November 01 2011

How Urban Planners Use Social Media to Engage Stakeholders

Two weeks ago, I discussed the various ways that urban planners and firms use social media to reach out and interact with public audiences (i.e. Facebook and Twitter).  While using these platforms is a good way of creating a base and engaging with users, knowing how to use these methods correctly and in the right combination makes for a successful web campaign. Below, are a couple case studies that display how city agencies use social media both creatively and effectively.

The City of New York, New York: Bike Share Program

As mentioned earlier on the blog, social media can be used as a tool to encourage crowdsourcing (gathering data from public input and opinion).  As it prepares to launch a bike share program, The City of New York has created an interactive website that allows users to suggest and view locations for the upcoming system within the city. Their added input can not only be exported to Facebook, Twitter, and Email, but users can also track to see how their suggestions are stacking up with fellow users.  On the city’s end, they can see which stations are more popular than others, using public opinion as an additional lens to see where bike share stations would make the most sense for potential riders.  This method not only combines established social media outlets, but encourages users to interact with each other, albeit indirectly.

The City of Portland, Oregon: Portland Plan

It’s also worth mentioning, again, the success of the Portland Plan, a city plan that was partially conceived using a carefully constructed and executed social media campaign. To get public opinion and feedback, the city organized a series of workshops and meetings that were publicized using Facebook and Twitter, and allowed Facebook users to interact with one another directly through the Plan’s page.  Portland also posted videos of the plan fairs, meeting highlights, and city action campaigns to YouTube, allowing for more user interaction and response. The end result is now available as a draft plan, which is now up for public comment and review until early November.  By reaching out to city residents across a variety of platforms and allowing them to interact directly with the city and each other, Portland was able to get a better sense of what residents needed and wanted, and could reflect those factors accurately in the new plan.

Overall, we see that the success of these projects hinges on two key elements:

  1. The use of multiple social media networks to spread the message;
  2. The encouragement of users to interact with city agencies and with one another to provide necessary feedback.

What other successful projects that have happened in your city as a result of 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, November 1st, 2011 at 4:45 pm and is filed under Branding, Content, Internet Marketing, Technology, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design, Website 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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