Mandan News

Ellen Huber: Cities using social media to communicate with citizens

I was approached a few months ago with a request to begin using Facebook as a tool for the City of Mandan to communicate with citizens. The International City/County Management Association recently offered a webinar on social media marketing strategies. I downloaded the presentation to find out what other city and county government entities are doing.

Florida’s Michelle Bono, assistant to the city manager and communications director for the City of Tallahassee, and Nannette Rodriguez, public information officer for Miami Beach, said Facebook is similar to a utility bill newsletter in that it is simply another means of communication. They explained that Facebook won’t replace a newsletter, but it is another way of reaching and engaging citizenry, particularly those under age 45. Advantages of Facebook as compared to a traditional newsletter are its timeliness and affordability.

Some examples of the types of information that cities are posting include meeting reminders and lists of top agenda items, dates of public hearings and the latest on street projects or alerts to infrastructure problems, such as a water line break. Other possibilities include pages for specific projects, events or departments such as economic development. Many North Dakota cities and local economic development organizations are using Facebook to as a form of public information.

As Mandan city officials weigh whether to add social media to its communication arsenal, we need to examine the effectiveness of tools already being used to determine how we can reach the most people in the most efficient manner. Existing means of communicating with the public include the Mandan Messenger utility bill newsletter, the website www.cityofmandan.com, news releases and e-mail updates to online subscribers, special columns such as this one in the Mandan News and a “Mandan on the Move” feature in City Magazine, public service announcements on Cumulus Broadcasting, an annual progress report, and presentations to civic organizations.

The city’s online poll question for November asks, “Should the City of Mandan have a Facebook page to communicate with residents and others?” Visit www.cityofmandan.com by Dec. 1 to register your view or send a note to me at City of Mandan, 205 Second Avenue NW, Mandan, ND 58554. What communication tools do you find the most effective?

Providing the public with information they need and want regarding local government services is the City of Mandan’s ultimate goal.