The City of Nelson will have a Facebook page by month’s end according to director of corporate services Frances Long.
“We’re hoping to have it up by the end of the week but I can’t promise that. For sure by the end of July,” she said.
On Monday council approved a new social media policy that will see city employees using platforms to disperse information through an official City of Nelson Facebook page one hour a week.
“The challenge is it takes up staff resources to manage it, particularly when there’s a two-way conversation. We don’t have the staff resources to do that. So staff will post, but they won’t reply,” said Long.
Councillor Candace Batycki said the policy is a step in the right direction.
“I wish we had capacity for more than a one-way conversation, though. Basically this is just another broadcast medium,” said Batycki. “It’s not a conversation unless there are two voices.”
She acknowledged there was a lot of good work done in preparing the policy and researching what social media policies exist in other municipalities.
“I approved the new Facebook page on the understanding that this is putting our toe in the water,” she said. “We’re watching to see how this goes as an experiment.”
Mayor John Dooley is thrilled by the development.
“We want to give the community as many options as possible to access information about the city. This is one more step,” he said.
The policy doesn’t apply to employees acting on their personal accounts, only to those acting in an official capacity for the city. Dooley has a personal account, as do some of the other councillors, as well as a Twitter account.
Long said not all city employees will be given an hour on social media a week. Only those with positions that already handle responsibilities like posting to the city website will be given the privilege.
“This is our first foray,” said Long, noting that a Facebook page is a conservative step in their discovery process.
“We’re not going to go in with a whole bunch of social media products. We’re going to approach this on a one-off basis and see how that works.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo said he thought the move was necessary, especially because people are increasingly attempting to contact and engage with council online.
“When I first got elected in 2005 you’d get a letter, maybe a few emails. Now its almost quadrupled. The emails and the comments and the feedback,” he said.
He noted that technology is rapidly changing, and that many politicians have abandoned Facebook in favour of Twitter.
“Not that I want to start,” he said.
Dooley said the city has a reputation for being on the leading edge of innovation, as evidenced by the recent installation of world-class broadband downtown. He said this latest social media policy is evidence of their continued commitment to keeping pace with the modern world.
“I think we’re ahead of the curve,” he said.