March 20, 2010 By Kristy Fifelski
So what did it take for local government to see proof that social media works? Was it a decree from our tech President? Was it demand from the local citizenry? Was it a command from the elected? Nope. It was Google, an internet company from Mountain View, California.
When Google announced they’d be selecting one happy city across America to pilot their ultra-high speed gigabit fiber internet project, every local government across the country clamored to the call. (With good reason. The chosen city will be instantly world-renowned, and more importantly will be able to cultivate their community in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.)
The timeframe was the catalyst. Google only gave cities 45 days to submit their proposal. This meant the word needed to get out – faster than fast. “What was it our communication staff has been talking to us about for the last couple of years? That social media thing? Let’s do it.” So cities across the country tweeted, facebooked and youtubed their message straight to citizens with a fury. And citizens responded! They followed, fanned and shared their own messages back to the government. Sprinkle in some proclamations and town hall meetings, and presto! Local government has found a way to connect with more citizens than ever.
And now… we’re kind of committed, don’t you think? We can’t really justify pulling out all the stops and stepping through that forbidden boundary of ‘just getting our feet wet’ with this social media thing because we have to get our policy approved first, to a full-on social campaign for something like super fast internet – and not use the same power for issues that cities have been trying to connect with citizens over for ages. Huge issues, like – What should we do with your money? Where should we build stuff in the city? What programs are most important to you?
An important side note that we’re all sort of forgetting is that if Google’s test of their ultra-high speed broadband works, then all cities will benefit eventually. The goal is to test the networks, prove it works, then open it up to everyone. Of course, that kind of fiber infrastructure will take time, but I’m also hopeful the FCC’s National Broadband Plan will be a serious jumpstart.
A lovely, lovely side affect to this Googlemania is that whatever city is chosen to be the champion for the fiber project, everyone benefits from getting this crash course in how local government can use social media and have it work.
And I personally am happy that at least most of the country now knows what in the world a ‘gigabit’ is.
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Kristy is known as "GovGirl" in the government technology industry. She is a former city government web manager who has a passion for social media, technology and the lighter side of government life.
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