If you're not using all the Social Media at your disposal today, then you simply aren't communicating. Social Media is here to stay and the implications for government organizations, municipalities, and political candidates are immense.
If you’re not using all the Social Media at your disposal today, then you simply aren’t communicating. Social Media is here to stay and the implications for government organizations, municipalities, and political candidates are immense.
Amazingly, some people are still slow to this fast-moving train into the future—a 2010 study by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania showed that only about half of the 79 cities in Pennsylvania were using Social Media (with 50 percent having Facebook presence and 56 percent being on Twitter). The survey covered 79 separate municipalities ranging in size from “less than 70,000 to greater than 1 million residents.” These numbers may have increased slightly since the study was conducted, but you can see that there is still tremendous room for improvement.
Municipalities can use Social Media to not only save money, but also become more accessible to larger groups of people while increasing the knowledge base of the public. Just imagine the variety of weekly and daily notifications for everything from trash pick-up (recyclables) to e-mail newsletters that could be sent out to people via their mobile devices. Or the information during extreme weather or other emergency situations could be greatly enhanced by early warnings sent out via texting and Tweeting. These methods can replace more costly resources, such as staffing in offices for answering telephone calls.
Do citizens really know their board of supervisors? Do they need to know about zoning issues in order to become more engaged? The answer is, most often, yes. Not taking advantage of Social Media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube quite simply makes one look outdated and also disinterested in what constituents have to say.
Banks have been going “paperless” for years in an effort to save money and decrease their footprint. Of course, when dealing with major change, there will always be some people who prefer the old method but one could always offer incentives in the form of lower rates or special deals in order to get them to participate in electronic means of receiving bills, notices, and other communications. But especially now during tough economic times, municipalities owe it to the taxpayers to do the most they can with the tools available to them. It’s a win-win situation.
Whatever reasons one might have for not dedicating resources to these dominant Social Media forms are easily outweighed by the potential benefits.
Here is just a sampling of revolutionary ways that Social Media can help:
1. Automated tools to gather information, making government more manageable
2. Help in organizing events, meetings, rallies with a far larger audience reach
3. Taking out the “middle-man” of journalism: Showcase the stories that you want to be heard
4. Reputation management/crisis management: Respond to what’s being said out there, and do it in a fast, real-time environment
5. Collaborate and hear ideas from your supporters and members—a great way to get public feedback
Don’t delay. Start educating yourself and plan implementation today. You can even use Social Media to learn the best practices in Social Media!
By Susan Hardwicke, Ph.D.
Dr. Susan Hardwicke is a Social Media Executive and technology entrepreneur who invented the first online educational testing system. She currently assists clients with Social Media strategy, implementation, and application development.