I came across an interesting article from the International City/County Management Association entitled “Your Social Media Strategy – Social Media Is The Way Communities Network Now”. The significance of this article for me is that I’ve seen many residents on social media complain about things like Pennsauken Township government not accepting payments and forms online or engaging residents on social media. Additionally a week or so ago when Pennsauken Deputy Mayor Betsy McBride said to me on the Positively Pennsauken Facebook page “I don’t live on social media world” I made the case that Pennsauken Township government should be engaging #TheOther35000 online. This article further proves the point why Pennsauken Township government should be engaging residents on social media.
According to the article “Understanding the benefits of a private sector approach in a public sector environment can pay huge dividends to local governments in their efforts to engage with their community while simultaneously building transparency and trust”. I guess the first step for Pennsauken Township government would be a desire to engage with #TheOther35000 and build transparency and trust.
The article goes on to say “Unfortunately, most approach it as a one-way communication tool while shying away from its true potential: two-way engagement. This type of engagement is an ideal approach to understand that social media is a medium to engage your community, not just push information to residents”.
If you look at Pennsauken Township’s Social Media Policy it’s branded as a “limited public forum” and a list of why posts will be removed from Pennsauken Township’s Facebook page. No where does it invite residents to engage with Pennsauken Township leadership or employees. It is a pinned post at the top of the page.
If you continue to read down the Pennsauken Township Facebook page it is used for announcements of Pennsauken Township events with little to no resident interaction. There are no announcements of Pennsauken Township meetings, job openings, board or committee openings or anything to give residents information on what is going on within Pennsauken Township government.
The International City/County Management Association article continues “From a community’s perspective, interacting with government accounts that don’t engage is discouraging. Why? Because your community, particularly in a digital sphere, is increasingly becoming accustomed to interacting with private sector brands and customer service representatives through social media platforms and finding quick and successful resolutions from it”. The article goes on to state “Pew research tells us that roughly three-quarters of Americans now own a smartphone and 62 percent of Americans look to social media for their news. Another way to look at this: A growing majority of your residents would rather interact with local government through their smartphones and using social platforms rather than going to a government website, driving to city hall, or calling for information”.
If I didn’t know better I’d think the article was speaking directly to Pennsauken Township government when it states “Any digital community needs to be grown and cultivated through great content and interactions. Posting bulletins about commission openings or council agendas does not resonate and is almost never shared”. On second thought I take that back. I wish Pennsauken Township would share information on board openings or council agendas on it’s social media channels. This gets back to the desire for transparency and trust mentioned earlier. I don’t see much desire on the part of Pennsauken Township government to keep #TheOther35000 informed of job or board openings, Township Committee agendas or anything of significance.
The article closes by saying “All that said, social media is not the future of communication. Social media is the way communities network now. Those who are not effectively using digital platforms to the best of their abilities are not only falling behind, they are losing the ability to maximize connectivity with their residents. An organization’s digital footprint, and the connection it brings to its residents, provides cohesiveness to many residents and neighborhoods, especially at a time where fewer neighbors take the time to get to know each other in person.”
Pennsauken Township Committee candidates Sabrina Winkler and Lisa Eckel are proponents of increasing engagement, transparency and trust between Pennsauken Township residents and government, increasing the effectiveness of the Pennsauken Township web site and social media channels and making improvements in technology. Winkler and Eckel said “We feel that it is important for residents to be aware of decisions being made on our behalf. The current township website is not always easy to navigate and meeting minutes for Township committee meetings are not posted timely. We would also like to see improvements in technology for township services. Township job openings and board / committee openings should be widely publicized and easily accessible to all qualified residents in town.”
Madam Deputy Mayor with all due respect #TheOther35000 wish that you and the Pennsauken Township government you help lead would spend more time in “social media land”.