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City embraces social media [poll]

In the past six months, and in particular since the spring, the City has made great strides in embracing social media as a tool to inform and engage residents. Social media, that fabulous democratizing phenomenon that you are experiencing as you read this, is a broad term, but is commonly used to describe the online platforms of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

Twitter was adopted quite early by news organizations and non-profits as a new and cheap method to reach and build a captive base of supporters. The Surrey Leader has championed twitter for over a year, posting the latest news stories via their feed, while the Surrey Now has only recently started consistently updating their feed, with personalized teasers meant to drive traffic to their printed paper.

Politicians of all stripes took to Facebook following Obama’s historic 2008 campaign. Currently, you can friend Mayor Dianne Watts, as well as Councillors Barinder Rasode, Tom Gill, Mary Martin, Barbara Steele, and Linda Hepner. All use facebook to varying degrees and with varying degrees of true personalization. Mayors across North America have adopted Twitter as their primary channel of communication with supporters, revealing through 140 characters, and many times with live photos, the day to day life of a civic leader. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is prolific tweep, posting updates every night, and is joined by his compadres Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Toronto Mayor David Miller.

However, it’s two departments within the City that have been the most aggressive with their use of social media. Both the Library, and more recently, the Events Department, have experimented with the medium extensively.

The Library first adopted social media for its consultation process on the new City Centre building. It built a blog, encouraged citizens to send in photos of their favourite libraries to a flickr group, and opened a facebook page for the project with construction updates (including pictures!). Additionally, it runs a well maintained Twitter page, sharing information about its events and programs, as well as those from other libraries in the region.

The Events department began its Twitter page during the Olympics, using the service sparsely. However, with the advent of Surrey’s Canada Day celebrations, they kickstarted their social media outreach and did Evan Williams proud. Not only did they post sneak peeks behind the scenes of the event’s set up, with pictures and videos (!), but they live tweeted Canada Day thoroughly. On July 1st, the team updated twitter at least a couple times an hour, announcing the latest entertainers on stage, providing updates on the weather conditions, and checking in with some of the community sponsor booths. This was all supplemented by a flurry of tried and true twitpics, shot from a real smartphone (not the fake, prepackaged photos shared by our PM).

Big props to both City departments for becoming local champions of social media! If there was a regional awards ceremony for social media adoption, they would undoubtedly be at the top of the list. Their success, however, begs the question of which department should embrace social media next. Here’s where you come in. Vote in the poll below and let the City know what else they should be sharing via social media.