Posted on 19 July 2013
This is just a quick post, because it’s a beautiful weekend and I’m taking an internet hiatus until Monday.
Earlier this week, it was discovered that the city of Prince George had taken down its Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whether they are deleted or simply hidden is unknown. So, too, is anything beyond this statement from city communications staff:
“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”
Since this statement was shared, I’ve been watching the reaction come in. Most of it has been on Facebook and Twitter and, perhaps not surprisingly, most of the people who are on Facebook and Twitter and have something to say about this think that cities should be on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a few of the tweets I received on the subject:
— Bryce Lokken (@BryceLokken) July 18, 2013
@daybreaknorth Social media, when used properly, can be effective for cities, which have frequent announcements. Also good for transparency.
— Tyler Noble (@tnoble) July 18, 2013
Over on the CBC Daybreak North Facebook page, reaction was similar. Susan Smith-Josephy wrote:
“Ill-advised move. Facebook and Twitter are vital communication tools. As I mentioned in a reply below, during a disaster social media is one of the quickest ways of getting the word out. Perfect examples of how social media, can not only provide immediate updates to people, but they are used for citizens to make direct contact. And it’s not just the younger demographic that use these tools, BTW.”
“Cities try hard to improve the economy and are always looking for ways to promote their city and tourism. This seems like a counter productive decision.”
“Should a city use telephones? I think so. What is NOT needed is paying someone six figures to use Facebook and twitter badly; they are for dialogue, not broadcast.”
It even prompted a couple of blog posts. On his Cariboo Politics blog, Steve Forseth wrote:
“it is my opinion that this move is a step backwards for the City of Prince George. Yes – you should evaluate all of your communication tools (social media, traditional media, etc) constantly to ensure you are communicating with your residents in the best manner possible, but deactivate your social media tools to undergo a ‘evaluation’ period is not the way to go.”
And Judy Kucharak opined:
“Why? Why abandon such an important conduit for communication? A system that can assist you in:· Early warning in case of local emergency· Local event/tourism promotion· Getting feedback via survey links· Authentic, real time engagement on local issues· Acting as a portal for the community
“My question after learning of the City of Prince George decision: Why would any community deliberately sever that important conduit of communication?”
Not everyone agrees, though. In a comment on Judy’s post, an Anonymous commenter had this to say:
“Or maybe the city of Prince George stopped sniffing the social media snake oil.
Lets say they had 3000 residents ‘engaged’ on their social media channels [we’re pretending a) there are no robot followers and b) everyone interested in PG is from PG]. This would be less than 4% of the total population of the town.
You expect them to pay an individual or a TEAM to cater to 4% of the population?”
That 3000 is a fair number, too, since it was roughly 2000 on the Facebook page and 1000 on the Twitter (and there was probably a decent amount of overlap/robots).
It’s also worth noting that this is all internet reaction- and from people who care to join the discussion at all. When I asked people on the street, I got a lot more who didn’t see the point of cities being on social media at all (it was about 50/50 in a teeny-tiny non-representative sample, but still interesting).
Finally, Prince George city councillor Garth Frizzell (who says he was not aware of the deactivation of the accounts) alerted me to the existence of B.C. Local Government Management Association document on cities and social media, highlighting this portion:
“Concerns have been raised as to whether municipalities should adopt social media tools at all, as no long term trends are available for carrying out analyses of the effectiveness and return on investment of adopting social media tools. Our findings indicated that given the current trends in social media adoption by Canadians, the scalability of social media tools, and the relatively low risk of being involved, municipalities should implement social media tools to the extent their resources permit. Implementing social media on a minimal engagement level requires negligible investment, and ensures that the organization’s brand is reserved for future use should social media become commonly adopted.”
Anyways, this is just some of the reaction I’ve seen. It’s an interesting subject, and one I’ll be mulling over during my time away from the screen over the next two days.
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