Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why shoot the messenger service?

This morning I chimed in on the above twitter conversation. The City of Prince George had announced its decision to temporarily suspend or render dormant, both their Facebook and twitter accounts. They announced that they are currently reviewing their use of social media and during this assessment phase, they are basically unplugging from social media.

At this point, we do not know if the severed connection will be permanent or only temporary, but over 2000 thousand facebook fans (many of which are probably residents of Prince George) are left wondering, “why?”.

What would be the purpose of unplugging during this time of review? Certainly there are analytics that they can use whilst still being engaged with their community?

Did something happen? (wild speculation abounds)

I am wondering…..will their evaluation delve into what the value of the Social Media engagement was to subscribers? What the consequences of unplugging will be?

I am not familiar with either of the City of Prince George social media accounts, but certainly there would be many of the 2000+ fans who checked the site regularly for information. Where do they go for that information now? The city website? 

Good luck with that.

The success of any social media account is tied to engagement. Engagement is not a one-way stream of information: it is sharing information, providing feedback. It is the realization that you need to give in order to get.

Engage. Inform. Retweet.

Three little words: so very powerful in mastering social media.

Facebook and twitter should not be used simply as a bulletin board to announce the next Farmer’s Market, or Town Hall budget meeting – otherwise you should abandon it in favour of a piece of bristol board and a permanent marker.

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

Case in point. Can anyone truly quantify the tremendously important and positive role that social media played in the crisis in Southern Alberta?  Mayor Nenshi and his superior command of twitter helped facilitate a Herculean effort by his community following the flooding.

Followers looked to him for guidance, for assistance, for information.

He informed.
He engaged.
He retweeted.

My question after learning of the City of Prince George decision: Why would any community deliberately sever that important conduit of communication?



KyleWith said...

Its stupid, they're, for lack of better words, stupid. They were already there. They can't do this and think it wont effect anything if they come back.

I don't know what type of shenanigans were happening on these account before but I doubt it was of any real value to anyone anyways.

Lets for a minute look at their website under the "Join the Conversation" section that resides in the footer. There lies a Youtube icon link that goes to the PG Youtube videos, but what is this? Comments are off? How can ANY CONVERSATION EVER HAPPEN IF COMMENTS ARE OFF (caps are completely necessary in this case as I am indeed yelling).

Working in community engagement day in and out I have a good idea about what might really be happening here. Either 1: The person in charge of the accounts didn't understand the premise of what they needed to be doing. As you mention, Facebook is just a Bulletin Board for useless crap no one on Facebook really cares about. This person probably does know how to engage with people, hopefully they have better luck in real life. Or 2: The City of PG Administrators like to keep very - READ: VERY! - short leashes. There was probably a decision to be on Social Media, so the admin said "sure, as long as you stay within this box, don't you dare go out of it". The restraints put on the manager of the account was too much and they weren't aloud the freedom to converse with the community the way you need to.

Those are my two ideas of what might have happened.

I would however like to recognize other municipalities that are doing a good job working the Internetz.

1. Whitehorse City Council went viral on YouTube today for being awesomely dramatic -

2. Yellowknife's Mayor (and the whole City) have just exploded with Social in the last 6 months - Follow our mayor he is a cool guy -

3. Not a municipality but a PG related organization: Tourism Prince George is killing social media. -

And there are others. Smaller, Bigger.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...


I really appreciate your comments. You make very good points.

The key to successful, ongoing engagement is having a very savvy, smart, engaging individual or team to manage your social media accounts. Organizations need to hire trustworthy, experienced individuals to monitor and respond via social media - not bind them with such a tight leash that they have no opportunity to be ambassadors.

I agree that there are other municipalities doing great things. The video from Whitehorse was awesome - loved it. Mayor Nenshi from Calgary is a twitter rockstar - very social savvy. I haven't seen Tourism PG, but I am going to take a look.

Thanks again for commenting.


Anonymous said...

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?

I'd say fire that expert, take their salary, hire an agency plaster every advertising channel. If you want to get your message across you still need interrupt people, not partake in this fuzzy engagement shenanigans.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks for commenting - you are actually saying what many are saying, "what is the return on the investment for social media" and "why should I direct precious financial resources towards something that may only impact a very small percentage of the community".

Perhaps that is what they are doing by going silent on social media while they assess the impact. Having said that, we can"t discount the important role that social media has played in times of crisis (the Southern Alberta flooding) and that both twitter and facebook can be useful and inexpensive tools in getting information out to the community.

Using social media channels properly doesn't have to become an expensive process - it can be accomplished in-house by someone trustworthy and experienced.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Stop by anytime


Suzi Satterfield said...

I live in Prince George. I'd have to guess that it's done for the same reason that anything is done in this city: because they aren't the brightest crayons in the box. Engagement isn't as it should be because the only time that there's any sort of engagement at all is when someone from the community is using social media to rip a councilmember to shreds.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks for commenting Suzi,

So, perhaps they are doing the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach. If I am hearing you correctly, if they began to use social media as it was designed "a two way conversation" and curated the content thoughtfully, then they would't have had to abandon it?


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