Social media is becoming a dominant medium of communication, and city leaders are continuing to show a strong commitment to engaging with their residents online. The main platform for this? Twitter.
When he was still mayor of Newark, NJ, Sen. Cory Booker demonstrated an above and beyond approach to Twitter. He responded to people during a blizzard and personally shoveled out residents. After he rescued a neighbor from a fire, he started trending on Twitter. While Booker's legacy of literally running through fire may be hard to match, other savvy city leaders can find a way to engage with their citizens and come off as personable online.
"They are creating a relationship without any filter," said Sharman Stein, the director of communications for What Works Cities. "The more you involved the community in what the city is doing, the more successful you’ll be."
Smart Cities Dive has compiled a list of seven mayors that use Twitter to connect with their cities, spread information and advocate for issues they believe in. These mayors can serve as great examples when determining different ways to engage on social media. Give 'em a follow, and of course, connect with @SmartCitiesDive on Twitter, too.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser – @MayorBowser
Bowser is a Twitter pro who tweets about infrastructure and other city projects, and uses hashtags to join conversations. Her 38,800 followers are accustomed to tweets that almost always have photos or other media. As an activist in the nation’s capital, Bowser gives commentary on national events happening in her backyard, but her main focus is on her residents. Some tweets include surveys on what a sustainable D.C. should look like, and highlights of the District’s efforts to install solar panels on low-income housing.
Kansas City, MO Mayor Sly James – @MayorSlyJames
At 65, Sly James understands Twitter as well as any millennial. James has 111,000 followers on Twitter, including at least 32 other mayors, the most of any U.S. mayor according to a DCI report. One reason for his success is his method of treating Twitter as a two-way communication platform with his followers, and not just as a means of self-promotion or a way to broadcast Kansas City information. The approach works — he even has fans that put together a "best of" list of his tweets. If you tweet at or even about James, there is a good chance you will get a reply. James loves backing up those replies with data, especially when it comes to how well Kansas City is doing.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee - @mayoredlee
San Francisco is known as a progressive and tech-filled city, and Lee embodies both those aspects for the city by the Bay. Between tweeting about lowering emissions and growing GDP, to sharing information about cheap higher education options, Lee addresses what many of his residents— and his 60,000 followers — find important. On a recent day in August, Lee tweeted about Vision Zero, sustainability, free backpacks for students and Golden State Warriors’ star Steph Curry. He'll also use Twitter to link to Medium blog posts for more in-depth topics.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto - @billpeduto
Pittsburgh topped the news cycle when Trump name-dropped the Steel City in his speech about why the U.S. is exiting the Paris climate agreement. Showing where he stands on the subject, Peduto’s pinned tweet is from June and is his statement on Pittsburgh’s commitment to the agreement. With more than 26,000 tweets, Peduto is a prolific tweeter. Pittsburgh has become a hotbed for transportation innovation, and Peduto loves to tweet and retweet updates.
Pittsburgh partners with USDOT & PennDOT to develop $30M next generation smart-signal system to improve flow/safety. https://t.co/Yk1Lqdl0Vh— bill peduto (@billpeduto) August 11, 2017
Reno, NV Mayor Hillary Schieve – @MayorSchieve
Reno, or "The Biggest Little City," is trying to hard to live up to its namesake — and Schieve tweets with the best of them. Bloomberg Cities is offering millions of dollars to cities with ideas that solve urgent problems, and Schieve used Twitter to let residents that she wants their ideas. That’s not the only thing she’s gotten the word out on recently either — everything from bike shares, the Tesla battery factory to a festival put on by local artists are all Reno-centered topics that Schieve has shared with her nearly 7,000 followers.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock - @MayorHancock
Denver is developing a list of bond projects to the tune of $937 million, and Hancock uses Twitter and Facebook to encourage Denver residents to submit their ideas for bond projects. He's also used the platforms to encourage people to attend public hearings, and utilize map-based online tools, comment cards and other resources to give his constituents a voice in the planning process. The outreach worked – the city received more than 4,000 investment ideas and thousands of emails advocating for projects residents would like to see, many of which were ultimately incorporated in the proposed project list. Appropriately enough, Hancock used Twitter to deliver a live broadcast of the announcement.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges - @MayorHodges
More than most mayors, Hodges has fun with Twitter. With her 32,000 followers, she shares daily inspirational quotes and has live-tweeted of a public screening of Die Hard. The way she shares part of her life (her bio reads, "Mayor of Minneapolis. Non-fast marathoner.") shows people a personal side that many politicians don’t share. Even with cat photos thrown in, her mix of politics, ranging from policing regulations to minimum wages, fits with her Twitter "brand" and comes off as more authentic.