Social Media Column: Following municipalities on Twitter

Published in the May 28, 2013 issue of The Edmonton Sun.

Linda’s social media column can be found every Tuesday in the Edmonton Sun.

Following municipalities on Twitter

When someone starts out on Twitter, one of the first things they wonder is who they should follow.

I use Twitter primarily to see what’s going on in the city and to connect with locals.

When people ask me what account they should follow, a default answer is the @CityofEdmonton and other town, municipality or county accounts in the Capital Region such as @CityofStAlbert @CityFortSask @StrathcoCounty @Parkland_County @CitySpruceGrove and @TownStonyPlain.

These kinds of Twitter accounts are valuable ones to follow. Not only do they let you know about local events, city services and resources, but you can also get reliable and timely information on traffic delays or emergencies.

You can look west of Edmonton for recent success stories.

Both Parkland County and the Town of Stony Plain effectively used social media as a way to pump out accurate information for residents and the media, in real-time, as crews dealt with recent fires.

In Stony Plain’s case, the town first learned of the Sonora apartment fire through tweets from residents.

“It was on social media before our fire departments were contacted,” said Rudy Zacharias with the Town of Stony Plain.

After that, the town put out updated details on the situation as they became available.

“It was very good to get the right information out as well because there was a lot of conflicting information,” Zacharias said.

Misinformation also swirled online about a grassfire south of Spruce Grove last week.

“We started getting a lot of phone calls at county centre because there was a misunderstanding about the evacuation of a subdivision because of the grass fire and it wasn’t an evacuation,” said Jackie Ostashek with Parkland County.

“So Twitter was a great way to get the correct information out and stop the constant spread of misinformation.”

Both Parkland County and the Town of Stony Plain recognized years ago that they should be on social media, tapping into online tools to reach out to a growing number of residents who are getting their information digitally.

“I think organizations that are not using it are missing out on a very important part of communication and engaging with their residents,” Zacharias said.

“Not only our residents but there are so many other people who take our messages and share it with their networks and before long we’ve engaged with a lot of people.”

They’re both taking slow but sure steps towards being more social, choosing networks they can best manage. First Twitter, then Facebook, and both hope to develop more content for YouTube as well.

Municipalities should be using social media, but as both Ostashek and Zacharias advise, only do so if it makes sense for the population and if you can effectively manage it.

“For us in the Edmonton area, where people are all over it, it’s growing daily, it is an important tool,” Ostashek says.

Some Tweets of the Week

@bshuchuk: It’s so nice I will be #yegbike ing FOREVER. See you on the trails #yeg

@luisdurazo: Nothing like enjoying the fresh smell of Edmonton’s river valley right in the middle of downtown. Love it! #yeg

@Gabinatrix: Is it socially acceptable to have ‘being awesome’ in one’s philosophy of education? #teacher #education #abed #yeg

@farrellbry: 128.9 for gas. Go home #Edmonton you are so, SO DRUNKKK #yeg

@_Kristin_Ann_: I live by the belief that when I am in my car I am invisible to everyone else around me. Car Karaoke <3 #yeg #shpk #Matchbox20 Click here to read the column on the Edmonton Sun website!

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