October 18 2011

Best Uses of Social Media for Urban Planning

From the beginning of its practice, planning has always been a discipline of engagement.  Without engaging and interacting with city residents and constituents, planners would be lost with regards to making effective decisions and city plans.  Now, with technology virtually omnipresent and more of these residents having access to data and city information, it’s imperative that planners use technology in ways to benefit their city.  Social media, with its ability to connect and engage planners and citizens, is the best way to tap into this growing resource, and a key tool to getting honest, candid, and useful feedback about urban environments.

Here are some the ways in which planners, organizations, and firms can use social media for their benefit:

facebook logo

Arguably the largest and most widely used social media network, Facebook has over 800 million users worldwide.  Each user has the ability to create a profile page that tells other users who they are and what they’re interested in.  Organizations and firms also have the ability to create profiles to promote their brand or business, while allowing users to become “fans”, post photos, and comment. Not only do users become aware of the brand, but also find other users who share their passion.  Furthermore, brand pages can interact with users, create dialogues, and prompt fans for more information and ideas to better the organization.  This methodology also makes Facebook the most interactive of the social media platforms.


Often referred to as a “microblogging service”, Twitter’s over 200 million users are engaged, informed, and used to processing short messages known as “tweets”.  Because tweets are limited to 140 characters, Twitter is by nature concise and fast-paced.  Organizations and firms do not have the opportunity to create interactive profile pages like on Facebook, but instead have the ability to quickly and personally reply back to users who tweet at them or about them.  Twitter users can also tweet about certain topics (proceeded by a “#”), and in doing so find other users who share their views and interests.  Planners can use data gathered from tweets to discover collective views about their city and learn more about popular hot-button issues.


A relative newcomer to the social media scene, Foursquare allows its users to “check-in” to locations, letting their friends know where they are and “unlocking” their city through discovery and sharing tips and information.  Organizations and firms can set up business pages that not only encourage users to “check-in” to their company outlets and locations, but also to send their own tips about the neighborhood or related industries and businesses. As mentioned earlier in this blog, planners can use Foursquare and related services to determine the most used, underused, and popular areas of their city.  It’s an easy way to get quick data that helps define resident patterns.

More Social Media

There are other sites and platforms that can help planners share specific content mediums as well as limit their audience and scope.  YouTube allows users to post videos, Flickr is a way to share high-quality photos, and LinkedIn helps connect industry professionals across the globe.  By utilizing one or more of these services, planners can not only reach out in myriad ways to their constituents, but also get direct feedback as to the level, quality, and equity of city services and plans.

What are some of the ways that planners you know use social media?

Barrett Lane

Barrett Lane is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where he is pursuing a Master of City Planning with a concentration in Urban Design. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining The Grid, Barrett was the Director of Creative Content at Yipit, and most recently interned with the New York City Department of City Planning. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 6:51 am and is filed under Branding, Content, Internet Marketing, Social/Demographics, Technology, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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