About 3 years ago we had hired an intern out of Kent State University who like many folks his age were riding high on the social media craze of Facebook. The intern kept telling us we needed to jump on Facebook too but at that time the jury was still out whether Facebook had much relevance for cities.
We didn’t have any issues with Facebook in principle, we just weren’t sure how to use it for city purposes. Looking back I think we were over-thinking and over-complicating it, and it turns out that the intern was ahead of his time as we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of Facebook pages for cities popping up all over.
We decided it was time to climb aboard and we are now live with the beta site the intern had created way back when. Better late than never.
We dusted off the beta site, put some finishing touches on it, and jumped with both feet. The site is pretty basic — we’re not going to win awards for the most creative use of Facebook, but that’s ok because our goal was to provide another source of information for people to follow all that’s happening in Kent.
We understand that not everyone will want to Friend us (and we won’t take it personally) but for those Facebookers out there that like to receive notice of new things popping up in Kent, we’ve now got another way to be on their radar screen.
Part of our challenge with Facebook has been finding the time and the staff to keep it updated. There is no position description in the City titled Offical Facebook Manager — for that matter, we don’t even have any IT Manager — so we’ve had to learn on our own and find a volunteer who was willing to add Facebook updates to their own other duties as assigned list. Fortunately, we found one.
The longer we Blog, Tweet, and now Post on Facebook the more we’ve come to realize how much information we have and how many people want access to more of it. We’re all about sharing information; the challenge is providing a way to get it to the people that want it in a form that they want it in.
The print media was the old standard — and between local newspapers and our quarterly Tree City Bulletin — we continue to make print a part of our communication strategy. But today people want more so we have a City web site, a Kent Police web site, a Kent Parks and Rec web site, a City blog site, a City of Kent Twitter site, a City Economic Development Facebook site, and now a City Facebook site.
We also had an online emergency notification system that would allow us to post emergency messages or alerts, e.g., water main break, snow emergency in effect, etc., that would automatically send text and/or email messages to anyone that signed up to receive those notifications. For about a year that was a free system and we used it while it was free, but as it grew in popularity they began to charge more than we could afford to pay so now we’re back looking for an affordable reverse 911 system that would let us send voice messages out for public notification when we have these sorts of troubles to tell people about (like the Kent City School phone notification system). These reverse 911 systems are pretty pricey but we’re hoping to find one to buy sometime in 2012.
Plus, we’ve also got plans to add a community electronic bulletin board in 2012 at the corner of SR43 and SR 59 adjacent to the downtown project that will scroll local community and campus information 24-7.
We promise to continue to take advantage of technology as long as we can figure out how to use it, afford it, and keep it current.
By the way, I’d love to find someone to build us a City of Kent app for smart phones, any volunteers?