to the communications aspect of politics/government mainly because I love to write. I’ve been on social media since I was 12, so when I started interning on the Governor’s communications team, I jumped at the opportunity to help with, and learn more about, his social media accounts. I was pretty much hooked from there. I love how social media provides a direct line between elected officials and constituents, and it’s amazing to be a part of that.
RK: I always say that I couldn't do social media for a brand/account I didn't personally feel excited about. How does your love of New Jersey play into the work you do?
MC: I completely agree with you. My love of New Jersey motivates me more than anything else in my work. I’m a ridiculously proud Jersey Girl—born here, raised here, only ever attended New Jersey public schools, wear a necklace every single day that has a charm of New Jersey on it. We’re the best state in the nation, and I love having an outlet to really share and spread that pride. One of the best parts of my job is seeing responses to our social media posts saying “I’m so proud this is my home state,” “I miss my home state,” “I want to move to New Jersey.”
RK: How would you describe the social media strategy of @njgov? How does it play out across all of the various platforms?
MC: First and foremost, our strategy is all about owning and embracing the identity of New Jersey. Second, we have a mantra of “Educate, Empower, Engage.” You can’t educate and empower people without directly engaging with them. By putting out content that taps into the identity of New Jersey and New Jerseyans, we are able to create a community. By retweeting and quote tweeting posts from our followers on Twitter, and by sharing responses from our followers to our Instagram Stories, we are then able to strengthen the bond of that community. Social media can be a very dark place, but it also really has the power to bring people together—which is a very beautiful thing. We absolutely strive for that on @NJGov.
RK: I feel like pre-@njgov, most government social media accounts were quite boring. How did you come up with this strategy? And what was the buy-in process like?
MC: When I started full time on the Governor’s communications team in June 2019, my former colleague Pearl Gabel and I began having discussions about how we could take @NJGov to the next level. Our discussions focused on what it means to be “New Jersey,” how other accounts have done this type of content before, and how we could take it to the limit. We gradually began to take risks with our content, and then everything changed on December 5, 2019, when we responded “your mom” to a tweet asking “Who let New Jersey have a Twitter?” Our quote tweet racked up nearly 500,000 likes, and gained us about 100,000 followers in one weekend.
I’m very fortunate to work for leaders—the Governor, First Lady, their respective Chiefs of Staff, and our Communications Director—who really understand what a powerful tool social media is and are open to new ideas on the platforms. Their encouragement, support, and willingness to take risks and embrace the unconventional really motivates me and has made me more confident in the work I do. When the NJGov account started to take off, they were all-in because they saw how effective the account was in helping us create a greater sense of state pride and promoting our Administration’s agenda. By doing fun posts, we gain more followers, who then see our more serious or informative posts about new initiatives, laws, programs, etc.
RK: Do you have a tweet, post, or social moment that you are particularly proud of?
It’s so hard to choose just one! On multiple occasions, we have started disputes with other states (and the occasional country) about who has the best pizza, the best bagels, the best beaches, etc. I’m proud of every single one of those fights because we always win. In terms of a specific tweet, I’m really proud of one from October 2019 about the horrors of pumping your own gas. This was posted when we were experimenting with more strange New Jersey content, and it was one of our first posts to ever take off. That was really when Pearl and I had this lightbulb moment of “This could be something special.”
RK: I have spoken with social professionals in the past who have worked in government social, and they had to deal a lot with trolls and just really horrible comments. How do you take care of your mental health in a role like this?
MC: Spending a lot of time on social media is draining. When I first started on the team, I spent way too much time reading our replies and mentions. Now, I scroll through our mentions maybe once a day, if that. I also try to not spend a lot of time on social media outside of work hours. I only ever go on Facebook to post for work, and I’ve cut back significantly the amount of time I spend on my personal Twitter and Instagram accounts in my free time. TikTok is another story…
RK: Any tips do you have for people who want to get into government social media?
MC: Government social media can be tiring, but it is so worth it. This relates back to a previous question, but it’s really important to work for an elected official/a government organization you are passionate about. I love New Jersey so much, and I’m so proud to work for a Governor and First Lady who show up every single day to make life better for New Jerseyans.
RK: Final words or wisdom, thoughts, or opinions?
MC: Central Jersey is real, New Jersey has the best bagels and pizza in the world, it’s called Taylor Ham, and not pumping your own gas is superior!
This post has been edited to remove mention of Ukraine’s social media presence given the situation currently unfolding there.