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Editorial: Enhance online connections

Government officials looking to inform residents and solicit feedback on important issues should consider enhancing their efforts on various social media platforms.

A story on the marylandreporter.com website last week highlighted the results of a survey by the non-partisan OpenGov Foundation which found that 66 percent of those contacted said they were not satisfied with the information they receive about new state laws, regulations and taxes. Seventy-eight percent said they wanted more information on these items when they were being considered by the legislature.

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The survey also tracked social media usage among the respondents. More than half of the respondents said they used Facebook and 19 percent said they used Twitter, according to marylandreporter.com, and the percentages increased to 78 percent and 26 percent respectively among younger voters.

Many local governments already utilize social media as a way to connect with more residents. But using this avenue to send out notices of public hearings, connect links back to the government's home page for budget information or connect to proposed code changes is an easy way for local governments to expand their reach into communities.

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As we continue to evolve in the ways that we communicate, it is important for local governments to keep pace. Private businesses everywhere are growing their customer bases through the use of social media, and governments can do the same.

Clearly, the results of the OpenGov survey indicate that people want more information from the government, and they want it before elected bodies take action. They want to be a part of the process, especially in areas that will impact their lives directly.

Governments from the state level down to the smallest municipality can better serve residents if they develop comprehensive strategies for utilizing social media to reach out to and connect with more people in their communities.

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