With young people’s faith in government at an all-time low (according to a Harvard University study), local governments are using social media tools to regain the trust of millennials.
Stephen Hardy, chief community builder for MindMixer, a community engagement tool used by more than 300 cities nationwide, said engaging young people in government is a difficult task.
“Government engagement is an alien prospect for this [younger] generation,” Hardy said. “They don’t want to go to a community meeting… they want to 'plug in'."
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are ways municipalities can increase transparency and. According to a study from The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), 100 percent of respondents reported their states use social media in some manner. 83 percent use Facebook “moderately or widely,” while 81 percent use Twitter and 83 percent use YouTube. 80 percent of Chief Information Officers polled valued social media use in state governments as “high” or “essential.”
Posting information is easy; to foster the trust municipalities seek to build, Hardy said local governments must also listen.
Communication is important to millennial voters, but many expressed disillusionment about a perceived lack of impact on governments. “We are now getting better involvement by taking a different approach,” said Hardy.
Hardy says ImproveSF.com is a site local governments can use as a model for online engagement. Through the site, residents submit problems to solve. These problems are then discussed and shared online via social media outlets. Community leaders review the ideas, give feedback and implement the best ideas to solve the problem.
San Francisco has used these “group learning” methods to solve problems ranging from farmers market constructions to redesigning library cards, according to Hardy.
Other cities using similar tactics include Los Angeles, Chicago and “all the way down to Cherokee, Iowa,” said Hardy.