Town hires social media expert
RIDGEFIELD — In the age of social media, nobody is immune to the way online platforms have changed how people communicate with one another — even town governments.
At least that’s the way First Selectman Rudy Marconi, and now the town’s Board of Selectmen, see it. The selectmen recently agreed to hire a social media consultant to help the town better communicate online.
The new consultant, Emily Pambianchi of Social Grace Communications, took control of the town’s social media platforms starting Saturday. She will be able to post information Marconi or another town department wants to get out into the public.
But one of her main goals, Marconi said, will also be to monitor what town issues residents are talking about online to see if there’s any need for clarification or help from town officials.
“In the town of Ridgefield, if there is social media discussion going on, we wanted to make sure that the content is accurate,” Marconi said. “(So many) people rely on a device for their information, and if we don’t begin playing a part in that — not in terms of an active participant, but observing, monitoring and being able to respond — then we’re going to fall behind.”
Marconi said this could mean anything from making sure an online post about a sidewalk or road that needs to be fixed gets sent to the highway department or ensuring that residents know where to get accurate information about large town projects. Many people have grown accustomed to talking online about these issues instead of calling Town Hall offices, he said.
Having the consultant could also help the town ensure residents are engaged with local government and elections, Marconi said. It was a project a few years ago led by Town Hall interns into the town’s voting patterns that prompted him to start thinking of how important social media can be.
“When they dug deeper, they found that voters between age 25 and 40 do not follow your conventional media,” Marconi said. “The reason they don’t vote is because they’re not given reminders.”
The town’s social media platforms could be used to remind people to vote, not in favor of any specific candidate or issue, but to participate in general, he said.
Pambianchi, who will be paid $800 a month from the town’s contingency fund for her part-time services, grew up in Ridgefield and worked in communications for SPHERE, The Prospector Theater, and her family’s business Pamby Motors before starting her own consulting company.
She has spent the last few days reviewing procedures and is excited to get started, Pambianchi said.
“For Ridgefield, an active social presence with relevant content posted regularly will help boost our citizen following,” she said. “It is one way to listen to what citizens may be asking, wondering, debating — and putting the facts out there for them on the official Town Social Media pages.”
She added that Facebook will likely be the best platform for the town to use given that both the younger and older generations check it, though often for different reasons. “Quick video content or enticing photo content” might also help reach the younger generations, she said.
Pambianchi was hired under a one-year contract. Marconi said the town will continue exploring as the year goes on how to best use her services.
“I don’t want this to become that we have to tweet and post every single (thing),” Marconi said. “We need to be sure we’re going to walk or crawl slowly as we ramp this up to be sure we’re heading in the right direction.”