One of the best examples I have in my own experience was using Twitter in 2008 to post daily construction updates for one of our sewer projects @golfview2008. I know it made a significant difference because the project impacted resident access to a long cul de sac. So it was hugely disruptive, and normally on these types of projects we would field many regular calls from residents with questions about garbage and mail pickup, school bus pickup, access, schedule, etc. But I don’t remember getting one call for this – we gave out one letter at the start of the project and referred people to the Twitter account. It was such a simple use of social media, and I sometimes think people are looking for some big, flashy use of social media with earth shattering results. But the things that make a huge difference for what we do, at least in cities, are not usually the complex, sexy implementations. It’s things like the simple posting each day of what is going on for a sewer project that saves residents the time of having to call, particularly at inconvenient times, and staff the time of answering questions over the phone.
A side benefit of that project is the time it saved on determining and agreeing to quantities with the contractor – another task that can be very time-consuming and frustrating. Because we posted each day what was installed, the contractor could keep up with what we had measured on a daily basis. He also told me at the end of the project how easy it was to confirm the quantities – he just went to the Twitter account and pulled the information from there. Going back today I can see how this archived documentation of construction could help cities and residents in the future to get dates for specific tasks that were completed.
Unfortunately I left that city before the next construction season and was told by an elected official there that the incoming mayor believed social media was a waste of time so I don’t think they’ve tried using social media since then. And it’s not really something I was able to implement in my current position. So I haven’t been able to test this approach again to see if the results would be the same.