With Twitter, Facebook and other social networking mediums exploding in the Web 2.0 movement, Evanston officials said the city is trying to keep up with the times through its “government 2.0” initiative, an effort to use social networking as a platform for communication with residents.
In recent months, the city launched a Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel and other Internet-based forms of communication like City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s blog.
Bobkiewicz and Erika Storlie, the city’s Web developer, recently formed a citizen feedback group called the Citizen’s New Media Task Force to help expand its social networking drive.
“We thought it would be nice to have a group of people to go to and get feedback on how to improve our communication and also get new ideas,” Storlie said.
The group consists of 33 citizen volunteers and meets via Google Wave.
“When I was first exposed to government 2.0, I thought it was really interesting,” said RJ Coleman, an Evanston resident who is a member of the task force. “I’ve been involved with the community before. Anything that can facilitate communication and better governing is great.”
The city’s use of new media was particularly useful during the snow emergencies on Thursday and Friday, when the city kept some residents informed using Twitter updates, Storlie said.
“One of the biggest things we are trying to do is connect with the people who want to be informed no matter what,” Storlie said.
Eric Palmer, Evanston’s community information coordinator , said city governments need to keep up with the trends just like any other business.
“Part of the genesis of putting this together is to move into the realm of interactive media and social media multiple levels outside of radio and print,” he said.
For Coleman, the task force’s medium of communication is a revolution in itself.
Although the group has just started, Coleman said he hopes the group can find new ways to make the city’s job easier.
“All of these technologies are basically free, so anything that can help the city to function more efficiently and reduce costs would be terrific,” he said.
The city continues to strive to increase its visibility on various social media networks, Storlie said.
The City of Evanston’s Twitter account has 281 followers, and the Evanston Facebook page has more than 1,700 fans.
The city set a goal of achieving 2,000 fans by January and came close but plans to reach its goal by the end of the month, Storlie said.
“We would love to grow our viewership,” Storlie said. “A lot of this stuff has been implemented in the last four months, and it’s been growing organically from there. We’re hoping the new media group will help us figure out more outreach in new low-cost ways.”[email protected]