The December List: Best Uses of Social Media by Public Agencies

Post by: Kim Stephens

Patrice Cloutier , Jim Garrow  and I have decided to provide our readers a December treat. Our self-prescribed task is to scour the web for top destinations related to social media and public safety, or SMEM. Jim is providing the 12 days of social media’s use in public health emergencies and Patrice has a list of 25 SMEM blogs, twitter and/or Facebook accounts, websites, wikis and others, that he finds to be “true destinations of choice”.  My inspiration for our project comes from the document Citizen 2.0: 17 examples of Social Media and government  innovation which sought  “to provide highly successful examples of social media and government innovation”. I also seek to highlight interesting examples but without repeating their findings.

For the first day of this project I would like to visit the ghost of Christmas Future–hey, I never said I was great with analogies. I have chosen to highlight one government agency’s newly designed website that beautifully integrates social media channels.

The Rationale: Public agencies are beginning to understand the importance of social networking sites (blogs, twitter, facebook, google+) as a way to communicate more effectively with their citizens. In turn, however, these tools have left the community’s flat, static website looking very dull, and visits to these traditional sites eventually plummet. The solution? Integration. Although integration isn’t that new, after reviewing many local communities websites, it hasn’t been fully realized either.

Why should public agencies care about their website? I believe it could become a very important consideration for crisis communications. Think about your own community. How many different agencies have a role in a crisis?  How many of those agencies have a social media presence? An integrated community website could combine all of the real-time messages of these agencies onto one page,  providing a one-stop shop for information (a virtual JIC). Just as an example, this type of integrated site could include  the twitter feed of the school district, the feed from the Department of Transportation listing  road closures in real-time, the blog posts and tweets from the Mayor, and how-to videos about the placement of debris for pick-up from the Department of Public Works.

The Example: The US European Command provides one of the most beautiful examples of an integrated website I’ve seen from a public agency.

The interface design for the site is svelte. If you have ever used the twitter application  “Tweetdeck” it will feel very familiar. The article: 9 Ways to Transform Your Website Into a Social Media Hub helps discern what they have done right:

  1. The social media “buttons” are present and readily accessible at the top of the homepage;
  2. The blog is connected and only a “tease” is visible–with a picture, of course;
  3. Videos are embedded on the site;
  4. The site is highly “shareable”, there is a way to tweet, +1, and “Like” all of the articles and videos;
  5. The website is “fed”, with a stream of real-time content called “News from the Wires”;
  6. A photo stream has a position of prominence in the middle of the page;
  7. The site is powered by Google Translate, allowing it to be seen in multiple languages (key for a European Command site);
  8. Top stories rotate on the homepage for visual interest.

The one item not present is the facebook widget, but with all of the visually pleasing content, it is not necessarily missed. Bookmark their site and wave it in front of the IT department when your community decides its website needs an overhaul.

Today’s Stories by Patrice and James:

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5 responses to “The December List: Best Uses of Social Media by Public Agencies

  1. A real treat that lives up to the Hype!! Thanks for useful insight!

  2. Congrats Kim! This is awesome; what a great run down!

  3. Thanks Rob–I think we have given ourselves a bit of a challenge to winnow down the most interesting content. Feel free to add your ideas!

  4. Kim – great find and example!

  5. Pingback: The December List: Best Uses of Social Media by Public Agencies | #UASI

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