Social Media and the City of Worcester

I had to drop off a few books at the library yesterday afternoon, and I figured I’d drop by the Mayor’s office for his open office hours.  I didn’t really have anything specific to discuss, but I wanted to see how the attendance has been so far.

I was the only one waiting to speak with the Mayor,so I asked him how many people had come over the past couple weeks.  Last week, five people came during open office hours; yesterday, I was only the third.  He said he’s also going to try to offer office hours in individual neighborhoods.  If you’ve been tempted to talk to the Mayor during open office hours, I highly recommend you visit.

I spent fifteen minutes chatting with him about how the city government could use social media to its advantage.  Here are some of the highlights, along with some additional thoughts I had after our conversation.  I’d appreciate any additional feedback from those of you who actually use Twitter and/or Facebook.

1.  The city is doing pretty well in some areas.
I told Joe O’Brien (hereafter referred to as JOB) that I was very impressed with the library (Facebook & Twitter) and DPW&P (Facebook & Twitter).  I think the Police’s use of Twitter is decent; there’s little there but links to press releases. I forgot to mention to him that the Worcester Cultural Commission is also on Facebook; I know they just began their Facebook page, but I would have liked to see them make these two announcements on Facebook, with more details than the Telegram provides.  (They have previously done some excellent announcements for Art in the Park volunteer opportunities, Wormtown Rocks, and winning the MCC Gold Star Award, so perhaps I’ve grown too accustomed to their excellent news items!)

We should be using the library and DPW&P as mentors for other areas of city government that want to become more involved in social media.  The city already has resources (like Pingsheng Chen) who are internet- and social media-savvy; it’s just a matter of channeling those resources to help those who might need a little push in the right direction, or who need questions answered. periodically.  (In fact, someone recently complained to the DPW via Twitter that he’d requested to be removed from the Parking Ban Text Message system; DPW responded back via Twitter about how to contact them.  I don’t have the link because that tweet’s been deleted, but how’s that for customer service?)

2.  Can the city use social media for specific neighborhoods?
JOB mentioned that during the campaign, he’d felt that the city government needed to better provide residents information relevant to their specific neighborhood (ZBA meetings that might involve a nearby property, neighborhood watch meetings, etc.).

The mayor had some questions for me that I will pose to my readership:
What if there were a twitter feed by precinct? If you were in Precinct X, you could follow Worcester_PctX (or something similar.  (I have to confess that I really liked this idea.  My only concern would that it would require someone piecing together information from agendas for Historical Commission or ZBA meetings, determining which properties are in which precinct, and then assembling a list that residents could quickly scroll through to decide whether or not they wanted to attend a meeting.  Then again, if the goal is increased public participation in government, perhaps that’s what needs to happen.)

Some people only do Facebook, some only do Twitter, some do neither. I explained that I didn’t necessarily see this as a problem, as long as you use a tool like twitterfeed.  You can send the same message through different mediums with a minimal amount of work.

3.  Additional thoughts
Does Tracy (or anyone else) know if there are any social-media plans for the Worcester Public Schools?  (For instance, a school cancellation twitter account?)

Has anyone checked out the City of Boston’s social media and email subscription sites?  I love the one-stop-shopping for feeds, but, if Worcester does something similar, I’d prefer we list the city department with the social media symbols next to it (Facebook, Twitter, RSS, etc.) rather than breaking it by type of feed.

I can’t believe I didn’t even mention podcasts.  When the Police/T&G impasse occurred, someone mentioned that Chief Gemme should have just started his own weekly show on WCCA.  Why can’t we have something like Street Stories?  We’ve obviously got some college students willing to do short-form videos about the city, so how can we get to a point where we get some additional city-related podcasts out there?