Social Media in City Government – Presentation:

Essential Concepts for Municipalities

  • Social Engagement is about joining conversations already underway, occuring on the audience’s terms.
  • Social networks prefer informal, personal engagement over polished media-speak.
  • Engaging with participants in Social Media is much like a cocktail party.  You are generally invited to conversations or first listen to what’s going on rather than barging in.
  • Be sure to choose tools which are able to embrace Social Networking.  Often, open source tools are the best choice.  Usually must negotiate with I.T. department.
  • With a smoothly running social network, you can engage with constituents in real-time on a personal level while maintaining efficiencies of scale.
  • Some resist engaging in Social Media because it requires so much openness, but your audience is going to use social media to talk about you no matter how involved you become.  It’s better to participate early and develop the skills to navigate those conversations.
  • You do not have to respond to rude people, but you should engage those who take the time to be polite and interested.

Ideas for How Municipal Organizations Can Use Social Media

  • Using automated tools to gather information so that it is manageable.
  • Showcase success stories that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Help in organizing events, meetings and rallies.
  • Reputation Management / Crisis Management
  • Collaboration on Documents, Ideas, Events for the Organization
  • See Jason’s post about “empowering actual communities with social media

Practical Tips for Successful Blogging and/or Facebooking

  • Listen First
    See how it’s done.  Use search tools to find conversations already happening – watch how it happens.  Use an RSS reader to make life easy.
  • Join Groups
    Engage as a participant in discussions already underway (e.g. Facebook Wall, Discussions, Links)
  • Consider the Goal for your Social Media expansion.
    What are you out to accomplish? (e.g. replace email newsletter, encourage feedback, talk to journalists)
  • Establish Metrics that Demonstrate Success
    Is it working? Why or why not? (e.g. better informed audience, easier event planning, faster response to news)
  • Practice Posting to a Small Group First
    Put together a series of posts in your favorite word processor and circulate those to a small group.  Take feedback.
  • Design the Blog
    Don’t bog down in the aesthetics, this is not a good way to spend time.  Most simple blog designs are ideal for cities/municipalities.
  • Establish Connections
    Learn to connect your different social media participation areas in one, easy to view place using RSS – it will save you hours.
  • Be Honest and Authentic
    Your Social Networking credibility depends on authenticity.  Humans make mistakes,  so laugh at yourself and show your personality.
  • Use Intriguing Headlines That Draw Users In
    Think about what would “grab” people who are skimming headlines. Engage your readers’ curiosity and expertise.
  • Use the Blog as Your Go-To Destination
    Refer people to the blog instead of answering questions in email or publishing paper.  This will train people to always check there first – saving you huge quantities of time.
  • Guest Post
    Look for opportunities to post on other blogs (e.g. another Cities’ blogs)  Link back to your regular blog to increase readership.   Collaborate with other city bloggers.
  • Answer Questions Whenever Possible
    Use tools that help you monitor the social web for questions, and delight readers by answering them in the social web.

Big Ideas

Syndicated News, Reports, Updates
City websites could display syndicated blogs’ headlines on their own sites (such as the sidebar) expanding reach and building interest.

Twitter Accounts
Most people misunderstand Twitter until they use it.  Using Twitter, publish events, notices of new material, or kudos to cities/towns which have achieved milestones via the larger network.  Take advantage of the immediacy of Twitter.

Blogs for City Representatives
For passionate and active city government employees or leaders, provide standardized blog software and tie-ins to the website so they can publish at will.  Establish a guideline for posting ahead of time.

Statistics and Interesting Fact
Publish city level statistics/ facts in a way that people can easily consume them, such as Twitter, when a new report is created.

Organizing Meetings/Roundtables
What if the city level organizations used Google Moderator to help decide on agendas for events and meetings – allowing members to post questions and vote on those already posted and making the agenda highly relevant to the majority.

City Level Research Reports
What if the reports were open for discussion, where topical threads of conversation could occur beneath them?

Awards and Recognition
What if the recognition earned by staff could be published through Social Networks such as Twitter, Facebook and possibly LinkedIn.

Awards and Recognition
What if city awards and recognitions were sent out via Twitter and posted on blogs or social media so constituants are more aware of the achievements and hard work of staff.

Staff
What if certain, passionate members of city-level staff used individual blogs to communicate about what is happening in the organization. What if they did so in a way that an aggregated feed of all staff-members’ activity was visible on the site and could be subscribed to and commented on by members/visitors to the site. Each staff member could use Twitter to send out short updates of news.

Committees/Constituency Groups/Meetings
What if each committee’s activities were captured on a committee Blog, which could be subscribed to via RSS or email individually or as a whole. What if tagged photographs and videos were captured during various events and meetings using inexpensive digital video cameras. For very popular meetings, a live stream of the event could be projected via ustream over the web.

Conference Social Network
Each event could have a facebook event or NING network for building connections before, during and after an event. An official Twitter hashtag could be set up to make it easy to find what is going on. (This is already used in conferences.)

Newsroom
What if the news was delivered as blog content, with RSS so that standard feedreaders could easily digest it and stories could be “voted” on and sorted by reader rating.

City Level Blogs
Rather than wasteful postal mail and difficult-to-deliver email, consider posting content online in blogs.  This will also help with online reputation management by ranking in the search results.

Resources:

RSS Readers

Tools:

Websites


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