In Tenerife, social media is a low-budget way to reach a large number of citizens

In today’s world, communication via social media is sometimes even preferred over a standard phone call, as people share everything from life updates to photos via platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social media is one easy, cost-efficient tool cities are turning to as a way to communicate with previously disengaged citizens, as well as assess public opinion, conversing with citizens and looking to their feedback as a source to improve public services. The island of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, for example, launched a campaign on social media (versus traditional media like television and radio) to target online racism. Here’s how the island’s social media strategy is a smart one when it comes to directly targeting and engaging citizens. Bruno De Man 


Small effort, big gain

 For cities, one of the most beneficial parts of social media is the ease in which they can share information, particularly when working with a small staff or limited budget. In just a few seconds, employees can update a social media channel sharing news and safety updates, as well as uplifting stories or photos from residents. Social media can also offer cities a mobile platform for live-streaming meetings (made even easier with features and alerts like Facebook Live), reaching a larger audience who can tune in on their smartphone no matter where they’re at that day. Even the European Council and Council of the European Union have hopped on board, posting interviews and behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube and opening room for discussion on Google +, allowing citizens to share their views. As for drawing citizens to social media platforms in the first place, some cities have launched interactive events like online scavenger hunts as an incentive to explore the city’s social media channels.

For Tenerife, social media serves as a way to raise awareness and counter cyber-racism and intolerance, two key issues affecting the community. Part of the “Together in the same direction” initiative, the island looks to establish a long-term communication and awareness-raising strategy, creating a space for dialogue and “communication empowerment” directly addressing and conversing with its citizens on relevant topics such as these. Not only are cities using social media as a powerful campaign tool, so are Mayors. In London, Sadiq Khan launched the #londonisopen campaign to counteract Brexit, while Antonio Decaro, the mayor of Bari, Italy, posted photos on his social media accounts as a way to direct citizens’ attention to rising issues like leaving waste on streets.

As cities and political leaders look to engage on a deeper level with citizens, social media can offer valuable intelligence cities can use to improve quality of life, as well as manage security and operations.