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5 Ways Government Is Experimenting with Social Media
June 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #178986
In a recent article, Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, discussed some innovative ways government is experimenting with social media to communicate and engage with citizens. He noted that some, in fact, are quite unusual, but are successful in delivering services to citizens where they are – online.
Below are five examples he gave of government using social media in an unconventional way:
- Picking up the trash: In Vancouver, confusing trash pick-up schedules were leading to overflowing bins on the streets. So the city turned to Twitter. Using specialized bulk tweeting and scheduling tools, it set up a website where residents could sign up to be tweeted the night before garbage and recycling collection. This led to cleaner streets and happy customers at a fraction of the cost of traditional phone centers or email.
- Defusing riots: The 2012 London Olympics were largely free from disturbances. Prior to the games, U.K. police set up a dedicated social media task force. Using social media management tools, they followed known “rabble rousers” on Twitter, setting up streams to monitor conversations about the games and planned protests. Authorities were able to follow and communicate with potential antagonists in real time and pinpoint the location of troublemakers using geolocation features. This led to a safer, more controlled Olympic Games.
- Detecting earthquakes before they happen: In 2011, many people learned about the earthquake on Twitter – before the shaking actually started. This was because tweets from the epicenter outpaced the earthquake itself, providing an early warning system. Understanding the power of social media, the U.S. Geological Survey is now working on TED (Twitter Earthquake Dispatch) which tracks real-time messages from Twitter.
- Preparing for the zombie apocalypse: In a recent blog post, the CDC wrote about the Zombie Apocalypse and how to prepare for such an occurrence. The post, which also explained how to get ready for real emergencies, attracted more than 1,200 comments. The posting showed how government can use online channels to engage and educate citizens in an interesting way.
- Forecasting elections: During the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Twitter developed Twindex, which gauged online conversations and sentiment around Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. As election day approached – and most polls had Romney pulling ahead – the Twindex showed Obama trending upward in all of the swing states. Obviously, Obama went on it to win. This got people thinking social media could be a “crystal ball” for election results and analysts are working hard to quantify “buzz” on social media.
These are only a handful of examples, but show the power of social media to engage citizens, get your information to a broad audience, and improve services. To do this, government agencies at all levels need the proper tools and personnel, but social media can (and should) be viewed as an important piece of customer service and citizen engagement.
What are some other examples of governments using social media in unique ways?
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