Cities need to do whatever they can to communicate with their public, and that means going where their community goes. In this day and age that place is online. In an era in which governments need to be more responsive and accountable to the needs of the public, social media marketing can help governments accomplish this goal. The emergence of social media has generated a new and innovative way for cities to create dialogue and receive useful feedback in a way never before thought possible.

 “I see blogging and all social media as a way to extend our reach to people who might not get their news from more traditional sources and I look on it as a way to be more interactive with our residents,” said Florida Director of Public Affairs, Wayne Segal.

A 2009 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that one in five Internet users searched for political information, posted their views about issues or engaged in another civic activity on a social network. Last year, Shark’s organization surveyed chief information officers of local governments about their social-media plans. Some 72 percent of those who responded said they were currently using Facebook or Twitter in outreach efforts, or planned to do so. There are other signs that the public sector is getting on these sites. GovTwit, a commonly used directory of government Twitter accounts, has close to 1,000 of them listed with the “state-local” tag.

Here are just  a few ways in which a city can successfully leverage social media:
• Receive valuable, honest feedback from city members
• Showcase success stories that might otherwise go unnoticed
• Help in organizing events, meetings and fundraisers
• Support reputation management and crisis management issues
• Promote your community’s event
• Community collaboration on documents, ideas, events for your city
• Make announcements, broadcast news
• Recruit new city employees

One of the most important benefits of using social media in your city’s Internet marketing strategy is driving traffic to your main website. Community websites are much more than a place to display basic information about a city. Today’s citizens want a more active, participatory relationship with their government and to have 24/7 access to reliable and valuable information that affects their everyday lives, and there is no better vehicle to reach a community than a city’s website. City websites serve as a platform to help maintain a direct line of communication between the city and its residents, visitors, businesses and community leaders. Implementing a web content management system, like TNI’s partner product Auctori:city, municipalities can make changes easily and quickly, ensuring their website visitors are accessing the most current information possible.  In addition, Auctori:city’s flexibility and robust, city-centric content management features allow cities to add character to their website.

In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, another social media platform that will only continue to grow and become more useful to cities is mobile. A great example of how city’s can use mobile application is Boston’s Iphone App. This application allows for residents to snap photos of neighborhood nuisances – nasty potholes, graffiti-stained walls, blown street lights – and e-mail them to City Hall to be fixed. The application will allow residents to use the global positioning system function on their iPhones to pinpoint the precise location of the problem for City Hall. After submitting a complaint, users will get a tracking number, so they can pester city officials if the problem persists. The iPhone initiative is part of a push to make City Hall younger, hipper, and generally more user-friendly.

In conclusion, it is more important than ever that city government gets on board with social media, in order to grow communities and influence decisions that bring business to their local economy.  Social media marketing presents a comprehensive, integrated and innovative approach from which to manage municipal government resources.

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