Medford Police line the street as the hearse arrives at St. Joseph Catholic Church for the funeral of Krystle Campbell, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing in Medford, Massachusetts

Why Governments Should Adopt a Digital Engagement Strategy

City of Boston social media streams empower constituents and improve service delivery.

Government agencies increasingly value digital engagement as a way to transform a complaint-based relationship into one of positive, proactive constituent empowerment. An engaged community is a stronger one.

Creating a culture of participatory government, as we strive to do in Boston, requires a data-driven infrastructure supported by IT solutions. Data management and analytics solutions translate a huge stream of social media data, drive conversations and creative crowdsourcing, and support transparency.

More than 50 departments across Boston host public conversations using a multichannel, multidisciplinary portfolio of accounts. We integrate these using an enterprise digital engagement management tool that connects and organizes them to break down silos and boost collaboration. Moreover, the technology provides a lens into ways to expedite workflow and improve service delivery.

A Vital Link in Times of Need

Committed and creative daily engagement builds trusting collaboration that, in turn, is vital in an inevitable crisis. As we saw during the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and recent major weather events, rapid response through digital media clarifies the situation, provides information about safety and manages constituent expectations.

Boston’s enterprise model supports coordinated external communication and organized monitoring, intake and response. This provides a superadmin with access to all accounts for governance and the ability to easily amplify central messaging across a range of cultivated communities. These communities will later serve in recovery efforts.

The conversations must be seeded by a keen, creative and data-driven content strategy. For an agency to determine the correct strategy for the organization and the community it serves, a growing crop of social analytics tools can provide efficient insight into performance factors: type of content, deployment schedule, sentiment, service-based response time and team performance, to name a few. For example, in February, the city of Boston learned that tweets from our mayor with video saw 300 percent higher engagement than those without.

These insights can inform resource deployment, eliminating guesswork to more directly reach constituents by their preferred methods. Being truly present in a conversation demonstrates care and awareness and builds trust. This increased positivity can be measured through sentiment analysis, including change over time, and should be monitored for fluctuation.

During a major event, engagement managers may see activity reach new peaks in volume. IT solutions can interpret Big Data and bring a large-scale digital conversation back into perspective, identifying public safety alerts and emerging trends, needs and community influencers who can be engaged as amplifying partners.

Running Strong One Year Later

Throughout the 2014 Boston Marathon, we used three monitoring tools to deliver smart alerts to key partners across the organization:

• An engagement management tool organized conversations for account performance and monitoring.

• A brand listening tool scanned for emerging trends across the city and uncovered related conversations.

• A location-based predictive tool identified early alerts to discover potential problems along the marathon route.

With the team and tools in place, policy-based training supports the sustained growth and operation of these conversation channels. A data-driven engagement strategy unearths all of our stories, where we, as public servants and neighbors, build better communities together.

Boston's Social Success, By the Numbers

Here are some highlights of the city of Boston’s digital engagement strategy successes over the past year:

350% Percentage increase in Mayor Martin Walsh’s Twitter followers since January
1,000% Percentage increase in reach for snow response campaigns between 2013 and 2014
4.1 million Number of impressions achieved by the #MarathonSmart 2014 campaign via 900 tweets
2.9 billion Cumulative impressions garnered by Boston's official Twitter feeds by the end of 2013
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Jun 09 2014