I have lived in a lot of places over the years but I wouldn’t call any particular place “Home”. Four years ago, we moved to Aurora. Despite Aurora’s growth it still has that small town feel. My first trip to the grocery store, the cashier asked if I had just moved into the area because she didn’t recognize me. I was blown away, what a wonderful first impression. Aurora hasn’t disappointed, which is why it is ranked in the top 25 places to live in Canada. I now am proud to call Aurora “Home”.
As a resident of Aurora, I have taken advantage of visiting our town hall as I live around the corner. For residents that don’t find it as convenient to stop in, Aurora has a Social Media platform that addresses all residents in the community.
Social Media isn’t just about town messages; it’s about sharing information. In the past, municipalities have relied on word of mouth to keep up with the news and maintain a sense of community. Word of mouth is even more important today, and with Social Media it also allows people to chat and comment with a distribution that is quick and widespread. Social Media is the new word of mouth.
“It is a fairly recent trend for municipalities to be using social networks as a part of their communication program. Four years ago, there were no municipalities in Ontario with a profile on any social networks. A recent review of the 444 Ontario municipalities found 162 are engaged, and this number has grown by more than 240% since it was last measured by Town staff in September 2011” (2012) “Social Media Strategy of East Gwillimbury”
The rapid growth in social media demonstrated the popularity of this form of communication. Municipalities have indicated the issue is not whether municipalities should participate in social networks: the question is how they should participate. The potential to engage with the local residents suggests how valuable social networking could be to the Town’s communication program.
Benefits of Social Media to Municipalities:
Satisfy public’s expectation for on line communication
Promote principals of open government
Provide effective access to diverse audience
Enable quick communication during a crisis/emergency
Promote sense of authenticity
Attract top talent
At the Town of Aurora, Marketing and Social Media are an integrated strategy. There’s a message that is consistently delivered through all mediums; as a group of products and is ongoing. There isn’t a specific time allotment for Social Media. As Social Media is a reactive medium, the communications team actively monitoring and adding content which allows residents to be informed.
The Town of Aurora is ahead of all its municipal peers in York Region when it comes to utilizing Social Media. The Town of Aurora has made the decision to utilize Facebook, Twitter , Linked In and YouTube. Although, traditional mediums are still used, the preferred method of communication is through social media. Social Media provides the town the ability to reach residents that they may not normally reach. Many people within the community may not receive or read local papers, however, almost everyone has access to the internet. As well as there being a diverse population within the community, with the internet, the information can be convert into the language of choice.
When I met with Mike Kemp, Manager of Corporate Communications, he indicated that the Town of Aurora has a co-op program with the local high school. High schools are now streaming into specific fields such as marketing. The marketing co-op allows the Town of Aurora to have a fresh perspective. To date, there have been four students that have participated in the marketing co-op.
The Town updates residences on pertinent information such as, extended or holiday hours, projects, upcoming events and notice boards.
As I was looking around the neighborhood in the last few weeks, I noticed a lot of construction trucks and garbage bins. With winter just around the corner, people want to get all their home renovations done. The Town of Aurora is right on top of the demand and understands that not everyone can make it into the office during regular business hours. Which is why they are offering extended hours for building permits. On October 16th, Town Hall was open late to issue permits.
Town of Aurora has also been busy updating residence on construction projects in the town. I personally am keeping an eye on these updates. The Aurora Family Leisure Complex has been closed for renovations since November 2013. The pool is within walking distance from my house and my family enjoyed using the facility; I look forward to the opening of the updated facility.
I was able to speak with Mike about the extended hours for building permits and the Aurora Family Leisure Complex construction project.
This is the progress on the Aurora Family Leisure Complex at the end of October.
Town of Aurora Social Media Metrics
Mike and I spoke about the social media metrics, one measurement tool used is traffic to the website. Mike joined the Town of Aurora in 2012, and at that time “The Town of Aurora website had 30,000 unique visits per month, and now there’s 45,000 unique visit per month. There were also approximately 200 followers on twitter and now there are over 3400”.
The Town of Aurora has 1127 Likes on Facebook. However, “Likes” can be easily manipulated and therefore are not used as a measurement tool. The method of measurement is through the level of engagement by customer interaction such as replies, comments and re tweets.
As a resident of Aurora, I visit the website and read the local papers. Now, Aurora has one more twitter and Facebook follower.
Engaging in Social Media can be overwhelming for an organization at first. It is important to know what the desired outcome is, develop policies, integrate the social media platform into your marketing strategy and maintain a consistent messaging and monitoring system. Once the strategy is in place, it is imperative that there are metrics in place to measure the success of the strategy.
Submitted By: Jennifer Norris – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.
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