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Twitter for Municipalities

I’m a twitterer. I’m bored of the monologue style of media that still dominates the old school thinking. Telling people what you want them to hear with no easy opportunity for dialog is so 90’s.   That’s why I think it is essential for municipalities to embrace social media and build participation in the demographics that are currently untapped for input. Twitter is the poster child for social media, less a teenage fan site, more a snappy communication tool, it is being embraced by businesses across the world. It is time for municipalities to step up to the challenge.

I twitter on several fronts, some of them in a government capacity as follows:

@RosslandBC – general announcements from the City of Rossland,
@RosslandSnow – Rossland Public Works and Snow Removal announcements

Twitter is useful for municipalities as seen in this list quoted from Dave Fleet:

  • Early-warning issues management – identify emerging issues early before they bubble up to the media;
  • Monitoring reaction – through persistent Twitter searches, departments can track sentiment, content and other trends in reaction to announcements;
  • Direct-to-citizen communication – Twitter, and other social media tools, can help organizations communicate directly with their target audiences rather than going through the filter of the media;
  • Put a face on the organization – government often suffer from being faceless organizations, while politicians seem aloof. Social media tools in general can help to counteract this;
  • Emergency management – emergency coordinators need to get information out quickly to people in an emergency; Twitter could even work at a hyper-local level;
  • Raise awareness of resources – government websites can be impenetrable mazes, designed by committee to placate competing silos with information buried deep inside the site. Twitter can help to point people to the right place;
  • Identifying resources and information – a more individual use, which worked for me – Twitter can be invaluable for finding answers and identifying resources for those last-minute requests (contrary to popular opinion, government communications can move very quickly at times) – just throw the request or question out there for a rapid response;

Governments Experimenting With Twitter | davefleet.com.

There is no one tool that can perform all of the necessary functions of communication, but Twitter is too good a tool to ignore. Short headline-like announcements, linking to more details is required.

Twitter can be linked to SMS on cell phones, it is possible to set up dedicated twitter accounts for emergency response, where residents can receive messages on their cellphones in an emergency. We have no other simple technology that can do that at this stage.

Many people have expressed concern over corporate communications and the control of information – years ago this was used as a reason for corporations to not blog about their activities or products, but almost all corporations are actively promoting their work online these days. Simple rule, if it can’t be said in 140 characters, write a blog post and link to it through twitter!

And of course you can follow me on twitter too! @UrbanWorkbench

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

4 thoughts on “Twitter for Municipalities

  1. I totally get the pros of Tweeting, but man, I just got so bored with it that I decided to stop. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say in 140 characters, and the privacy settings kept changing on me and I was getting too much spam. And I am not sure I feel I am missing out on too much…Though after reading Fleet’s list, I wonder…

  2. Not sure what had changed with privacy, but with the spam, it is possible to create lists like “local news” or “friends” and you can view these lists simultaneously using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. I’m tending toward Hootsuite these days because of the ability to schedule tweets and easily manage multiple accounts, and multiple authors as well.

  3. I tried Tweetdeck but hated it. The privacy thing had to do with my Tweets showing up in the followers of followers’ streams, and vice versa. I was constantly scrolling through all these strangers’ tweets and it was annoying. And there might be a setting to stop this, but I couldn’t be bothered. I did set up some lists to keep things organized but…I don’t know…The whole medium just became to tedious for me…

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