COM0011 Blog #2 Social Media, Municipal Government and Democracy

I work for the City of Edmonton and there’s a serious re-branding campaign going on, using social media to engage workers, encourage recruitment, improve customer service and generally make Edmonton an even greater place to live.

The direction comes from the Mayor and is working it’s way through all levels of the organization.  The openness and accessibility of our Mayor and Councillors gives administration the go-ahead to develop innovative social media tools that give citizens responsive government and help to build better communities.  And it’s working.  People from all over the world follow Edmonton.

This connectedness is as practical as being able to find out where your late bus is and when it will get to your stop. Riders can access 15 different phone apps to get real time scheduling reports.  Drivers can find out where construction delays occur, and citizens can learn about subjects as diverse as the history of residential chickens, bike month activities, how to pay your property taxes and swimming pool schedules.

Like all true communication it goes both ways and the public participates actively in this 2-way dialogue.   Sure there are growing pains. Communication plans must be ready to respond to issues that come up, whether they’re true or not and it seems like the communications group must have a crystal ball to be ready when issues sneak up from nowhere.

But it doesn’t take a huge workforce to manage this.  Trending tools on twitter allow the communications group to keep an eye on what’s important to the public.  Like potholes.  When the mayor goes on the monthly radio call-in, he can be ready to tell callers about the Pothole Plan.  And there is a plan, because City administration has seen the trends and knows how important it is to respond to the public.

It’s basic democracy, actually.

So does social media make your city happy?

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