As September came to a close, the City of Bloomington officially announced its participation in social media, featuring a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This is the kind of local activity I was hoping for when I joined Twitter in 2007.
The loudest voices giving advice about Twitter strategy tend to argue for maximizing followers. These large network broadcasters often reject Twitter as an effective means of two-way communication, pushing links and retweets as the way to improve signal. If one’s focus is solely on broadcast of information, then size does matter and content should have relevance to the general audience. However, a relational community—particularly one with a mission of improving face-to-face interaction—is better served by quality over quantity. In a local context, knowing where someone is headed to lunch can add value to an offline relationship.
There was a time when one could describe local Twitterers with a short bullet list. Today, there are almost 1000 confirmed Bloomingtonians using the service (unconfirmed estimates are closer to 1300 accounts). Bloomington is a college town. A high percentage of transient residents coming and going through the academic cycle of Indiana University, making the relevant network considerably larger. While Bloomington appears to have found its voice as a technology and innovation hub, it remains small potatoes among the millions now using Twitter.
As an organization, the City was slow to pick up the value of social media. It is likely officials view it primarily as a broadcast medium. This is evident in the fact that, at the moment, their Twitter account isn’t following anyone. Two other local pillars—the Herald-Times and Indiana University (with many specialized accounts)—are also primarily broadcast accounts, but they have each made use of the two-way communication the service offers and humanized the information they distribute to their following.
Over time, the City of Bloomington will figure this out. We’ll know we’ve turned another important corner when our Mayor is tweeting about where he’s headed to lunch … and welcoming the conversation that follows him there.Tags: City of Bloomington, Herald-Times, Indiana, Indiana University, local, social network, Twitter