The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Using Social Media to Interact with the Community

Reference Number: MTAS-1607
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 18, 2016
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Governmental agencies across the nation are using social media in a variety of ways to communicate with their citizens. Topics from road projects to ribbon cutting ceremonies and citizen events can be quickly communicated to a wide audience without the citizens having to seek out the information. If a city has a Facebook page, a user simply has to click on “like” or “subscribe to” on the municipality's page and the news feeds will automatically be sent to the user.

Perhaps the most effective use of social media as a means to communicate with citizens is in the area of roads, maintenance, construction, and municipal projects. The city of Boston, Mass., created an award-winning, interactive smart phone application for citizens to report graffiti, potholes, broken streetlights, road problems, and other city issues to the city of Boston. The application is called Boston Citizens Connect and allows users to report problems anytime and without the expense of a municipal employee. Users can simply use their cell phones to snap a photo of any condition and send it to the city all in the span of a few seconds. When the picture is sent, the location’s coordinates are automatically embedded in the picture and the user can expound with typewritten details if necessary. After a complaint is made a red dot shows up in the application on a map that can be seen with a Smartphone. When the problem is fixed the dot changes to green and the citizen knows the problem has been resolved. While the technology is complex, for the user it only requires the touch of just a few buttons on a Smartphone.

Municipalities can also use social media as a means of introducing and sharing their public service brand or image with their constituents. Social media can be used to share information about the municipal wellness programs, green initiatives, health and benefits programs, leadership programs, and community services. Additionally, a municipality can use social media as a means to maintain a strong public service profile and relay information building on its mission, vision, values, and goals.

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