Inside County Government

Mecklenburg County ‘likes’ social media

When I learned that Mecklenburg County had 18 different profiles on six social media platforms, I was somewhat skeptical.

Not to be too critical, but a government body posting selfies doesn’t usually rouse my interest. So I sought the rationale.

The county’s used social media for years but lacked a strategy on how it wanted to target specific audiences, County Manager Dena Diorio said.

Enter Nicole Sabourin, the county’s social media coordinator. She helps manage Meck’s social media presence with this goal in mind: Keep residents in the know on county services, programs and events. Occasionally, she – and other staff members who use the profiles – answer questions, complaints or comments.

“Until we had Nicole here, we really weren’t engaging in dialogue with people,” Diorio said.

Here are four profiles you might like:

▪ @rbeardenpark (Romare Bearden Park on Twitter)

Why bother: Sabourin sums it up well: “It’s a well-loved park in Charlotte” that hosts concerts, walk-a-thons, park parties and boot camps. The parks-and-rec staff use the Twitter profile mostly to promote their events. Sabourin said she’s working to fine-tune a system that will ply the page with photos and weather notifications. It’s also great if you like videos of strangers dancing.

▪ Mecklenburg County Waste Reduction (Facebook)

Why bother: Yes, this is a page about the county’s trash. But here’s why I like it: You can see complaints and reviews.

Most organizations use social media for self-promotion and paint an (often unrealistic) picture of how everyone loves them.

With Facebook, you can move beyond the hype and get to the nuts-and-bolts of what people care about, such as the man who in July complained that the Foxhole Landfill is a ripoff. Here’s where companies can shine: Meck Waste answered his gripe, broke down how rates are set and sent him a link for more information.

He wrote back with another complaint but did express gratitude for the response. It’s not a perfect system but “we the people” like it when government listens.

▪ Mecklenburg County (Instagram)

Why bother: Eye candy – that’s what I think of Instagram. It’s perfect if you’re someone people love gawking at, or you’re a business owner selling cupcakes or clothes.

So when I saw the county on Instagram, I was doubtful. Sabourin understands and admits building the Instagram audience is one of her biggest challenges: “We’re certainly trying to figure out a way to create captivating visuals that bring awareness to our services and programs.”

Here’s what you’ll find: Photos of kids climbing things, puppies in the park, ladies wearing big hats, county commissioners shoveling dirt and the faces of other people who make decisions about your taxes. Works for me.

▪ Mecklenburg County (Facebook)

Why bother: With more than 3,160 “likes,” the county’s Facebook page is the social media mother ship, drawing the most visitors of any county social media page hands down, Sabourin said. It’s updated pretty regularly with things going on in the community. For me, the page highlights are the visitor posts, which continue to show how many people confuse Mecklenburg County with the city of Charlotte.