By Milissa Reierson
“You don’t need to be on that iPad 24/7!”
Those are the words I heard a local mom saying to her young son in a crowded gymnasium recently. I chuckled to myself because upon occasion I have had to pry our IPad out of the grimy hands of my beautiful 5-year-old son who loves Netflix.
But it's not just the kids. If you look around that same gym most parents have their noses in their mobile devices, too, whiling away the time while their children learn backflips. And I must admit, my husband and I are right there with them. My husband checks his email, surfs for sports scores, music and audio gear websites regularly, and I check my email, Facebook, Twitter, and Hootsuite quite frequently throughout the day (although I say, “It's for work!”) I suppose this is just the age we are living in now.
It's like the Disney movie “Wall-E” is coming true. Do you remember that movie where people never interacted with each other personally and just drove around on their personal hovercrafts with a screen in front of them 24/7? Is that our future? Were those movie writers looking into a crystal ball? They made that movie before iPads and smart phones became commonplace! But I digress, MY excuse, again, is that I'm doing it for work.
I've been managing the City of Franklin's social media presence since we began in 2010. We were latecomers to the party, but boy has it exploded! Every day it’s something new. I'm not sure anyone can say they are a master at social media because it is ever-changing, but as I look around and compare ourselves to other city governments, I believe we are ahead of the game, or at least treading water in a colossal tidal wave!
Let's take a look at our stats. Over the last three years, our Facebook followers have almost tripled and our Twitter followers have done the same, while our YouTube views have actually quadrupled! (The fun thing about managing social media is I get instant feedback, so I know what is working and what is not.) When I delve deeper into the city's Facebook analytics, I see that 62.1 percent are female and 36.8 percent are male. The largest audience is women ages 35-44, at 16.7 percent. Although we have just under 7,000 followers on any given day, we can reach 37,000 people through friends of friends. That is called our “reach” in Facebook terms.
Facebook defines “reach” as anyone who has seen your content, including people who have liked your page and those who have not. There is another measurement Facebook offers and that is of people “talking about this,” or talking about your posts, photos or page. Some people talking about us are from Nashville, Brentwood and Spring Hill. We even have some followers from Brazil, one from Japan, and one from Mexico, so I guess we can say we are global. Most of the people who talk about us are – no surprises here – women at 77.6 percent with a large portion living in Franklin, so that means we are reaching our target audience-Franklin residents.
With those analytics it’s not surprising that one of our most popular posts in the last month was a question posed to both Facebookers and Twitter followers: “Should we put another entrance into Tinkerbell Playground at Pinkerton Park on the backside near the restrooms?” Our Parks Department wanted feedback from park users for possible improvements to the playground. Overwhelmingly, with close to 120 comments, Facebook followers voted for only one entrance so they could keep a better eye on their kids. This was invaluable feedback for our Parks Department, and we got it in a matter of minutes!
In the past, the city would have had to hold a meeting and ask residents to physically come to the meeting to review designs or listen to a presentation and we'd probably have had less than 20 people, if any, show up. So now, with social media, the city can get instant feedback on what our citizens want!
And we do listen. Last year someone suggested on Facebook that we put baby changing stations in the men's restrooms because, after all, men change diapers too. Bam! We did it! Just last week on Twitter someone asked if we could help ease traffic congestion coming out of the Maple Wood Subdivision near the 96 and Mack Hatcher construction. I forwarded this request to our Engineering and Streets Departments, and they are working on a solution.
Sure, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and the next big thing are ultimately social, but as a citizen feedback tool, social media is priceless. On our city sites, we try to have fun, but we also let people weigh in on some pretty serious topics. No matter what, it is always interesting to see what followers have to say. And comments are already helping make Franklin a better place to live, work and play in tangible ways!
So when you are sitting with your family and everyone is staring into their mobile devices, before you tell them to turn it off and go play outside for a walk, check to see if they are commenting on a City of Franklin site, and if so, I think you should let them finish.
Milissa Reierson is the communications manager for the city of Franklin. You can follow the city of Franklin at www.facebook.com/cityoffranklin or www.twitter.com/cityoffranklin. Email Milissa at Milissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: 3/29/2013