Colorado Counties: Success and Challenges to New Media Use –

Read the full post with comments here. Originally posted 6/21/12 at 1:30 pm

In April I wrote briefly about Commissioner Audrey Danner from Moffat County, Colorado and her efforts in using social media to connect with her constituents.

I had a chance to sit down with Commissioner Danner earlier this month at the Colorado Counties, Inc. summer conference and talk a bit more about Moffat County using Facebook and some of the challenges surrounding social media in general. Moffat County is in rural northwest Colorado. The county is almost the size of the state of Connecticut, yet has a population of only about 13,000. (Connecticut’s population….3.5 million.)

For the most part, Danner is alone in her use of Facebook at the county level. The two other county commissioners do not currently use social media tools to communicate, preferring to stick with more traditional methods for now. Though electronic communications do work for large segment of population, the commissioners feel that the kind of interactions that come from face-to-face communications still can’t be replicated online. County residents are encouraged to interact with the commissioners and have an opportunity to publicly address issues at the beginning of each commission meeting. The commissioners make other public appearances known so that residents can chat with them.

For Danner, her Facebook experience started as just a personal page a few years ago before her last campaign. She allowed citizens to be her friends online, and they got to know a bit about her. She said it made her “real” to her constituents, not just another elected official. She regularly shares county events and happenings, as well as what she does as a county commissioner, including budget meetings, economic development presentations, discussions on bringing broadband to Moffat County, etc. She sees it as an easy way for people to talk to her, make her easily accessible, encourage back and forth discussion in a more friendly manner than a formal commission meeting. The discussions on the page page are still professional, however, and if necessary she recommends discussion at county meetings or an e-mail message to discuss issues that might be better handled offline.

She is currently running for a second term as county commissioner and is considering a separate page for her upcoming reelection campaign to make the online separation between her current position and her campaign.

In the county offices, most Internet activity, especially social media, is prohibited by county staff while at work, mostly because of bandwidth issues. The biggest issue facing the county in this case, and many others like it, is rural broadband access. We talked at length about access issues gong back to the mid 1990s.

In my next piece, I will discuss rural broadband access, specifically in Colorado.

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Rural Governments and Social Media: The Moffat County, Colorado Experience –

Read the full post on Originally posted 4/11/12 at 4:04 pm.

Rural local governments across the country have historically had something of a tougher time than their more populated counterparts when it comes to connecting with their citizens. Greater distances, lower incomes, slower Internet access and hesitancy about adaption of certain communications technologies have proven to be the main challenges. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in the western United States, where there is an abundance of land and far fewer people per square mile.  (A bit about the “digital divide.”)

It is precisely for these reasons that rural governments should consider jumping on the opportunity to using social media tools – in cooperation with existing outreach and communications – to connect with their citizens. A great example is Moffat County, Colorado.  Situated in the northwest corner of the state, Moffat is the second largest county in Colorado (4,756 square miles) but has a relatively small population of only 13,818 people. Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner has seen firsthand the effectiveness of social media tools. Commissioner Danner spearheaded the county’s new website and has her own Facebook page. “I’ve embraced these tools, and they have really proven effective at getting the message out to my constituents. More importantly, they’ve provided a forum for the citizens to share information with me – which helps me do my job better.”

I’ll be detailing Moffat County’s experiences in future posts. Stay tuned.

Have you seen rural governments embracing new communications? How do you think they’re doing?

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