Connecting with Communities via Facebook
The social networking giant Facebook now hosts over 1.23 billion active members, including individuals from all over the world and a wide range of public and private organizations, businesses and communities. As a way of reaching residents faster with important community bulletins, cities, townships, counties, chambers of commerce and other local groups are finding their way online with Facebook, which has quickly become the gold standard in social media. With billions of users logging on at least monthly and millions logging on daily, checking up on community news and sharing information when news breaks no longer requires newspapers, new bulletins or city hall meetings; any information available or required is only a click away.
Online networks are no longer exclusively used by a single age group or demographic, creating a way to reach, engage and interact with a large portion of a community’s constituents. From Governor Rick Snyder reaching over 67,000 Facebook fans to the Pure Michigan page newly reaching the one million “like” mark, Michigan’s central government alone hosts over 50 Facebook pages, with hundreds more local pages. Michigan is only one example of states across the nation using Facebook and other social outlets to connect with their constituents, both in urban and rural areas.
“With Facebook, the information spread is much faster, it gets to people almost instantaneously. It reaches an even wider audience because people will forward links,” said Jon Schneider City Manager of Newaygo, MI. Newaygo recently used their Facebook page to warn citizens about a water main break, where reduced pressure in the system posed a health hazard. While the line was being fixed, residents were warned to boil water before consumption. Daily updates kept residents informed and fans of the page passed along the regular updates to their own Facebook friends, quickly reaching a larger network of thousands. Users were also able to post their own questions and uncertainties and get responses regarding the safety of the water or when it would be fixed. “It’s easier for people to respond,” said Schneider. “They don’t have to track people down on the phone or stop by city hall.” As questions arose, a new post would answer concerns collectively or the page manager would respond individually to comments.
Facebook is accessible online through a computer or through a mobile device, making updates and sharing possible anywhere mobile wireless networks or fixed networks are available. Connect Michigan’s county-by-county broadband service inventory maps show a wide network of broadband availability in both urban areas and rural areas like Newaygo. As these networks continue to grow and reach more constituents with faster Internet, online social outlets like Facebook will continue to serve the community in new ways.