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County weighing benefits of social media

11/13/2012

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Finney County Commission wants more information about how social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would benefit county departments and taxpayers before it hires a company to create a coordinated social media package for the county.

Tanner Lucas, branch manager of New Boston Creative Group, told the commission on Monday that 97 percent of small businesses have some sort of a social media presence online, and as a result there has come to be an expectation from the public that businesses will have a social media component.

It's an issue of communication and transparency, he said.

"I think we need to be more proactive with how governments in general communicate. More of a news agency approach in getting information out there and then allowing feedback to occur. That's the only way we get better," Lucas said.

Finney County has a Facebook page but it is used sporadically and does not engage users or offer a consistent message. And some departments have their own Facebook page while others have nothing.

"One of the problems when you have departments setting up Facebook pages, is it's very difficult to control the message," Lucas said. "I'm all for people being able to put information out there but if I were an administrator ... there's some value in having some people who are trained and knowledgeable about what it takes."

New Boston's proposal would develop a social media suite that would include at least Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and possibly other sites such as LinkedIn, designed to inform the public about what's going on in county government and also provide a feedback channel from the public to the county.

Lucas estimated the cost, depending on how extensive the set up, would be between $5,220 to $7,020 and would include setup, consultation, training and content development.

Before making a decision, the commission asked county administrator Randy Partington to find out how many departments are interested and what the county would gain by doing it. They also want to know how the county will be able to measure success.

Lucas said measuring the county's return on investment will depend heavily on how specifically the county wants to use social media. For example, he said, it could be something as simple as counting the numbers that click on a Facebook link that goes back to the county website, or it could go also track how many people are having conversations about a particular issue or are clicking on and viewing information in a link.

"Whatever the case I think there's a tremendous role for social media in any government agency particularly a county just based on the breadth of issues they address and the number of people they serve," Lucas said.

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