In presenting on social media for local government, I try to emphasize that it’s not about the tool, it’s about the innovation. It’s about engaging people who may not naturally visit your web site or your city hall, but still care deeply about their government and their community. It’s about meeting people where they are and creating memorable experiences around civic values.
One fun idea I want to try out is engaging passionate check-in social media users with public art, parks and other public spaces. Check-in services include apps like MyTown, Loopt, Gowalla, Foursquare, and location-based features on Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. They are niche services, but their users are highly connected and social.
Much of what collective democratic government does is create publicly owned property: what if your agency, program or city used contests and recognition to activate location-based service users with exciting experiences around important initiatives and public assets? Maybe you could challenge folks to create a trip on Gowalla, consisting of 10 public artworks around your city, or 10 new public works projects. You could then use something like UserVoice to collect those citizen-generated check-in scavenger hunts and have others vote up their favorite. You could then feature all the teams that completed the top three trips on your website, give them a luncheon with an artist working on the next piece of public art, or recognize them in some other innovate way.
For a challenge like this, the innovation is not dependent on the tech. Teams and individuals could also complete the challenge by snapping photos of themselves at each spot and submitting those. I bet local newspapers would love to cover something like this, so you’re reaching a traditional audience, activating citizen-driven content, and getting anyone who votes on the trips involved in the fun.
– Adriel Hampton