Social Counting: The Census Bureau Reaches Out With Social Media

It’s a big job to try to count some 300 million people one by one, so the U.S. Census Bureau is turning to social media. It has built a presence on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr.

The Bureua’s YouTube videos include a clip about the Census’s Road Tour that had 1,637 views as of this week; several “Real Life Stories” videos that try to make the Bureau’s work personal (One called “Dave and Breanne” had 1,117 views); and “Trusted Voices” testimonials from community leaders like Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (388 views).

The Census Bureau has live-tweeted several events from its @uscensusbureau account.  The Twitter account also references posts on sites like and asked @Telemundo (in Spanish) if it had any questions about the Census. Twitter seems to be a great resource for engaging in conversation and disseminating facts, but because it is difficult to boil down answers to 140 characters, the Bureau often must provide links to Web sites where more detailed explanations can be found. On the other hand, Twitter has enabled the Census Bureau to respond in real time to concerns like wasted money on its Super Bowl ad.

On the Bureau’s Facebook fan page, many of its 19,000 fans have posted comments about race, language, online options and tax dollars, for instance. The Bureau tries to respond quickly and provide one-stop shopping for answers.

One of the hardest to count groups is what the Census Bureau calls “unattached mobiles,” or people 18 to 24 who are primarily renters and/or college students. Social media offers an easy opportunity to reach them.

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