Spotlight on Social Media in the 2016 Digital Counties Survey

For the first time in recent years Citizen Engagement has been included in the top 10 priorities for digital leaders across county governments in the United States. This trend shined throughout the results of the 2016 Digital Counties Survey, as 21 of the 55 counties recognized for their digital initiatives highlighted their use of social media for citizen engagement. 


Top Trends in Social Media for Citizen Engagement

Top 5 trends that emerged across counties of all sizes, which can be implemented at any size agency, including at the state and local level, are:

  1. Establishing a social media strategy and policy to guide the direction of an agency’s social media effort while empowering staff to use effectively
  2. Leveraging social media to spread public safety and emergency management messages in real time
  3. Finding innovative uses of existing platforms, as well as the expansion into newer platforms were applauded, such as: video integration, Twitter as a 311 service, Next Door, Periscope, and LinkedIn Recruiter
  4. Increasing the use of social media as a two-way communication tool between citizens and government agencies
  5. Creating social media workgroups across agencies to keep everyone posting on social media on the same page with strategy, content, engagement, and social media updates and training


Key Takeaways by County

Serving as a great resource for agencies of all sizes to look to for inspiration and as a roadmap for their own future digital initiatives, check out these key takeaways from each of the 21 counties recognized as digital leaders in the social media space:

8 Counties with populations above 500,000 were recognized for their social media efforts:

  • 1st Wake County, NC
    • Featured for their “community outreach and social media program that embodies the spirit of today’s cutting-edge public-sector technology efforts”
    • Solid social media presence and policy, allowing them to move at the same pace as the rest of the world and take advantage of tends and pop culture opportunities like Pokémon Go
  • 2nd Fairfax County, VA
    • Guiding social media strategy
    • Use of social media in an emergency, specifically providing effective communication during their 2016 blizzard
  • 2nd Montgomery County, MD
    • Launched a social media hub to aggregate content from the 36 different accounts the county
    • Included Twitter as an extension of their 311 service
  • 4th King County, WA
    • Touts the 2nd largest social media program in the nation, with more than 180 social media pages
    • Operating at an enterprise level, they empower staff to self-publish and create their own stories
  • 5th Oakland County, MI
    • Forward looking use of social media to crowd source ideas and provide peer-to-peer help
    • Integrated into county’s CRM system
  • 6th Baltimore County, MD
    • New website takes full advantage of social media to ensure strong community engagement
  • 7th Orange County, FL
    • Use of social media to engage with millennials and the next generation of community leaders
    • Use of a volunteer Technology and Social Media Workgroup
  • 10th Chester County, PA
    • Strong social media presence
    • Notable social media campaigns, such as the 2015 National Public Health Week photo contest for high school students to demon state healthy lifestyles

5 Counties with populations between 250,000 to 499,999 were recognized for their social media effort:

  • 1st Sonoma County, CA
    • Use of social media to supports and enhances county services and programs to reach a wider group of people
  • 2nd Chesterfield County, VA
  • 5th Cumberland County, NC
    • Use of social media as for two-way communications and information dissemination, and as a tool for managing public safety and public service
    • Use of social media feedback to improve the county’s website
  • 5th Dutchess County, NY
    • Robust and highly effective social media operation
  • 10th Richland County, SC
    • The use of GIS and IT services to collect firefighter and social media data about damaged infrastructure after a “thousand-year flood”

5 Counties with populations ranging from 150,000 to 249,999 were recognized for their social media efforts:

  • 1st Arlington County, VA
    • Fast paced approach to civic engagement, including the use of Periscope to live-steram county events
  • 2nd Charles County, MD
    • Use of a social media workgroup to keep staff up to speed on social media tools and engagement strategies
  • 3rd Frederick County, MD
    • Embraced social media as a tool to keep citizens informed and increase transparency
  • 7th Davidson County, NC
    • An active social media presence between 15 Facebook Pages that are managed via tablets
  • 10th Barnstable County, MA
    • Use of YouTube to live-stream county meetings as a cost saving measure in transparency

3 Counties with a population up to 150,000 were recognized for their social media efforts:

  • 3rd Roanoke County, VA
    • Comprehensive approach to social media including an internal policy for the employee handbook as well as posting real-time information like public safety threats
  • 4th Montgomery County, VA
    • Heavy social media use across 30 channels for citizen engagement that includes the use video and LinkedIn Recruiter
  • 10th Summit County, UT
    • Successful shift in social media strategy to share public safety and road information as well as to increase interactions with citizens to grow their social media presence

See all the results of the 2016 Digital Counties Survey, including a full review of each county, for more innovative uses of technology in government.

The Digital Counties Survey is conducted annually by the Center for Digital Government in partnership with the National Association of Counties, NACo. Additionally, States and Cities are recognized through the Digital States Survey and Digital Cities Survey, respectively.


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