‘Marketing’ New Canaan: Town Officials Eye More Regular, Robust Social Media Presence

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Municipal officials plan to tap local business and real estate leaders as they look for ways to use technologies such as social media and the town website to market New Canaan.

Members of the Technology Advisory Committee said during a regular meeting Tuesday night that they would consult with the heads of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce and New Canaan Board of Realtors in forming a set of recommendations.

As it is, various municipal departments use Facebook and Twitter accounts differently and—with the exception of some, such as the New Canaan Police Department’s Twitter feed—post information at irregular intervals, according to committee member Annamari Mikkola.

“If you want to market things, make people aware of things such as payment processing, we could certainly use it [ the town’s Facebook page] for town marketing,” she said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

“There are really no pictures,” Mikkola said. “We really have not utilized it at all. The Town of New Canaan does not have Instagram but a lot of people post and hashtag on it and tag ‘NewCanaan’ and some pictures are really great. If you want to market the town, that would be one easy platform to do so. And there are ways to streamline all of this, post once [across social media platforms]. The problem is, obviously: Who is going to do it?”

Mikkola also noted that New Canaan’s town website is old and appears to lack a content management system or ‘CMS’ that would make it possible for individual departments to update their own areas (the site itself has more than 400 individual pages) and questioned whether the municipal website is ADA-compliant.

Formed in February by the Board of Selectmen, the committee is charged with finding ways to use technology to help town government run more efficiently and conveniently for residents and vendors. It met for the first time last month and talked about the Boxcar app, which is designed to help alleviate commuter parking crunch, among other matters.

Committee Chairman Randy Dalia said Mikkola might consult with Chamber Executive Director Tucker Murphy and Board of Realtors President Janis Hennessy to glean “any observations they may have about how the town could communicate differently, to complement efforts underway.”

Both Murphy and Hennessy are “very engaged and involved,” Dalia said.

Mikkola noted that the two groups already collaborated on “nice videos” showcasing New Canaan.

Dalia said he had attended one of First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s monthly meetings with department heads and that he learned there that they use it in a “very ad hoc” way. There’s no consistent system as it is about who posts what and how often to social media channels of the town, he said.

According to Mikkola, Norwalk has an “excellent presence” online. Dalia said he may speak to city officials there about “what they do, if they are best-in-class in the local area.”

Committee member Jeff Platt questioned, given the size and activity of Norwalk relative to New Canaan, how much of the city’s operation of online tools would be translatable here.

The group also talked about just what types of posts may appear on town-run social media channels or in a “News” area of the municipal website. Though it may be “wonderful” to hire a public relations professional to help answer such questions, that’s “certainly not in the budget cycle” presently, Dalia said.

“But I think we may have an opportunity to help give some of the departments guidelines about how we are thinking about Facebook” and the town website, Dalia said.

Committee member Paul Pureka noted that the assessor’s database through the town website gets a “significant amount” of traffic. It appears that Google Analytics has been installed on the town website and in time, Pureka said, he hopes to have an analysis based on data gathered through that tool.

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