US Census Bureau Adds Mapping Application on Facebook

The U.S. Census Bureau is launching a huge nationwide campaign incorporating social media, broadcast media and print to encourage people to fill out their census forms this year. In the U.S., a census to count the population is mandated by the Constitution every 10 years principally to apportion federal representatives, but also for funding purposes like money for schools, roads and other infrastructure.

We reported in January that the Census Bureau had decided to incorporate Facebook into its campaign in a big way, principally to reach out to minorities and young people; at the time the Page had 360 fans, today it has more than 20,000. Today the bureau added a My Community application to their Page, with the help of page management company Context Optional. It enables the user to learn facts about their community, as well as get an idea for who else is supporting the census where they live.

My Community is a tab on the Census Bureau Facebook Page where users enter their zip code in order to see a Google Map of their community, as well as an animated graph of their community’s census results over time, starting in the 1800s. The app also asks users to publish their use of the app to their Wall and invite their Facebook friends to use it as well.

The app is a good addition to the Census’ Page, which also features a 2010 Census tab with information about the paper census in dozens of languages, a Census Videos tab with 50 videos promoting the Census and a Photo tab that does the same.

The My Community app is an interesting way for the Census to create an interactive snapshot of the user’s community. It provides both a visual tool of the community’s growth with a line charting growth over time and interesting information about that community. Accompanying the graph are interesting tid bits about each region during a given decade, such as the county’s total population broken down by sex, the number farms in the county, the percentage of children in school and the median age.

Finally, My Community includes a leaderboard for regions of the country that have the most “Census supporters” who have supported the Census on Facebook. This is a gaming mechanic that might inspire citizens to compete for the top spot by getting friends to register, too.

The Census’ web site has all sorts of information about the U.S. population, and a million ways to break this information down — by wages, ethnicity, region, etc. My Community seems to be a step towards bringing that wealth of knowledge to its Facebook fans in a way that encourages them to fill out their census form and asks their friends to do the same. There are lots of possibilities here for the Census to bring their statistical data to Facebook, but this app seems to serve an immediate purpose: fulfill its role of counting the U.S. population.