Social Media and the Little Guy (rural municipality)
The importance of government social media to small communities in rural areas cannot be understated, particularly municipalities and rural areas that have limited local media coverage. A government agency will need release information and/or a message/story/rumor may appear (via local of social media), and the local government agencies better be monitoring what is happening locally…and what is being said about local government.
From Spring 2009 until February, 2015, I served as Public Information Officer (PIO) for the City of Gillette – which meant I was also the administrator of the City’s social media sites. During this time, I was fortunate to work for City Administrators, Mayors, and City Council members who saw the benefits of social media, and their words to me were: “get the city’s message out there.” Which I did, I think. Creating nine Facebook pages, and one Twitter page, for the city’s different entities (main City page, animal shelter, parks & beautification, etc…) and for elected officials (Mayor and a few members of the City Council). Can you say headache?
First up: Gillette is a small city in northeast Wyoming – estimated population 32,000. There are no local TV Stations, one radio station news director, and two local newspapers. Just before I left as PIO, the City’s main Facebook page had around 7,800 likes (follower/fans). Keep in mind that not all of those 7,800 people were current Gillette residents; many former residents enjoy keeping up with the goings on in Razor City, a popular nickname for Gillette. (FYI: There is no connection between Gillette Company and the City of Gillette,) We never really picked up any steam with Twitter in northeast Wyoming, which is a shame. At any rate, I would say 7,800 is a very respectable number of follower/fans. And with some simple math we can arrive at saturation rate of 24% (Facebook followers (7,800) divided by population (32,000)).
Let’s put that into perspective: I recently moved to Tucson (population 520,116) and their main Facebook page has 5,133 likes. The Tucson Police Department’s Facebook page commands 12,662 likes. That’s good outreach, but if even if we add the main page and police department page to compute saturation, we still only get a 3.4% saturation rate (followers (17,795) divided by population (520,116)). I realize there are many, many other socio-economic factors that come into play and this is oversimplification, but ultimately, I believe higher social media saturation rates in smaller municipalities have everything to do with local media. There are seven TV stations in the Tucson metro area; again, none in Gillette. (I just did the quick math on New York City: 3.9% saturation rate…)
It’s also my belief that the City of Gillette did, and still does, an excellent job of outreach with social media. The staff continues updating current information and leverages major events by having the City Facebook page be the source of public information. Being the source of local government information in a small city keeps the citizens updated and knowledgeable…and ticks off the few local media business owners.
A couple rules to follow with social media:
Humor works – Keep it light. Social media is an informal place; treat it as such.
Alerts – If there is a major event in your community, emergency weather announcements, traffic info, public safety, be sure to announce it on your organization’s page.
Respond as much as possible – If people post on your Facebook wall or page, do your best to respond to as many of their posts/comments as possible, Even by simply ‘liking’ their comment. It’s worth noting you should add a note on your page information that states “A like is not an endorsement”.
Keep it current – update on your page two or three times per day with relevant information.
I guess if you look closely, you could make a case that HARK would be the acronym, but I digress. Social media is a powerful tool, and I see so few government agencies using social media to its full and proper potential.
Who is using it well? The public. Government needs to get on board and start using social media for transparency and openness. More on this subject in two weeks!
And now, onto the fun stuff…
I spent last weekend in NYC just wandering around, visiting museums, theater, movies, and taking in all there is to do in the Big Apple. Twas cool in Gotham – which is a plus when you’re walking. I will cover musing from my trip in my next Free Form video (hitting a computer screen near you next Wednesday!), but a few of the highlights were the Björk exhibit at MOMA. Björk’s music has never resonated for me, but after the exhibit I felt I had a deeper appreciation of her sound and lyrics. And hey, I even got to see a Swan Dress.
The only theater for me on this trip was a performance of “The Other Mozart“. A one-woman play about Mozart’s elder sister, Maria, an equally talented musician who was thrown to the curb of obscurity due to gender. She’s a woman! The horror! The play is very well done – if you get a chance, see this show.
And two final highlights from the trip:
The first was wandering through the West Village, I stumbled across a Little League baseball game at James J. Walker park, pitting the Astros against the Athletics. Coincidentally, my nephews both play for the Astros, albeit in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I paused my peripatetic efforts momentarily to take in the ball game. Much to my delight, the kids in NY were having as much fun as in AZ, with only a smattering of hovering mothers and anxious dads. Play Ball!
James J. Walker Park – West Village – NYC
Bill Stone Complex – Sierra Vista, AZ
The final highlight from New York City was a trip to Village Vanguard. Purchased as The Golden Triangle in 1934, a speakeasy, by Max Gordon, who renamed it the Village Vanguard. Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans, and Stan Getz are just a few of the musicians who have performed at the Vanguard. The intimate atmosphere and layout of the venue provide very effective acoustics, and as I settled in and listened to the Barry Harris Trio I felt as though the drummer’s high hat was at the table next to me. Priceless. Also, I’m a stickler for people shutting the hell up during live musical performances, and that’s expected at the Vanguard. Bushrod finally made it to the Vanguard. What a night!
Four bands/musicians you need to be listening to, but may not know it:
James McMurtry With his new record, “Complicated Game”, James McMurtry returns with his first original material in 7 years. Mr. McMurtry writes songs that the folks in the middle understand all to well while adding the details relatable to those people on both coasts. Songs like “South Dakota” with its blunt chorus: “There ain’t much between the pole and South Dakota/ And barb wire won’t stop the wind/ you won’t get much here but drunk and older/ you might as well re-up again.” Later on, the narrator and his family lose all their livestock in a tragic early October blizzard. (Author’s note: having driven across South Dakota immediately after this blizzard I can say this song catches the hopelessness of life on the Plains, as I stopped for a pitstop on a side road and am still haunted by the sounds of livestock wailing to their deaths in the deep snow.) Anyway, here’s the first single, “How I’m Gonna Find You Now”.
Brown Bird I was fortunate to see Brown Bird at Music Fest Northwest a few years back. Founded as a solo act by the late Dave Lamb, Brown Bird’s lineup had evolved over the years, and on the particular September night when I saw the band they were a duo: Dave and MorganEve Swain. When they appeared onstage, MorganEve looked badass, and a few numbers into the show Dave casually mentioned that MorganEve had slammed a finger in the car door shortly before their set started. Although she was clearly in pain, the music didn’t suffer and the band has been one of my faves ever since. Sadly, Dave was struck down by leukemia a year ago. MorganEve – the badass – followed through with the band’s final album, “Axis Mundi”. Since they will never tour again, here’s a video of Brown Bird performing “Blood of Angels”. Dave Lamb you are missed by many!
Sinead Lohan Where is Sinead Lohan today? I have no idea, but her songs haunt me. She’s off the radar for a reason and that’s her business, but holy shit I love her music. She hasn’t released an album since 1998. The world’s loss. Check this out:
Kitty LaRoar If you’re in London, look up Kitty LaRoar. She’s sultry, can sing, and even throws down some percussion in this video.
Movie Reviews (Boiled Down)
Before these brief reviews begin, I need to give a shout out to The Loft Cinema in Tucson for just being there. Having spent the last fifteen years in the movie purgatory (Gillette, Wyoming), I have longed for real cinema. Thanks to The Loft Cinema, I have found it!
My rating system:
“See this movie!” I think that meaning is clear.
“Solid Film” A well-made, if not totally inspiring film
“Meh” Well-made movie in a genre that I may or may not care about.
“A Swing and a Miss” Movies that just don’t click, but are uniquely interesting
“Don’t Bother” Move along, there are better uses of your time…like doing your taxes.
“Tangerines” – See this movie! If you see one movie this year, see this one…and take 6,000 of your closest friends.
“Salt of the Earth” – See this movie! Excellent documentary on photographer Sebastião Salgado and his eye for humanity.
“Ex Machina” – Solid Film Cautionary tale about the complications of artificial intelligence.
“Phantom of the Paradise” – Solid Film This film isn’t for everyone, but it’s a must for Brian Depalma fans…
“True Story” – Meh Well done but too by the number to be much more. Who couldn’t look at Felicity Jones all day though…am I right?
“Merchants of Doubt” – See this movie! This film provides great insight into the PR folks who have told you that smoking doesn’t cause cancer, and other silly things…
“Man from Reno” – Solid Film A nice film noir effort by director Dave Boyle.
“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” See this movie! Director Brett Morgen brings his vision and talent to shine a spotlight on Kurt Cobain’s life. Well done.
And that’s the truth and bs from Bushrod Sinclair. See y’all in two weeks. Free Form #2 will be available here next Wednesday.