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Profile Pics and Hashtags

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By Olivia Hammill, on July 2, 2015

Welcome back! It’s week seven here in Granville County, and this is a short week thanks to the Fourth of July. Happy birthday, America! This week, we’re talking about social media. I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times, but I’m dedicating this whole post to it.

Social media—love it or hate it—is engrained in society. It allows individuals to create and share content and network through various websites and applications quickly. Estimates suggest that more than one billion people (that’s one seventh of the world’s population!) use some form of social media, making it one of the most common forms of communication today. Fun fact: Facebook is the most popular social networking site, with more than 936 million daily active users.

Granville County doesn’t use social media at all. Some entities (like the library and the tourism department) have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, but the county itself does not. One of my side projects is drafting a memo for the county manager with general information about best practices and policies for using social media in a local government setting. I’m not done yet, but I’ve found some good stuff so far and learned a lot along the way (the Pew Research Center has done some fascinating research on social networking—who uses it, what they use it for, etc.—so definitely check it out if you’re interested).

There are several benefits associated with having a social media presence: you can reach a lot of people quickly, it’s pretty user-friendly, and it’s free (for the most part). But along with those benefits come several considerations, especially for local governments. Not only does someone have to make an account (or multiple accounts), but someone has to monitor it, update it, and respond to the comments people post on it. Beyond that, local governments have to think about complying with state records retention guidelines and information requests and security concerns.

As Granville County moves forward, it will be important for county officials to craft a comprehensive social media strategy. They should define why they are using social media in the first place, determine which platform best matches their goals, determine who will have access to and monitor their accounts, write a use policy, and archive the content the accounts generate. Once they finish all of that, let the social networking begin!

If you know any local governments or counties that do a particularly good job with social media, let me know. Ideas are appreciated and welcome!




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4 Responses to “Profile Pics and Hashtags”

  1. Gus Caravalho

    How does Granville County currently communicate with its residents? Here in Rockville, MD, there remains a belief that placing a small note in the local weekly paper that no one reads is sufficient for “public notice” of meetings. Over the past year we’ve had an issue related to backyard chickens that just kept exploding again and again as word of mouth seemed to be the only way residents got news about what was going on in city hall. Do you think social media can help with this situation?

    • Olivia Hammill

      Hello, and thanks for your comment! Granville County mainly communicates through its website and the local paper. One thing to think about with social media is whether people in the community actually use it. If they do, then social media is a great platform for reaching them. If they don’t, then social media might not be the best (or at least not the only) way to go. Not everyone in every community will use social media, but if even a few citizens can be reached that way, it’s worth exploring. Additionally, having a communications strategy in a local government setting is crucial. For something like the backyard chicken issue (which I’d definitely be interested in hearing more about!), having an official statement from city hall would eliminate misinformation, provide direction, and show that city officials are plugged in to what’s going on in the community. Thanks again!

      • Gus Caravalho

        One thing the City struggles with is the legacy bias that older people have for physical media and the pure inertia that local governments have to continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Insofar as I can tell, there are few other industries besides local government that are still raising a skeptical eyebrow to social media and viewing it as a toy. Facebook has more than 200 million ACTIVE users in North America (out of approximately 350 million people– including babies!), yet decision makers in some places still believe physical weeklys with inscrutable websites designed in 2003 are the best means of communicating with their residents. I think this actively depresses engagement among residents 40 and younger who don’t read newspapers– and part of me wonders if this is intentional in places. The attitude among some older people that social media is not “serious” but newspapers are can be an obstacle to developing an effective, modern, and comprehensive communications strategy.

        The backyard chickens debate was…harrowing? It included lively discussion about whether or not emu have hooves. But what was clear to me was that no one outside of the regulars knew what was going on in city hall. Every public hearing included new residents fired up about the issue and furious that they had not been notified about the potential policy change. Now I realize some amount of this is unavoidable, but I was very aware of the types of people who seemed to be well informed of what was going on with the city and the types of people who were not.

        • Olivia Hammill

          All very good points. I can understand some level of hesitancy on the local gov side regarding social media just because it requires resources, but using Facebook (at the least) seems inevitable and necessary at this point, especially since there are so many active, daily users.

          As far as emus and hooves are concerned, based on the pictures I’ve seen, I’d go with feet?

          Thanks for your comments!

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