Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Year In

I was thinking about the use of social media and planning, or government for that matter. Have I found value in it? I've been doing a Facebook page, this blog and our twitter account for a year or so, I'm not counting.

Are they valuable? I am not sure. I enjoy the opportunity to get information out, and to have a venue, where I can hope to pass information along, and hopefully engage the public to participate more in planning in Dover. Does that happen? I am sure that some study exists to tell me yes, and another to tell me no.

Locally, I know that the twitter and Facebook followers are up. Here in Dover, the Library is the only other department with a Facebook page. They also blog and have a twitter account. We use the tools very differently. I tend to use them more as here's some info, digest it and use it as you will. The Library tends to be a bit more interactive. Their blog site seeks input on books and book reviews. They also use it to pass information (hours, programs etc) to the reading public (figuratively and literally, I suppose).

I am amazed that more Planning offices don't use this tool. It is not overly complicated, and as long as you budget time for it, and stay on it, I think that it doesn't add any more time to my day or week.

I take a systematic approach to it and plan the entries out, as much as I can. I think that like going to gym or eating healthy (both things I am working on), you have to make, and not find, the time to pursue social media. In some ways this is similar to traditional media.

Beginning in January, I told my staff that on average we were going to produce one press release a week. This could be a success we had, or it could be a project or program we are planning. Everyone has to take part in this and help move the ball forward.

I use these press releases to help create posts for the Dover Download, video and email, as well as social media topics. This way we don't lose site of traditional media as we work to use social media outlets.

My wife asked me two questions about twitter the other day, she asked how I compare it to email and how it compares to Facebook.

Regarding email, it seems to me they should be similar, but I find email is much more prevalent. I think that people like the length and like the privacy of sending an email directly, I think people aren't convinced they can say enough in 140 characters. One thing I find is that if I get a question emailed to me, that has an answer which many people should know the answer to, I will use twitter to send a general answer out.

Regarding Facebook, I think twitter is the more appropriate avenue for non-personal updates. Facebook has the fan pages and the like, but it seems that more people follow me on twitter, and more people interact with our information on twitter. Maybe I don't do a good job using twitter to drive folks to the Facebook page.

Anyway, it's an evolution. It is also a comfort level. Just like everything else, there are things we are comfortable with, and the traditional is always more comfortable than the new and unknown. It is good to challenge ourselves and push to try things. Which is why I am going to try and find ways to be more interactive on the social media outlets.

First challenge, is to readers. Is there a planning topic, I should cover or you are interested in? Let me know. Feel free to tweet it, post to our Facebook page, or email it to me (c.parker@dover.nh.gov).

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