Mayor’s office offers up a social media boot-camp class

By 
Jacob Aguiar, Special to the Reporter
Jul. 17, 2014

The first class in Mayor Martin Walsh’s new Civic Academy initiative was held at South Boston’s District Hall last Saturday. The event drew a mix of social media-savvy activists, old-school pen-and-paper types, and a group of people who fell somewhere in between.

Lindsay Crudele, the city’s community and social technology strategist, and Charles McEnerney, a principal at Layers Marketing, spoke to the class about new social media tools at their disposal. McEnerney talked about websites that could serve as platforms to build online communities and the positive and negative aspects of each option. He also discussed the importance of connecting online communication efforts with old-fashioned flyering and door-knocking.

For her part, Crudele relayed some of the “best practices” for social media use, demonstrating how to effectively link social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook by using her work at the mayor’s office for examples. She also talked about what types of messages work best for each outlet and gave tips about tweet length and social media message scheduling.

Bob Mickewicz, a longtime leader of the “low tech” Hancock Street Civic association, was one of the Dorchester civic leaders who turned out.“I got an email about the event and thought, well, the mayor is trying something new. I’ll see what he is trying to do. I do not use social media or Twitter but I learned more than I knew before and a lot about how the mayor is using it to improve the neighborhoods,” said Mickewicz.

“We use flyers and news bulletins, what McEnerney referred to as ‘guerilla marketing,’ to communicate within our group,” said Kelley O’Shea of the St. Vincent’s Neighborhood Association in South Boston. “But we want to reach the new people that live in South Boston. There are a lot of younger people and we want to use social media to get them involved and get their input because they have a lot to offer.”

Anne Szewczyk, a Boston University student and member of Students for Education Reform, came to “hear what the community cares about. It was good to learn about the city of Boston calendar,” said Szewczyk. “We try to host a lot of events at colleges and it can be hard to reach out to the surrounding communities. Using the City of Boston calendar and Facebook page will be helpful to us in our effort to connect better to the community.”

Said Irvienne Goldson, deputy director of Action for Boston Community Development:”I am excited that the city is looking at social media as a way to engage with the community. I was also interested in the social media ‘best practices’ because our organization is looking at ways to use social media to increase awareness around our key issues like HIV prevention and education. We are also trying to use it to increase awareness of the programs that we offer.”

Goldson said she came away from the presentation feeling that ABCD is “doing a good job of managing our social media presence. It was heartening to hear that we are doing it right,” she said. “It was also great to learn about the different ways we can connect with the mayor’s office.”

Retired Boston Police Officer Ted Loos had had personal experience with City Hall’s social media, specifically through its Citizen Connect application. “There was a sink hole and it was getting pretty serious so I took a picture of it and went to the City of Boston website, uploaded the picture, and the same day city workers came out to shore up the hole and the next day it was taken care of,” said Loos.

Crudele talked about the “spothole” media campaign run by the mayor’s office as an example of how to create potentially viral media events. Residents could have used the Citizen Connect app or tweet images of potholes with the #spothole to help ramp up pothole filling efforts last March.

Walsh met with attendees after the event, telling them:”I have been using social media in my first six months of office to gauge different metrics and get a few different messages out. It is kind of a theme we have going,” Walsh said. “It was great to see so many people here who I don’t think are tech savvy that hopefully learned a lot. I have embraced it because social media communication is clearly the future.”