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Kane County Connected to receive reboot

GENEVA – Kane County is changing the way it connects with residents.

The county’s social media connection program is getting a reboot nearly a year after its summer 2013 launch.

Rick Nagel, a Geneva resident with a journalism background, is now spearheading the Kane County Connected initiative, which aims to engage people with county government and to provide them with information they can use, such as road closures.

“It’s a means of drawing us all together as one community,” said Kane County Board member Barb Wojnicki, R-Campton Hills, at the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

Nagel presented his progress on Kane County Connected since being hired as an independent contractor on March 3. His six-month, $30,000 contract is supported by riverboat casino funds.

Kane County Connected began as a great concept, Nagel said, describing it as innovative and ambitious with the best intentions of connecting people and communities and celebrating Kane County without being self-serving. But in practice it was unmanageable for the then-two coordinators to handle, as it involved 10 websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages – each with its own login and password, Nagel said.

Additionally, he said, some of its targeted population groups – moms and dads, youth and sports, for example – weren’t tied to a specific government function, county department or county mission.

Through research that involved the county’s 25 department heads and elected officials, among others, Nagel said he learned that some of the county’s existing outreach is outdated and costly; the county is at least five years behind in using social media; the county isn’t using the tools it already has; and, among other realizations, the county needs to reach people quickly.

Nagel is developing Kane County Connected into a three-platform program that uses WordPress, Facebook and a daily e-newsletter.

“I wanted to build something in six months,” he said.

As of his latest tallies, he said, Kane County Connected has more than 1,600 followers on WordPress, more than 5,700 newsletter subscribers, more than 1,400 likes on Facebook and more than 110 followers on Twitter.

The total reach is just shy of 9,000, Nagel said, calling his progress “a foundation.”

Nagel next plans to diversify by expanding to other social media sites, such as LinkedIn; adding e-blasts and text messaging; and developing mechanisms for civil dialogue and citizen engagement.

He invited the County Board members to provide input, generate content and market the initiative.

Board members had positive feedback for him.

“I think this is great,” said Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin, “because people don’t know what goes on here.”

T.R. Smith, R-Maple Park, asked Nagel how he plans to make sure residents aren’t neglected.

“A large part of my constituency is on Social Security, not social media,” Smith said. “How do we reach these people?”

Nagel said the county’s print materials serve that population, and he doesn’t want to abandon print. But, he added, if an initiative like Kane County Connected isn’t used, he’s afraid of losing the next generation.

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