National Study Ranks Virginia Beach Second Among City Governments Using Social Media

Friday, March 23, 2012

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago analyzed and ranked the online interactivity, transparency and accessibility of the country’s 75 largest cities from March through May 2011 and compared them to the same data collected in 2009. Virginia Beach ranked second with a score of 90.43% behind New York and Seattle, which tied for first place with 93.33%.

The cities’ rankings reflected opportunities for citizen participation and information, including:

  • Hosting of open data portals
  • Comments allowed on blogs and social networks
  • The extent to which online discussions concerned policy as well as city services
  • Information on officials, budgets, city council meetings and neighborhood issues

Karen Mossberger, head of the university’s public administration graduate program that conducted the study, said the top-ranked cities have made technology a priority, especially for transparency or civic engagement.

The city of Virginia Beach is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. In addition to the city’s primary pages, 17 individual departments also have a presence on at least one social media site.

Citizens contact the city via social media to get answers to questions like “How do I report that a streetlight is out?” or “How can I get mosquito control to spray my neighborhood?” The city shares information about road closures due to paving operations and posts notices about public input meetings for city projects and initiatives. Residents and visitors can also use the city’s social media sites to learn about concerts coming to the Farm Bureau Live Virginia Beach Amphitheater and the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, as well as annual city-sponsored special events such as the Strawberry Festival, the North American Sand Soccer Tournament and the Neptune Festival.

In fact, the city’s social media program has proved to be an invaluable tool during emergencies like Hurricane Irene. “Facebook and Twitter in particular provided a simple means to quickly get information out to the public and answer their questions,” said Mary Hancock, Media and Communications administrator for Virginia Beach.

“The city’s Facebook page nearly doubled in ‘likes’ in a matter of days, and after the storm, we received  more than 100 notes on Facebook from residents and their out-of-town family and friends saying thank you for keeping them informed. Many people mentioned how much they appreciated the ease and convenience of being able to both receive information and ask questions via social media,” Hancock said.

Link to the study:
http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/ipce/research.shtml

City of Virginia Beach social media sites:
http://www.vbgov.com/community-connect/Pages/Social-Media.aspx

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