Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu | Photo (c) Michael Skolnik

Area elected officials increasingly are embracing social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to engage with constituents to quickly get their information out bypassing tradition newspapers.

Social media is now part of daily life. We have never been so easily connected as now, and the benefits span far beyond seeing your friends’ Christmas photos and not-so-funny memes.

From marketing to journalism, to fundraising, social media has revolutionized professional industries.

For local governments, it can hold even greater prizes.

Social media is part of a foundation for a new type of democracy and community participation.

Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoopo-Sassu said social media has greatly added to the ability to be transparent in terms of publishing her schedule every week which Zoopo-Sassu thinks people deserve to see and understand what happens on a day to day basis.

In the past decade, Americans’ social media usage has increased nearly tenfold.

Social media’s growth also represents a unique and important civic engagement opportunity for cities that goes beyond basic advertising and local media outlets.

City employees can spend a few seconds updating a social media page and reach thousands instantly, without ever leaving their desks.

Cities like Bristol have begun to include social media as a standard part of their outreach.

“We are also trying to assist other departments to make their Facebook pages better and show them tools and links that enhance the delivery of their messages,” said Zoppo-Sassu.

Governing reported “Roanoke, Va., a city of about 100,000, had a modest social media program run by its Department of Communications. But when an unusually strong snowstorm hit the city in the winter of 2014, things changed practically overnight.

The response was overwhelming. Photos were viewed by more than 400,000 people on Facebook. City officials said that was the moment social media took off in Roanoke.

On platforms like Facebook, municipalities can provide a permanent space for residents or visitors to provide reviews.

Social media can also be an accessible, efficient place for people to ask questions, leave suggestions, or make complaints.

Active Facebook pages include The Mayor’s Office, Bristol All Heart, Bristol Water, Bristol Public Works, Bristol Public Library, Bristol Development Authority and many others.

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