Cities engage citizens using social media

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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:00 am

Social media provides residents with a way to gather information about road closings, weather updates, high school football scores and community events — all in one.

Local cities are increasingly taking advantage of this form of communication with the use Facebook, Twitter and mobile applications.

Papillion Community Relations Coordinator Darren Carlson said he believes the most important thing about staying connected with residents is meeting people where they are.

“People get information in a huge variety of ways,” Carlson said. “Some read the paper, some watch TV and some never look away from their phones. We’ve got to make sure our media is multi-platform.”

Carlson said he helps to maintain the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages, which have existed for three years. The city also has social media pages for the Sumtur Amphitheater, recreations and the fire department, he said.

The city government uses YouTube as well, Carlson said. Weekly “City Happenings” videos are posted that advertise events in the community from local art shows to Dog Days at Papio Bay, where residents can take their dogs to the pool for a day.

Carlson said the city implemented the use of QR codes last year in August. QR codes can be placed on physical objects such as signs, business cards and magazines that link users to a website with more information when the barcode is scanned by a smart phone.

“For example, if you are standing outside of Papio Bay and you are wondering about the policies, you can scan the barcode and you’ll be led straight to the website,” he said.

The city government is constantly looking for new ways to interact with the public, Carlson said.

“The greatest thing about social media is that we are less dependent on television and newspaper coverage,” he said. “There is a big difference earning media mentions and owning media outlets.”

Phil Davidson, media coordinator for the City of Bellevue, said the city has been using Facebook and Twitter for more than three years.

“The nice thing about social media is you can be more informal,” Davidson said.

The social media sites have information about events and announcements about road closings, parades and accidents.

Davidson said city government is looking into getting a mobile application for civic reporting. He said users would be able to submit information about accidents, code enforcements complaints and other issues.

“Social media will only grow in popularity,” Davidson said. “In fact, in the last hour, we already got two more followers on Twitter.”

The City of La Vista recently launched its social media platforms. Community Relations Coordinator Mitch Beaumont said the city has a Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a Twitter account for the police department.

The content for the accounts has been mapped out for the first three months, Beaumont said. The goal is to look in advance for events, crime prevention tips, cleanup days and more to post on the sites, he said.

“We’ve been preparing for a year,” Beaumont said. “The first three months are scripted ahead of time, much like a football team scripts plays, to ensure we always have something to offer the residents.”

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