James City County Puts Emphasis on Social Media, Citizen Engagement

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The James City County Youtube channel is filled to the brim with videos. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)
The James City County YouTube channel is filled to the brim with videos. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)

For the first time, James City County released its annual report — an overview of county highlights and accomplishments — as a video instead of a printed publication.

The video report follows a new series of videos from James City County’s official Youtube page that recaps Board of Supervisors’ meetings, helping the public stay abreast on county issues and discussions.

These new video features are part of a larger initiative by the county to revamp its social media usage and increase citizen interaction.

County Administrator Bryan Hill, who was hired September 2014 to give a fresh perspective on county operations, said it is necessary for the county to evolve alongside new technologies.

“Using social media and being able to respond quickly to areas of concern or to promote things in such a way that everybody has the ability to see it – this is a new age,” he said. “If we wanted to be the old government, nobody knows what’s going on and everybody complains. We have a low amount of complaints about people not knowing things.”

Promoting everything the county has to offer on social media is a tall task, especially when James City County is fighting for attention on individuals’ news feeds.

Previously, James City County placed social media duties on one individual. The result was roughly one or two social media posts per day and low engagement numbers.

In April, Hill made a point to expand James City County’s social media team by repurposing existing staff. Today, the county has seven employees with social media responsibilities, or roughly one person representing each county department.

With the larger staff came new social media strategies, including dedicated hashtags such as #wantedwednesday — which helps James City County police find wanted suspects — and #medicmonday — which promotes emergency-related happenings in the community.

“[Social media] is important because James City County is all about engagement,” said Renee Dallman, communications specialist for the county. “Prior to our expansion, we would receive one or two likes or shares usually.”

Today, popular James City County Facebook posts can garner upward of 100 likes or shares depending on the subject matter. Dallman said posts regarding James City County Police are generally the most popular.

But these changes are just the beginning for James City County. While unwilling to disclose future projects, Hill said the county would continue to look for new ways to engage the community.

“We want to continue to go forward with new, fresh and forward thinking ideas.”