When the city of Prince George joined Twitter in 2010, it chose @CityofPG as its Twitter handle. The account was promoted in news releases, YouTube videos, and official publications. It amassed a following of over 1,000 in a city of roughly 80,000, and received @mentions from a senior government minister, UBC’s medical program, and various citizens and visitors.
“The City of Prince George is evaluating its use of social media. During the assessment phase, our Facebook and Twitter accounts will be dormant. Members of the public can continue to comment electronically by clicking on the Feedback link located at the bottom of the City of Prince George’s homepage at www.princegeorge.ca“
After reading this, I contacted staff with follow-up questions about why the evaluation was being done, why the sites were taken down for this period, who was doing the evaluating, how long, how, and if it was known when or if the city would return to social media. Staff politely declined to answer but said I would know when decisions were made/announced.
And then it occurred to me: what happens to the @CityofPG username? I’ve never deleted a Twitter account before, so I wasn’t sure if the handle immediately became available, or if it was still “held” by whoever shut it down.
Turns out it was available.
Links to this Twitter account are in city YouTube videos, council meeting minutes, physical publications, and websites for organizations like the Downtown Business Improvement Association and CivicInfoBC. They were all pointing to an address that was sitting there, available to anyone. If it went unused, that would be one thing. But if it was picked up by some other city of PG or a parody account, it could be confusing.
So, I decided to go through with the sign-up process and hold on to the name. I’m trying to make it as obvious as possible that it was the official account, but no longer is. I also have no plans to do anything with it. If the city decides they’d like to come back to Twitter, their old handle is available. They know how to get in touch.
PS. Not much I can do about the Facebook account. One thing I do know is that you can decide to either delete a page or simply make it invisible, with the option of coming back in the future. I have no idea which decision staff made.