Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Social media should make your city communicate better

Image of City of Chandler, AZ from TwitterImage of City of Chandler, AZ

The government has invaded social media. No, don't take that as a call to arms. I'm talking about a much lower-level invasion than that: Your city is on Twitter.

And on Facebook, YouTube, Photobucket and likely dozens more web 2.0 sites. Or they are busy trying to create their own. Some cities (hi, Tempe!) are even reaching out to denizens, seeking guidance and counsel as these municipalities move towards a closer relationship with their residents. And that's a Good Thing.

But when you start talking to people in their medium of choice, you have to start talking to them in their language of choice. And that should spread to the rest of the communications. For far too long, cities' websites have been vast wastelands of non-speak, bureaucratic ramblings and -- to speak plainly -- shit that only a handful of people truly care about.

Let's get specific. I live in Chandler Arizona. I've met Kim, the fine person who runs the @CityofChandler Twitter account. She's doing a good job of engaging with the community and posting relevant and timely information to her followers (well, the city's followers) on Twitter. But she's hobbled by that drivel that exists on the website. Take this recent tweet.

Chandler Tweet

We're in the peak of monsoon season right now, if the frequency I have to clean my pool is any indication. So yes, the tweet was timely and relevant. The "monsoons" we get in the southwest are often scoffed at by many of us who've been here a while. But they can be pretty scary to anyone unfamiliar with their dangerous-albeit-local fury. All the more reason why information on this topic from my city should be a Good Thing.

If only.

If only the information on the page offered up by the city was valuable. But it's not. Well, that's not entirely correct. The information could be valuable, if it were written to convey information to normal humans. But instead, we're treated to an incomplete sentence to start off the post. Not a warm fuzzy. But I can easily overlook that, as I'm no one to call out poor grammar and spelling errors. Our first directive is a point of contact. Who's listed first? 9-1-1. Yep. If you find yourself in a thunderstorm and have the urge to speak with someone, call 9-1-1. Right.

Next up is information on when you can expect thunderstorms and lightning, followed up the this juicy tidbit: "[they] can occur year-round and at all hours". Good for those of us who just left the womb. And then it spirals completely out of control, suggesting we shut off our air conditioners (are you mad?) and to avoid bathing. Bathing. But it is good to know that the human body does not act as a capacitor, holding the charge of the lighting that struck it. Yeah, that's in there, too.

But I get why they may think they have to say this stuff. Why they think this is good information to distribute. But it's not. Or rather, it's not written to be good info. Presenting information is an art form. A craft. Data-dumping isn't helpful. Organizing data is helpful. Concise explanations -- especially for things you know will sound odd to most people -- are helpful. Re-writing the information to make it flow on the page and be consumed easily is helpful. Do that.

The same applies to non-governmental entities, too. How does the information you've been dishing out for years stand up under scrutiny? Are you writing for readers or just following orders? And... does anyone care to read it?

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  1. I'm loving these new social media triage posts!

    Some really good information in them.
    I think they should hire you to implement some of these ideas. Hell I want to hire you to come up with some stuff for me.


  2. Thanks, Tyson. Offers of consultation would not be turned down should they ask!

  3. Love it.
    I like that they are taking the first step, the second step "Don't BS" will be a welcome addition.

  4. [...] Social media should make your city communicate better ( [...]

  5. I am happy that the City has taken the steps to tweet daily. It certainly is not easy to find topics that everyone will enjoy, but I think Chandler is doing the best job in doing so through social media among all Valley governments. And, yes, we know Evo is available for consulting work, should we ever have the budget. Thanks! Kim

  6. Thanks for commenting, Kim. And yep, you're doing a bang up job. I'd proudly assert that you sit on top of the rest of the city governments I've seen.

    Now go get some money. ;)


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