NYC Digital launched their Digital Roadmap in the spring of 2011. Having an effective social media strategy was at the heart of the matter. At the beginning of this project, approximately 25 million people a year visited NYC's 200+ digital channels. Of the 25 million online visitors, approximately 1.2 million individuals per month were connecting with the City through social media.
What they did
According to the Digital Roadmap, NYC Digital's ultimate goal was to create a healthier civil society and stronger democracy through the use of technology that engages, serves, and connects New Yorkers. They set out to achieve the following objectives:
- Expand their digital reach through a consolidated approach to social media
- Maintain a consistent voice, while decentralizing communication to thousands of municipal departments and agencies
- Share information and updates in multiple languages for a diverse multicultural population
- Provide consistent, accurate, and accessible information during emergencies
- Use social media to listen to, engage with, and gain valuable insights from constituents
While managing over 200 social channels seemed like a demanding task, it also offered an invaluable opportunity to serve citizens better and connect with their constituents more effectively. To accomplish their objectives, the City of New York turned to Hootsuite Enterprise.
How they did it
The City assembled teams from across its various agencies and assigned individual levels of publishing access, responsibility, and authority for social media channels. This meant NYC Digital could start honing their strategy for responding to public needs and providing the kind of information they wanted the most. In no time, other City agencies started pulling together—collaborating, managing messages, and developing social media protocols to serve the public better.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic coast, putting the City’s new digital strategy and social media communications to the test.
Because of the shift to digital and the rapid-fire way information is disseminated, the use of social media as a means to communicate has become a necessity.
Social media and emergency management
NYC Digital monitored social media for public reactions to the storm, sending daily reports to City Hall. As citizens turned to the City's social media channels for accurate and reliable information during those critical moments, their social media reach expanded to over 2 million people.
As one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history struck the eastern seaboard, all the social media planning, protocols and functionalities that had been set into place were fully engaged. New York City agencies turned to social media to help achieve the following:
Improved emergency information
Since Hurricane Sandy, City agencies like the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have continued to engage constituents to provide critical information during both emergency and non-emergency situations.
During non-emergency times, the City uses its social media channels for proactive, engaging campaigns—such as a light-hearted poetry competition on Twitter—to educate people about what the City does, build connections between its agencies, establish an online meeting point for citizens, and put a more human face on government.
During the winter storm of 2013 with its record-setting snowfalls, teams used the hashtag #nemo to send and receive real-time information—posting photos of the forecast and encouraging constituents to visit the PlowNYC website to check the status of their roads.
The Hootsuite platform is extremely comprehensive and has proved invaluable in emergency situations. It's been our one-stop-shop for everything from message management and rumor control to collaboration with other agencies and analytics to improve our programs.
In March 2014, when two apartment buildings collapsed in East Harlem, teams used the hashtag #eastharlemexplosion—and translated messages into Spanish—as a way to update citizens.
Social media teams continue to use keywords, photo searches, geo-location, and multiple language channels to quickly identify and monitor critical public situations, dramatically improving their situational awareness.
NYC Digital continues to chart a course that builds on its impressive initiatives and successes. Since the Digital Roadmap implementation in 2011, the City has:
- More than tripled their social media audiences, from 1.2 million over 200 channels in 2011 to over 3.7 million across 340 channels in 2013
- Established a two-way dialogue with the public during “blue skies” periods when all is well and developed social media protocols to manage emergency situations
- Developed a way to support greater civic engagement without overwhelming the user, involving both public and government/agency staff
- Increased the City's total digital reach by 85%, sharing critical information, emergency alerts, major announcements, and program deadlines from dozens of agencies and programs