Back in 2008, Roanoke, Va., a city of about 100,000, had a modest social media program run by its Department of Communications. But when an unusually strong snowstorm hit the city in the winter of 2014, things changed practically overnight.
Timothy Martin, communications coordinator in charge of social media, planned to use the city’s Facebook page to get information about the storm out to residents and to provide an avenue for people to ask questions about snow removal, among other things. He thought it also would be fun if residents posted photos of the storm. The response was overwhelming. “Those photos were viewed by more than 400,000 people on Facebook,” Martin says. “That was the moment social media took off in Roanoke.”