Counties Put Social Media to Use

New communication technologies provide a new forum for government to share information, whether it is a new law, or news of a snow storm.  In a panel at MACo’s Winter Conference, emergency managers and public information officers discuss how social media and new online-based multimedia technologies enhance their work.

Clay Stamp, Talbot County Emergency Manager, shared how he used social media to assist with damage assessments following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  Stamp also advised how to start a social media program, beginning with facebook or another medium, and managing expectations.

Rick Ayers, Emergency Manager, Harford County Emergency Operations described how Harford County’s emergency notification system is used by multiple departments and for many uses including community outreach and emergency messaging.  Since 2006, the county has moved from capabilities limited to ten phones lines, to using a system that can reach thousands of people in minutes.

Crystal N. Hunt and Tamara Lee-Brooks, Public Information Officers in Charles and Wicomico counties specifically addressed the ways that even small public information offices can implement information technology upgrades to improve their ability to share up-to-date news with their citizens and improve open government practices.

Ms. Hunt noted that decentralizing administrative access to their Facebook page, streamlining the time that it takes to monitor and post, and utilizing mobile devices (cell phones and tablets) have helped to take advantage of the technology without overburdening a small staff.  Ms. Hunt also described the unique challenge Charles County faced during the Derecho storm where they experienced a power outage that caused county systems to be compromised, including the website.  During this emergency, they used Facebook (via our cell phones and tablet) as the primary means of communicating emergency information to the public.

Ms. Brooks outlined steps for developing a social media strategy.  She advised beginning by identifying the goals for the social media, then listing a few themes for messaging.  In Wicomico, Ms. Brooks adopted the County Executive’s “Care, Concern, and Cooperation” message to guide her social media.

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