The City of Salmon Arm is working towards increasing its social media engagement with residents. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

City working on social media presence

Salmon Arm communications strategy builds on community engagement

The City of Salmon Arm is working on its social media presence to increase engagement with residents.

At their Nov. 26 meeting, mayor and council received a city communication strategy update from corporate officer Erin Jackson. Her report revolved around initiatives undertaken by the city over the past year around public engagement. This began with the creation of a communication strategy regarding the Ross Street underpass.

“Taking a systemic approach to public engagement increases the likelihood of successful project outcomes. For this reason, staff worked with Therese Zulinick from Urban Systems to assist with the Communications and Engagement Strategy for the Ross Street Underpass,” says Jackson in a written report to council of the $10,000 initiative that involved presentations and open houses, a social media campaign, a webpage and videos posted on YouTube.

Related: Embracing social media

Jackson called the campaign successful, adding Urban Systems was also contracted to create a media toolkit for staff – that could also be used by council – identifying “key messages and communication best practices” that would “take a lot of the guesswork out of communications.” The toolkit resulting from this $5,000 initiative is expected to be ready by January 2019.

The city also hired social media contractor, Megan Jordan of ShopVernon.com, to help bolster the city’s Internet presence.

“We had previously used social media, but not to the extent that we are now, so that, I think, has also helped with initiatives that the city is undertaking,” commented Jackson.

Speaking to council, Jordan said since putting a social media strategy into effect, the city has seen, on average, an 840 per cent increase in engagement per post.

“I have also determined that there is a 233 per cent increase in social media reach, and we’ve also had on Facebook, a 19 per cent increase in audience over the past six months, and on Twitter, we’ve also had a 10 per cent increase in audience over the past six months as well,” said Jordan.

Related: Back to school: Kids talk social media, the web and slang words

Jordan offered two recommendations to council. One was that she take SASCU Recreation Centre’s social media presence and combine it with the city’s, noting the recreation centre’s website is going to be combined with the city’s which, according to Jackson’s report, is undergoing an $11,340 refresh that will “modernize the look and improve navigability of the site,” and be more compatible with devices.

Second, Jordan recommended her contract be expanded to include press releases.

“I really think it would be a great idea if I was able to do up a press report and be able to send it out to the local news outlets so that we could be breaking the news on these types of issues instead of having, you know, maybe an article come out in the Observer that isn’t factually correct, after the fact, that way the news appears to come from city hall and it just helps build that trust and that rapport we have with the residents of Salmon Arm,” said Jordan.

While acknowledging the role social media plays to help getting the city’s message out, Coun. Chad Eliason said local media (radio and newspaper) also play an important role, and argued the city needs to be doing better on all fronts. He suggested the city do more to communicate the big picture projects, perhaps on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Related: Social media addiction having deadly results among youth

“Some of my suggestions would be, here are the next five big capital projects from the City of Salmon Arm, we have a plan, we know where they’re going to go, here’s what’s happening with your water and sewer, here are the roads we’re going to pave next year… So that people aren’t wondering what’s happening, but they’re expecting we deliver those results of our plans,” said Eliason.

Jackson said if council wished to extend the social media consultant’s contract, it would have to come through budget. Coun. Tim Lavery asked that staff come back with a report with recommended options and cost implications for the 2019 budget year.

All of the above can be seen on the City of Salmon Arm’s YouTube video for the Nov. 26 afternoon session, Part 1.


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