Mecklenburg County’s Social Media Strategy

First things first…I’ve decided to see if I can incorporate govloop into my daily routine. There’s so much content I want to read, it’s hard to wedge something else in. So here goes…

When something new emerges, a typical government reaction is to ask “what’s our policy?” It must be in our DNA or something. What do we do…what’s the prescribed reaction…how do we control…blah, blah. When “social media” started to filter into conversations at Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC), that was part of our reaction as well.

To avoid paralysis by policy development, I asked a small staff team, led by our Public Information Department web editor, to determine a strategy for using social media. Set policy aside. Determine what we want as an organization from social media participation. Articulate how it aligns to our corporate vision and goals. Policy will take care of itself later.

The result is the strategy document attached to this post. Interestingly, as the group refined the strategic approach, it became obvious that existing policies regarding internet use and employee conduct were applicable. In other words, no new policy needed.

Let me know your reaction.


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John Moore

This is great, thank you for sharing. How is social media leveraged in your County today? Does it play an informal role, no role, or does it fit into some of the more strategic efforts you have going on?



Adriel Hampton

Brian, thanks for sharing this. It’s nice and simple, wraps in your existing policies and expands to incoporate new technologies as part of the County’s strategic goals, and recommends starting with the most popular sites. I also like your measurement section. One Q – I was wondering what the Public Awareness Index is? A current metric in citizen surveys?

Joey White

This is great Brian! I have family in Kannapolis/Concord and was just down there last fall. It’s a great area.

I’m interested in whether you’ve also applied any ROI into this or whether social media has been added as just an additional means of communication. I’m assuming that social media is now eating up time for those managing it and I wonder if it’s been incorporated as a means of saving time and energy somewhere else (for example, a newsletter being replaced with blog posts)?

Heather Heater

Hey folks! Can we forgo the use of technical acronyms in discussing social media implementation and development? Some of us are *really* new to this and it’s much more useful to have things spelled for. For example, what’s ROI?

BTW, thanks for sharing this Brian. Would love my organization to develop a similar document!

Heather Heater

Oh, I’m also interested in how long it took you to develop this document and how to you expect individual departments and programs to interpret and use the framework? For example, health department’s needs for communicating via social media are going to be different from transportation.

Brian Cox

Thanks for the feedback/comments…couple of quick replies:

– How have we leveraged social media (SM) today? – Mecklenburg is in the early stages of utilizing SM platforms, learning as we go. In fact, we’ll be “live tweeting” our Board meeting tonight for the first time (@MeckCounty for Twitter users). Here’s a link to our SM presence: http://bit.ly/8iNZmT

– Public Awareness index is a aggregate of some public awareness survey data – selected programs, services, and goals.

– ROI (Return of Investment) – no, not really. I recall in days gone by all of the early ROI estimates for email and paper savings, so it is not an immed priority to articulate for SM. (I’ll have to share my ROI case for speeding up the elevator sometime…could save millions in lost staff time!)

– We probably kicked this around several months, and it is going through the approp blessing and approvals right now. We have formed an internal user’s group led by our Public Info deparment that is essentially a learning lab opportunity…we’re refining branding, naming conventions, etc. on the fly.

Nicole Pennell

Hey everyone. I’m the web editor Brian mentioned that helped put this together. Heather, you were asking how the individual departments adapt social media for their specific use. We have Public Information Officers embedded with most of our departments, so we’ve been working very closely with them to determine which social media platforms, if any, are appropriate for their departments. One thing we stressed is that although we encourage social media usage, we don’t require it. We also stressed that not every platform is created equal. For example, our Health Department uses Twitter quite a bit to share information about H1N1 and other news items, but they don’t have a Facebook presence. Our Park & Rec department has a large Facebook presence, but only some of the nature preserves and rec centers have adopted Twitter pages. The important thing for us was to figure out where our audiences were and use the platforms they were already using. Another extremely important thing for us was to engage our customers by having conversations with them. On Twitter especially that has helped us gain credibility with our followers and really been the key to our success.