Friday, December 11, 2009

City of El Reno: Coming Up in the Social Media World

Using social media to relay important and helpful information is hardly a new phenomenon in today’s socially saturated online world. But it’s always interesting to see when it is being effectively utilized by entities you just wouldn’t think would be on the upside of social media. The City of El Reno is an example of this. Established in 1898, this relatively small Oklahoma town of 15,000 citizens has, in the last two years, undertaken many projects in an effort to enhance the quality of life for its citizens and gain additional residents. Such projects have included walking trails around Lake El Reno, new facilities for the public schools and about $2 million worth of public infrastructure improvements. They also started updating how they communicate these efforts, becoming dedicated to, and good at, social media.

City officials began using social media in 2009 primarily because they wanted a more effective way to help citizens continually keep up with city-related information. Call volumes were high regarding questions about city information when such information had already been posted to the City Web site. So officials began strategically thinking about ways they could not only keep citizens updated with factual information, but also keep up a relationship with their publics – including local and state media.

The City established a Facebook site and a Twitter site. Updates were sent out usually once a day, and information ranged from road closings to the City’s pet adoption program on YouTube. Now, updates are usually sent three or more times a day, and many updates include up-to-the minute photos of projects and other in-progress City events.

One such instance of effective utilization of these social media tools was a recent crisis involving a building collapse. A downtown building in the process of being remodeled collapsed, injuring construction works and temporarily shutting down nearby businesses. The incident hit the news station within 30 minutes. Immediately upon learning of the incident, the City’s Director of Community Relations hit Facebook and Twitter with information about the actual incident and subsequent updates as the City learned more about the next steps.

It’s a common occurrence to see people and organizations using social media for promotion or information distribution because they think everybody else is doing it, so they should too. But El Reno is demonstrating that regular and simple attendance to these social media tools can more actively provide information to their publics, and therefore help increase the overall perceived value of the City.

Photo care of City of El Reno

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