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Marsha McLean: City uses social media to connect residents

Live from City Hall

Posted: September 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

We live in a world transformed by social technologies. The growth of social media, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have changed the way people communicate, learn about news, share information and connect with friends.

While social-networking services have been around for years, the power of sharing and communicating through social media platforms in the public sector has only recently taken flight.

Sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter initially geared toward the individual user and subsequently embraced by the private sector, are beginning to usher in new degrees of transparency, accessibility and participation in the public sector among citizens.

The city of Santa Clarita was one of the first municipalities to use social-networking tools to interact and communicate with its residents, The city regularly uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to make city documents available for public review, to clarify decisions or provide correct information, and to raise awareness about city sponsored events. 

Facebook leads as the No. 1 social media tool for the city of Santa Clarita. In December of 2009, the city created a Facebook fan page, which now has more than 3,900 unique individuals, and continues to grow daily. The city has even hosted contests on Facebook, with the shared goal of reaching different target audiences, promoting events in new and interesting ways, and increasing our number of “friends.” 

Twitter, YouTube and Santa Clarita City Briefs are also effective social media tools for sharing information with the community. Santa Clarita’s Twitter account currently has more than 2,670 followers, and is growing every day. 

Information such as noticed public meetings, city-sponsored events, press releases, emergency updates and road closures
are reduced to 140 characters and posted daily on our Twitter feed.

City staff also regularly tweets photos and updates live from events such as SENSES on Main Street, the Cowboy Festival and the summer Concerts in the Parks series. 

Meanwhile on the YouTube front, the number of views for various City-produced informational videos posted on the City Channel exceeds 105,000 and counting.

In recognition of the increasing trend among residents to use blogs as their preferred place to discuss local issues, the city of Santa Clarita launched Santa Clarita City Briefs in August 2008 as a way to share information and participate in the blogosphere. 

City Briefs serves as a place that residents can actively turn to for updated city information, in addition to linking to feeder sites and local blogs where city issues are discussed from multiple points of view.

Today, City Briefs has received more than 218,000 responses to more than 1,185 message posts. 

Without question, residents not only want more transparent government, but also have a growing expectation to be active participants in the decision- making process.

To be successful in achieving the city’s mission to provide excellent customer service to our residents, the city must communicate in a way that is relevant and timely.  As an example, if you have a smartphone, you can take a picture of something you see, such as a pothole or graffiti, and use a mobile application to send it to the city as a service request, and we can respond to your issue.

Social media is a valuable tool and when used correctly, allows timely and efficient communication that’s also cost-effective. It is the most important communication tool available to the public sector if we are to successfully navigate the digital age, understand and bridge the gap with Santa Clarita residents. 

If you have thoughts and ideas about how our city can better utilize technology, you can email me directly at: mmclean@santa-clarita.com.

For more information about Santa Clarita City Briefs, or the city of Santa Clarita’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, visit Santa-Clarita.com.

Marsha McLean is the mayor of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at: mmclean@santa-clarita.com.

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