Facebook and Social Media Tools for Parks and Recreation, Or How To Get Aggravated Real Quick!

OK, so yesterday I come back from my first true vacation in 9 years (Yay me!). My supervisor wants me to check out Roanoke County Governments web page for their Parks and Recreation. I’m thinking to myself “O boy, yet another thing that he wants to try and do”. So, I finish up my coffee and check out the email he sent me with the link. Here it is for you to look at:
www.RoanokeCountyParks.com. I have to admit, my boss is very creative and prompts me just the right way. Smart bosses FTW!

So I click on the link and check it out. There in the middle of their page is a list of Icons to many different versions of their information. This is getting interesting. Then I look further and see that they are using Google’s Feedburner to post this info to all the vaious places. Now I’m LIKING it!

So, I talk to the man who made it happen for Roanoke, Scott Ramsburg, who, I must say, was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The problem I had was that I really didn’t write down notes very well. I do that sometimes.

So I go to create a Facebook page for a Business. Immediately I am confused as to how to do this correctly. Facebook does NOT have very good walkthroughs for creating a Facebook identity if you are a Business. It took me awhile to figure this out. I’m not a big Facebook user, so I’m sure other people have a better grasp on this stuff than I do.

So I finally get a page created. I don’t really know the URL because it seems to change. The current URL I have is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Manassas-VA/Prince-William-County-Park-Authority/109862474074

It’s not what I was hoping for. I was hoping for more on the lines of: http://www.facebook.com/Prince-William-County-Park-Authority, or a way to create an Alias, so that I could use: http://www.facebook.com/PWCParks

OK, now I am confused. How do I place a feed into here? Scott told me how, but I’m too proud to call the gentleman back up to ask again. So I’m looking all over, then realize that what I need is a mashup of my various feeds from Feedburner. I have no idea how to do a Mashup of my various feeds into one, so I’m kinda stuck there now. If I figure this piece out, then I’ll go into how do I port that data into Facebook.

Sigggghhh…it’s never an easy thing. It’s gonna be wicked cool if I can get this to work though!

Until next time.


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Mark Gordon

Hi Greg,

Have you integrated RSS Feeds into your Facebook yet? If so, how did you accomplish it? I took a look at yours and it’s pretty nice.

Just to be clear, I have my ugly URL name first, then I need to have 100 fans before I could get that much better type of URL, right?

Thanks for letting me know Greg!

Mark Gordon

Thansk Greg. I’ve heard of the Yahoo Pipes. I’m surprised Google doesn’t have a mashup of their own. I’ll check out the pipes.


Craig Kessler

Agree with Greg, I use Social RSS as well. Just go to applications, and browse more, and type RSS and search and you will find it.

Greg Hahn

On the right side of the Boxes tab on our FB page you can see how Social RSS will display multiple feeds. Like Craig said, there are lots of rss apps, this one seemed to work the best for us of the ones we tried. And yes, unfortunately you have to have your ugly URL until you reach 100 fans. Good luck!

Scott Horvath

Before you get into specifics of creating a FB page, you should really take a big step back and determine what your communications strategy is for the page. If you just do it b/c you thought it was cool and your boss liked it…that’s not a strategy. Once you know what you want to so and who your audience really is then you may find FB is not the place for you…or maybe it is.

Mark Gordon

Hi Scott. Thanks for the comment! πŸ™‚

We did speak about it. We have been looking into “pushing” content more than having people come to us to get our content. These are all great ways for this to happen, but more so, we’re looking for the public’s interaction with us. Being a one-person web shop, it’s taking me much longer to do this than it would for other agencies, so I’m slowly getting us to where we need to be.

Thanks Greg, for the comment as well. All of these are much needed info for me.

Stacy LaVanture

Just wanted to thank everyone for all these great posts. Our City is getting ready to jump on the web 2.0 bandwagon and join the social networking scene in hopes of increasing communications and interaction with our citizenry. I have looked at your FB pages and noticed that most of the posts do not get commented on. Is anyone getting the public interaction that they hoped for? Have you seen an increased awareness of events and information because of these social network sites?

Joe B. Johnson

Volume and quantity of comments are the best measures of effective blogs and interactive pages, but you need a large audience to get them because few will take the trouble to comment. One Facebook page that has impressed me is the State Department’s ejournalusa page. It springs from electronic journals about the United States written for foreign audiences. They’re getting lots of genuine comments and questions about issues like democracy and trade policy. That’s the thing that surprises me, when people seem focused on entertainment or maybe the latest bank heist caught on camera. I have to assume they have built a global audience over the fifteen years they have been publishing ejournals.

Mark Gordon

Hi Stacy,

I can’t say about Roanoke, but when I asked them they did tell me that not too many people were commenting. They were getting plenty of fans, which means they’re receiving the news and info, which is a good thing to be on the citizen’s portal of choice. πŸ™‚

As for me, I’m just starting, so I know there will be nothing happening yet. I think the “Great Debate” that we’re having now is how open will this be? We want to do the Blog and such, but will we moderate citizen comments? There’s so many variables, but I know that I am leaning towards moderating the comments, if possible, so that we can weed out the plainly profane ones, or the ones that are promoting Viagra or Cialis. Yet even that is a slippery slope of censorship once you get started on it. Do we have a “Council of Moderators” that evaluate all postings?

Still, all in all, you gotta admit that this technology is FUN!

Mark Gordon

Joe, thank you for pointing out ejournalusa FB page. That’s quite good! That’s exactly what I would hope for as the end goal, with that much interaction.

Greg Hahn

We haven’t had many comments or interaction yet on our FB page, we’re hoping to change that as we get more fans and add more ‘fun’ stuff for people to talk about. We have actually found Twitter to be a much more useful way to push information and get feedback.

As for moderating comments, on our mayor’s blog we check all comments before they get posted, but only for profanity or spam. We post all comments as long as they follow our comment rules that we have posted http://mayorofguelph.wordpress.com/about/. In the past year we have only ever refused one comment (besides the spam)

Mark Gordon

Greg, how much spam would you say you have had to stop in the last year with ALL of the tools? Is that a manual thing (removal) or is that automated?

Greg Hahn

There is an automated spam blocker plugin on wordpress that takes care of most of it for us. Since June 1, it has blocked 58 spam comments automatically, and we haven’t had to remove any manually.

Mark Gordon

Thanks Greg. Perhaps I should look into using WordPress to generate my feeds and then populate. I hadn’t thought of that, but if it has a good spam blocker like that, it might make things easier for us. πŸ™‚

Stacy LaVanture

Great information here. Thanks again everyone. How is everyone handling the public records request and records retention issues? I haven’t found anyone in FL (where I am) that has figured out how to accomodate the Sunshine Law requirements.

Nancy Heltman

Mike Salotti does our Virginia State Parks page, he would be glad to help you. Took us a while to figure out how to get the blog posting on the wall (more than an RSS feed needed to get it there) and I to struggled with the Fan Page instructions. Not your fault – lousy instructions! Write me at [email protected] and I will email you Mike’s contact info. We have an enews, blog, Twitter, FB, My Space, Flickr and YouTube. See the links at the bottom of the page http://www.virginiastateparks.gov

Mark Gordon

Hey Dan, that’s awesome! Did you follow Yahoo’s guide in doing this or did you use something else? If something else, would you share?