Online social networking can impel action on development projects

The Saint ReportNIMBY, Planning and Zoning, saintblogLeave a Comment

By Patrick Fox,
President, The Saint Consulting Group

Social networking tools are impacting both sides of land use fights.

The ability to organize like-minded fellow residents into a group to support or oppose a land use project is one of the great benefits of social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and many others. Quickly identifying people who share your position on a platform that excels at instant communication and dialogue can, when used properly, impel others to social action.

This power to impact our political process by generating constituent pressure on political figures can be used to help win a project approval or to stop a project all together.  Fear of change or of how a project may negatively impact an individual is a strong motivation and it is why passionate opposition can be ignited and fueled relatively easily via social networking.  Using these tools to support a project requires significantly more patience and skill.

Developers seeking local approvals can use social networking to:

  • Build a supporter network
  • Disseminate up-to-date project information
  • React quickly to rumors and attacks
  • Provide information for the media
  • Host a moderated discussion group about the project
  • Identify issues of concern to locals and prepare to address them with officials.


Using the geo-targeting capacity of some social networking sites, a project proponent can also:

  • Identify project opponents.
  • Monitor the oppositions organizing activities.
  • Identify key opposition tactics
  • ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Get a better understanding of the true issues behind the source of opposition.

 This data will help developers craft a better plan, better address local concerns, identify anticompetitive opposition and increase your likelihood of success.  Social networking alone cannot win a land use fight but, properly used, it can be effective and helpful tool.

Patrick Fox is president of The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone 781 749 7290

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