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Social Media Improves Citizen Engagement in Hinesville

August 25, 2016  |  Brittany McClure, Public Relations Manager at the City of Hinesville
The cultural impact of social media is tremendous. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have revolutionized the way that people interact, communicate and receive and disseminate information. 
When I came on board with the city of Hinesville, I knew that building a strong social media presence was a priority. Having worked as a social media professional with an institution of higher learning and as a journalist, I knew that social media had truly become a pulse by which success was measured.
I learned early on that in order to be successful at social media, I had to make my social media presence serve my followers and not my organization. That may sound odd if you are a city who is trying to market yourself or boost tourism, but the truth is, people are far more interested in how you can help them, rather than how they can help you. 
Think of it this way, would you rather share a post to help a business hit 10,000 followers, or a post that outlines useful tips that your friends may also find  useful? 
It is this ideology that lead me to make the city of Hinesville’s social media presence be defined by a purposeful intent of helping our residents. We wanted residents of Hinesville to visit our pages because they knew that we would serve them with the information they needed, instead of with “fluff” posts that just told them what we wanted them to hear. 
One way that we worked to achieve this is through things like around the clock weather updates. For example, during Tropical Storm Collin in June, Hinesville experienced flooding that resulted in damage and road closures. Throughout the night, I stayed in touch with our public works team who provided information that was then shared as real-time updates on Facebook and Twitter. 
Residents began following the posts, sharing the information with others and even commented about damage in their own neighborhoods that I was then able to pass on to city officials. In the midst of this tropical storm, we engaged and connected with residents in a way that had never been done before in the city. 
However, you don’t have to wait for a natural disaster to actively engage your residents. Having purposeful content isn’t always about being helpful, most of the time; it’s about literally defining a purpose and designing your posts around that purpose. 
As a Hinesville native who went off to college, got a job and then returned to the area seven years later, one of the things that I noticed was that I didn’t necessarily know the city that I had known so well. After I was hired, I began re-acquainting myself with Hinesville. It was through that process that I realized that there were probably residents who have lived in Hinesville since birth who have become so busy in everyday life that they had simply forgotten to “stop and smell the roses.” This is how the #RediscoverHinesville Instagram campaign was born. 
I started going to parks, historical sites, old buildings and more and posting interesting pictures with the hashtag. People started commenting on the beauty of Hinesville, how they had forgotten about a particular place and even asked how to get to the site in the photos. We now even receive suggestions from residents of places we should photograph next. It has become a truly remarkable campaign that has helped people fall in love with Hinesville all over again. 
Overall, the city of Hinesville has experienced a more than 20 percent increase in social media followers across all networks in four months, demonstrating the power that social media not only brings people together, but puts residents back in touch with  their cities.