More communities throughout Vermont should make better use of social media if only to keep residents informed and engaged. More people are turning to online services such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to be informed (entertained) and connected.
Local governments must make every effort to be where the people are. The Free Press reports that connection is missing in many towns and cities. Many towns post information on their official Web sites. Some towns also monitor Web-based networks with a hyper-local focus — by streets or neighborhoods — such as Front Porch Forum. But these kinds of online tools are largely passive…
Yes, I agree that local government’s mission is well served when they make effective use of social media. But the reporting and conclusion about Front Porch Forum miss the mark. (In fact, here are two examples of past Free Press articles that reported just the opposite of today’s editorial… here and here.)
For example, in the City of Burlington, 40% of the households subscribe and nearly every city councilor, school board member, and state rep. uses the service. Most Neighborhood Planning Assembly steering committee members partake, as do almost all City departments. In all, 250 local public officials make use of Front Porch Forum in Chittenden County, our pilot region.
And their use of it is anything but passive. A call to City Councilors, like Joan Shannon or Bill Keogh in the South End, would have set the record straight. They, like many other public servants, make frequent use of FPF to engage voters about a wide array of issues.
Further, citizen use of FPF is certainly not passive… that’s who does all the postings… thousand upon thousand of messages are exchanged among clearly identified nearby neighbors through Front Porch Forum (as many of the Free Press reporters and editors should know from personal experience in their own neighborhoods).
“… these kind of online tools are largely passive” — that’s actually a better description of traditional media, e.g., a newspaper, where professionals provide nearly all of the content. On FPF, the content comes from your nearby neighbors.
Finally, “social media” consultants are a dime a dozen these days, and most are telling businesses, governments, nonprofits, etc. the same thing… get into social media and start screaming your message across many different platforms. Anyone deaf yet? It’s growing ever harder to get people’s attention and hold it, let alone to get them to contribute to a discussion. Gratefully, FPF is full of more than 15,000 local people, most of whom are tuned in and making a difference.
UPDATE: An update is posted above.