Maybe I am misguided or ill-informed, but my impression of government (especially local government) is that red tape always bogs them down. Trying to contact City Hall to question your water bill (I speak from personal experience here) can be a real chore. However, I was encouraged when I read an article recently about local governments getting into the social media arena. According to research conducted by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, “50% of cities had no official Facebook presence as of July 2009, though one in seven of these had at least one department that did have a presence, often public safety.” In addition, their report goes on to note “44% of our surveyed cities did not have a Twitter presence in July 2009, though one in seven had at least one department active on Twitter”. For the detailed report, in addition to how Fels conducted the survey, please feel read the report here.
While these numbers are not jaw dropping, it does show that even slow moving, red tape drowning local governments are starting to see the benefits of social media. I prefer to look at the positive side of the report and by comparison 50% of cities already have a Facebook presence and 56% have a Twitter account! I decided to research my city, and found they are well ahead of the curve when it comes to the average city surveyed in the aforementioned report. Kudos to Tamarac, FL – they are doing quite well on Facebook and Twitter. As of April 5, 2010, the city of Tamarac has 199 fans on Facebook and 743 followers on Twitter. Both of their social media channels are actively managed, with their most recent “tweet” about 17 minutes before I viewed their profile (by the way, “Tonight’s Kick Boxing Aerobics class for this evening has been canceled”.
If local governments can find the time and resources to get involved with social media, there is no excuse for companies to continue to sit on the sidelines. Red tape and bureaucracy usually bring government activity to a halt, but when it comes to reaching out to their citizens, more local governments are recognizing the value of social media. As a business owner, executive, or manager, it’s important to leverage any opportunity to gain more customers and improve customer retention. Social media is a wave that you can ride to success or you risk getting pulled under water. Local governments are starting to allocate the time and resources to get social, private and public businesses should be leading the way.