How Community Portal Apps Can Connect A City
Mobile is the preferred method of communication these days, so it makes perfect sense that mobile apps enable cities to communicate more quickly and effectively with citizens. Whether it be a crime alert, or a voting reminder, mobile solutions can offer seamless, instantaneous communication from the city to citizens. Sharing information, offering mobile access to city services, and increasing civic engagement are all ways that a mobile app can support municipality goals.
What many cities and towns may not realize is that they have an even larger opportunity to affect positive change by leading the charge in developing the “official app” of their market with a full community portal app. While a municipality-focused app certainly has its benefits for citizens and city government, the benefits multiply exponentially when broadening the concept to a community portal app.
Expand the Content, Expand the Audience
Content is king when it comes to creating a useful mobile app that attracts and retains app users. Mobile app content can be used to inform, educate, entertain and offer utility. A community portal app can encompass all of the major organizations throughout the area, from the chamber of commerce and tourism bureaus to medical centers, schools, economic development departments and more. Each organization can contribute meaningful content and include useful features that speak to different groups of users.
The City of Granbury, Texas has experienced the benefits of partnering with other major community organizations in the creation of the I Love Granbury app. Ushering in a new era of collaboration between the community’s major organizations, the app provides a true community portal for everything Granbury. It is designed to appeal to both visitors and residents alike, and is the first app of its kind for the area which fills a need as well as ensures that it is easy to find in the app stores.
The City of Granbury is utilizing the app to provide residents with contact information for city facilities and departments, an opportunity to meet the city council and staff, as well as information about parks and recreation programs, and links to bill pay services. But I Love Granbury is able to attract, expand and retain its audience of app users with additional help from the Granbury Chamber of Commerce, Visit Granbury, Inc., the community’s destination marketing organization, and the Historic Granbury Merchants Association, resulting in a comprehensive resource for the community.
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Support Residents, Visitors and the Business Community
The official app of the community supports the growth of the city. Small businesses are the backbone of any community, and mobile solutions can offer tools to support local business and economic development. Multimedia, interactive maps, social media integration, community calendars, mobile loyalty programs and more can be used to connect consumers with local businesses as well as increase tourism. When municipalities partner with the local chamber of commerce, business improvement districts, economic development corporations and destination marketing organizations, cities invest in the economic prosperity of the community through the power of mobile.
The City of Abilene, TX has created its MyABI - The Official App of Abilene, Texas app as a way to offer complete mobile access to the city. Not only does the app offer municipality-geared content and features directed towards residents such as live streaming of city council meetings, complete access to the parks and recreation department, and interactive community services and department listings, the app is geared towards supporting visitors with prominent “Eat, Stay, Play” menu items and an Abilene Chamber of Commerce business section.
Pool Resources and Maximize Marketing Reach
A comprehensive community portal app is an especially strong strategy for smaller cities and towns. Organizational partners can pool resources to help offset development and app maintenance costs, easing the budget burden on any one organization. Partners can each implement app marketing initiatives, creating a blanket marketing approach across the community. This enables a wider reach and produces more downloads.
The Our Matagorda County app which is the official app for Matagorda County, a region along the Texas coastline, is a unique project as it spans several small communities within a single county. It is being marketed by all of the community partners ranging from the cities of Bay City and Palacios to several community chambers of commerce, economic development groups, a regional medical center and more. Through a coordinated marketing plan that encompasses digital, social media and physical signage components exposure to the app brand will be maximized across the region. The resulting app has a wealth of useful content, a broad appeal and reach, and a sustainable model that works well for this area.
Every community is unique so the project partners, participating organizations and needs of app users will vary. Municipalities have a keen understanding of their citizens and relationships with major community groups that can be leveraged as a starting point for developing a successful app. For municipalities considering a new mobile app, we encourage you to broaden your horizons to create the official app of your area with a community portal, helping to connect organizations, businesses, residents and visitors through mobile to support and improve your entire community.
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Sunny has been working in mobile and location-based technology since 2008, specializing in marketing, business development, and project management. She lives in Denver with her husband and kitten, where she enjoys outdoor adventures and craft brews.