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City of Las Vegas tapping into the potential of social media

What happens in Vegas is likely to end up on one of the city’s social media accounts.

From Twitter and Tumblr to Facebook and Snapchat to Instagram and Youtube — you name the social media platform, the city of Las Vegas has an account.

Las Vegas, like many local governments across the country, has tapped into the constituent connection potential of social media.

In the time since city staff starting using social media, they’ve gone from “rank amateurs in this to being an organization people seek out to get advice from on what they should do,” City Communications Director David Riggleman said.

The social media focus for Las Vegas started ramping up around 2013, and Jennifer Davies on the city’s public affairs team leads those efforts.

“We respond to everybody,” Davies said. “Good, bad and in between.”

City staff have been asked to speak at conferences, and representatives from Orange County, California, have reached out recently to get social media advice, Riggleman said.

A diverse range of content and a conversational tone is one of the things Davies said she thinks sets the city apart.

On any given day, if you follow the city on Twitter, you might get information on an active shooter drill, learn that it’s “National French Toast Day” and get a tidbit like the number of marriage licenses that are issued in southern Nevada daily.

“I think our responsiveness and our constant content we’re putting out is important,” Davies said. “A lot of governments only monitor social from 8 to 5 when they’re in the office, so it can be a lot to do it on nights and weekends and keep it going 365 days a year, but we do.”

NOT LIKE OTHER MAJOR CITIES

Davies is largely dedicated to maintaining the city’s social media presence, but two other employees on the seven-person public affairs team pitch in on maintaining social media part time, and another two have some level of involvement with the city’s social media.

“We’re not like one of the major cities that has a larger budget, but we’re not really trying to skimp either,” Riggleman said.

The city had more than 138,500 Twitter followers, more than 31,000 Instagram followers and has been “liked” by more than 51,000 people on Facebook as of Friday afternoon. The number of connections, and how many people the city’s social media posts are reaching, are two of the ways to gauge its success in communicating with the public, Davies said.

The “lightbulb” moment for Riggleman was when people alerted the city through social media that the turnout for a community meeting about noise in the Fremont East Entertainment District was expected to reach 300.

“We had no idea except for the people who were on social at that time… and I thought, ‘We need to be part of this conversation,’” Riggleman said.

The city puts out a steady stream of photos, video, GIFs and quips, and has taken a more conversational tone over time.

A GIF, or graphic interchange format, is a brief moving image, often in a loop, that’s used to express something in a matter of seconds. That’s one of the things the city gets a lot of compliments on in its social media presence, Davies said.

Ultimately, they look at data and the level of engagement to see what’s working and what isn’t. The “highest-performing” content the city puts out on social media tends to be putting a Las Vegas spin on something, Davies said.

The city’s most popular Tweet to date featured a photo of City Hall lit up red, white and blue following the terrorist attack in Nice, France, in July. Before that, it was a Tweet about flags being lowered to half-staff when former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian died, Davies said.

The city’s communications staff also works with Mayor Carolyn Goodman on her Twitter account, Riggleman said.

It’s Goodman’s message, but someone else is physically putting out the Tweets, Riggleman said.

Over the past year, the tweets from Goodman’s accounts have documented a congratulatory statement to Las Vegas native and Chicago Cub Kris Bryant on the World Series win, a birthday visit to her office by a pair of Chippendales, responses to attacks in Brussels and Orlando and a CNN appearance during the Nevada caucuses.

WHAT SETS VEGAS APART

Other larger cities maintain Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, but their tones and strategies vary a bit. Las Vegas seems to have a more conversational tone and peppers in more light-hearted content, like cartoon character Homer Simpson eating brownies on “National Brownie Day.”

“Everyone asks us who we want to embody, and now I think we want to blaze our own trail and find what works for us,” Davies said. “And show people that government doesn’t have to be boring and uninteresting. We’re trying to bring a little fun to all the stuff that goes on around the city.”

All of these efforts are aimed at communicating with people where they’re already interacting, rather than expecting them to “conform” to the city, like speaking during a public comment session at a council meeting.

It’s a long way off, but Riggleman is interested in the city exploring a way to allow citizens to be more engaged in City Council meetings digitally. The meetings are held during the day on Wednesdays, and in order to voice something to the council at their meeting, they need to be there.

“We’d like to be on the front end of making that happen,” Riggleman said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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