Community Change Through Facebook

With more than 1.7 billion active users logging onto Facebook each month, it now represents the largest connected network in the world. Besides its massive global scale, Facebook also connects community groups including schools, universities, police departments, economic councils, and many others. To gauge the broadband infrastructure of Arenac County, Michigan, Connect Michigan (CM) asked key community members to share important messages on the site and share with their friends and neighbors. Within a few hours, the power of this community yielded impressive results.

In order to improve broadband infrastructure of any area, a full assessment of available resources and interest in development must first be conducted, requiring a survey of residents, business owners, schools, and more. To get an accurate assessment of Arenac County, the survey required 500 responses. Though traditionally conducted with paper surveys, Arenac County’s surveys were conducted mainly online to acquire more detailed information faster.

Lisa Barna, Business Services Professional at Michigan Works! and Arenac County EDC liaison shared the online survey with another community member and a friend on Facebook. In a few hours, other friends had shared the survey and, in two days, the online responses via Facebook put participation over the 500 required.

“I think the response was good because there is a need for it,” said Barna. “Having good Internet is something that people want.”

Reaching a wide audience also helped to get an important message to the right people. Tagging others in the initial post helped to spread the word, and shares by other residents, neighbors and friends expanded the survey’s reach. By posting on a community sale and trade site popular with local moms, the survey reached more than 10,000 people in two days.

“The key is finding someone who is really connected and willing to put the message out there,” said Barna. While Barna also posted a link to the survey and tagged friends, shares and reposts to groups helped to give the message traction across the community. “It is critical to tag people in the post. Then encourage them to share and tag people as well.”

With the survey finished, CM and Arenac County leaders now have a clear picture of how to move forward. To learn more about the power of social media for community development in other areas of Michigan and across the nation, visit http://connectmycommunity.org.

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