April 3, 2010

Half of City Governments Use Social Media

THE FELS Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania recently issued a how-to manual on local government use of social media. The manual is based on surveys and interviews conducted with 79 separate municipalities ranging in size from “less than 70,000 to greater than 1 million residents” in July of 2009. The information they provided has resulted in a comprehensive and useful report on how to get started putting your city on the social media map.

Despite the explosion of Facebook and Twitter use in the general population, the study's initial results showed only about half of the 79 cities had jumped on the social media bullet train: Just 50% of the cities had a Facebook presence, while 56% were on Twitter.

Of the cities that had established themselves on Facebook or Twitter, just a handful were making any real dent in citizen outreach. Only 13 cities had more than 500 fans on Facebook, and a mere 7 cities claimed more than 500 Twitter followers.

There appear to be multiple reasons for the foot-dragging according
the Fels Institute report, including concerns about the potential for public criticism, legal issues, workload, and general cost to the often cash-strapped towns. But the benefits of social media outreach, according to the researchers, outweigh the potential downsides.

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