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Putting the best face forward
County benefits from social media usage
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Going on two years ago, Barton County made the decision to be more involved in the digital media world, including a revamped website and increased presence on social media.
With the website up and running, County Administrative Assistant Diana Watson and Barton County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Assistant Denise Karst updated the County Commission Monday morning on their use of Facebook and what this use has meant. 
“Facebook has changed everything,” Watson said. “Facebook is basically the new backyard fence” where folks gather to chat.
Messages on elections, road projects, immunizations and other information can reach a wide audience in a hurry. “We can reach people immediately and interact with them,” she said, adding the county now has 861 followers and that is growing regularly.
All departments are taking part, with each posting regularly. “We are working together with everybody to put our best face forward,” Watson said.
The BCSO has really taken and run with Facebook, Karst said. In fact, with postings on such things as drug busts, searches for suspects and arrest information, the Sheriff’s Office has more followers than the county as a whole with over 2,000 likes.
Although it hasn’t led to any arrests, Karst said officers use it daily. It has generated a lot of leads.
Sheriff Brian Bellendir agreed with Karst. “It has been a very useful tool for us,” he said.
“This is a new way to communicate with the public,” said County Administrator Richard Boeckman of social media. 
 As for the website, in January 2013, the commission approved contracting with Simplified Online Communications System, Lincoln , Neb.,-based a non-profit website developer, to making improvements to the county’s website, The revamped site was unveiled in May 2013.
The effort, which capped nearly two years of work, has also involved all county offices and department heads.
Each department has an in-depth link on the site which include forms, documents (including the county budget), codes and regulations. Features also include a clickable county map that links viewers to communities or other entities that have their own websites, a county-wide calendar of events, the ability to translate the site into another language, links to schools, and links to area and state economic development agencies.
In addition, there are connections to demographic data from the University of Kansas and the U.S. Census Bureau.