Tahlequah Daily Press

December 28, 2012

Municipal groups maximizing social media

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — It began as a way to keep people informed about local events or sales being offered by businesses in Tahlequah.

Using the Internet, or Facebook to be specific, to connect with interested patrons has become a way to keep everyone involved and directed toward the goal of the page’s creator, and the City of Firsts now has several pages on Facebook promoting the city, its businesses, various organizations or groups and even individuals that live in or around Tahlequah who wish to share simple information like food recipes or yard sale items and notices.

Tahlequah Main Street Association Director Drew Haley started the Tahlequah Facebook page with Sheri Gourde “three years or better ago” as way to use an already popular social networking website.

“The reason behind it was kind of similar to the yard sale thing. We just wanted a community page; a place where – and this was before I was doing Main Street - we just wanted a general page because you always hear that ‘Well, I didn’t know that was going on,’” he said. “Well, here’s a good way [to learn about what’s going on in Tahlequah].”

Haley created the Main Street Association’s Facebook page around two years ago, he said.

“And the purpose behind it is quite simple: To keep people informed on what’s going on downtown,” he said. “What’s happening. What to look forward to. It was mainly just a way to keep in contact with people that are interested in downtown. So much anymore you hear ‘We didn’t know about that’ or ‘Boy I sure wish I would have known that band was playing at The Branch’ or ‘I wished I would have known Edie’s was having a sale that day.’ It was just another way for the communication process to take place.”

The Tahlequah Facebook page, which has been renamed “In Tahlequah” due to the site’s requirement that FB pages not be named for a specific geographical location, isn’t without problems, as the world-wide-web of accessible information on Tahlequah is not being seen by everyone that “likes” the page. Folks that have liked the Tahlequah-related website occasionally communicate to Haley that they were uninformed about an event or business sale.

As many communities around the country are using websites like Facebook to promote the importance of buying from and supporting local businesses during touch economic times, the website can also be another source of information on actions that occur in the community or even providing city department details. Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said the city’s Facebook page, which can be found by searching City of Tahlequah, was started “a little over a month ago” to help people connect with the departments from which they may be needing help or information.

“I had the city’s IT staff create web pages for each department/operation in the city. I think we are in the process of adding the final two we overlooked, but there are about eight or nine pages out there ranging from the Animal Shelter to the Street Department that are all going to be posting updates about city operations and events,” he said. “The examples I gave the staff when we first started this project were the Animal Shelter posting pictures of stray dogs to help find them a home, the Street Department posting updates on street closures for construction, city office closures, events like the Red Fern Festival or the Christmas parade, upcoming meetings of boards, the city council and many other things.”

Nichols said details are still being worked through, as some staff members weren’t users of Facebook.

“Some of us, myself included, were surprised at some of the changes Facebook had made since we’d last created pages that weren’t personal in nature,” he said. “We’re still trying to tightly define who will post what and when so that the content of the page isn’t repetitive or incomplete. But, we hope to have all those things smoothed out very soon. There are so many people that make use of social media to keep track of what’s going on in the world, we felt it was important that the city participate, as well. If that is the way in which large numbers of Tahlequah’s citizens look for updates and information, then we needed to take advantage of that as a communication tool.”

Ariane Molloy created the Tahlequah Online Garage Sale Facebook page with her aunt, Erin Dehling, as way to deal with the disconnected effect created by distance and location.

“We live out by Lake Tenkiller and having a yard sale out here is really impossible because we don’t get enough tracking to be able to sell stuff without having to borrow someone’s yard in town,” she said. “Stuff was accumulating.”

Molloy’s and Dehling’s group is a closed Facebook group to enable the ability to monitor and control content that is posted on the page.

“We try to make sure to keep it local. It’s just a bunch of people coming together to be able to sell their items. We don’t get a percentage from anything sold. It’s really just a nonprofit situation,” said Molloy. “We have guidelines, like for something that needs disclosure. We want it to stay honest. We don’t want someone getting ripped off. Be honest with your product. You can sell something broken on there so long as you disclose that it’s broken.”

Some other Tahlequah-related Facebook pages include Tahlequah Daily Press (www.facebook.com/tdpress) Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce, Tahlequah Pay It Forward Foundation Group, Tahlequah Public Library, Tahlequah Fire Department, Tahlequah Elks Lodge, Tahlequah Farmers Market, Tahlequah Recipe Swap, and Tahlequah/Cherokee County Emergency Management.