CINCINNATI - On the night of the Feb. 4 ice storm, an Anderson Township woman's bulldog slipped beneath the fence of her home and got out into the harsh conditions.
- RELATED 9 Q&A: Anderson Twp. website founder talks about his passion for community news, information
“She sent me a picture of her dog, and asked me to get the word out,” Harsfield explained, adding the correspondence occurred through both email and Twitter.
“I posted it on Facebook and I posted it on Twitter, and noticed the reach was 14,000,” Harshfield said. “That’s when I realized (social media presence) is getting serious."
It’s not the kind of reach neighborhoods and municipalities are used to seeing with just a newsletter or email chain, Harshfield explained. The digital world is becoming a catalyst for how communities communicate.
Around Anderson Township is privately owned, but Harshfield cooperates with the city, schools and the park district on the effort.
“It kind of started out as an experiment. It stared out with just the Twitter account,” he said. “And well, you know, I like really like the township. I wanted to see if I could help get the word out about different events, especially with the schools.”
The @AndersonTownshipOH Twitter account started out with 30 followers, but now has more than 1,500. The group’s Facebook change isn’t far behind, with a following of more than 1,100.
Harshfield says the key to the page’s growth is the relationships he’s built with followers. He advises people to understand the platform they are using and “don’t be afraid to ask what they want.”
Also, allowing the platforms to grow organically helps.
“The more you do, the more people will come to you,” he explained. “Time is what concerns a lot of people, the ‘I don’t have time to do this.’”
But taking the time to reach out to a community on social media has benefits.
Many of Westwood’s neighborhood groups are looking to move one of Cincinnati’s largest neighborhoods forward. They’re getting the message across through Twitter, Facebook and hashtags.
#WestwoodNow or #Westwoodnext are tagged in tweets when residents see something good happening in another neighborhood they’d like to see in Westwood, said Mary Jenkins, facilitator of the Westwood Coaltion for the Revitalization of the Historic Business District.
“I really look to College Hill and Madisonville, and a couple other communities as models,” she she said. “A lot of what we are doing is organic and depends on individuals picking up.”
Neighborhood organizations in Westwood have seen social media success through events.
“Events get set-up on Facebook and then shared,” Jenkins said. “Retweeting has a big impact.”
The Westwood Art Show, organized by the Westwood Civic Association, has had a Facebook presence for some time, but “with groups in Westwood saying ‘here’s a good event,' in sharing that info our attendance has gone up,” she said.
The same is true for Westwood’s Deck the Hall event.
“(Deck the Hall) was a true cross-organization event; no one was the lead on that and it was a collaboration,” Jenkins said. “It was promoted through social media."
In 2013, Nextdoor.com blossomed in and around Cincinnati . A social platform with national reach, it was created to help neighbors connect about what's going on where they live.
Right now more than 100 Tri-State communities are a part of the service. The list includes neighborhoods around Cincinnati; the city officially partnered with Nextdoor.com in July.
The police department took that a step farther: District commanders and liaison officers can post neighborhood-specific public safety information.
In a July 2013 interview with WCPO, Harshfield said he looks to news stories, new business registrations and personal experiences for "information and inspiration."
Still, whatever the platform, the bottom line is relationships.
"One of my favorite things to do is meet new people in the area and talk to them about their lives, businesses and what they like about our community," he said.
Looking for your neighborhood connection?
Here’s a list of some of the Twitter handles for Tri-State cities and communities: