Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube are quickly becoming the ground zero of spreading hot news stories, passing along titillating gossip and selfies, or hyping the cause du jour.
Even better – it’s a free way to self promote. The problem is when there’s misinformation, it can catch like wildfire and there’s no real way to stop the presses.
Now local municipalities are working to nip future media blips with specific guidelines for posting city or village platforms, including how to deal with negative comments available for all to see.
Trail council gave a nod to the no-turning-back way to reach the masses, by stamping a social media policy into the books during Monday’s governance and operations (GOC) committee meeting.
The growth in the city’s Facebook page and Twitter account in just one year, lead city staff to recommend principals for providing accurate information and positive engagement to its thousand-plus followers.
So far, the policy only accounts for direct posts to the City of Trail page, which leaves council’s personal pages open to whatever they chose to share or comment about.
“I think we need to go one step further within the policy,” said GOC Chair Sandy Santori. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us as individual councillors to report what’s taking place at council,” he explained. “There’s huge exposure to the city if it’s not reported properly, or if we are inaccurate about what it is we are reporting, or if something is taken out of context. It’s confusing for the public.”
As discussion ensued about site management, which falls to Andrea Jolly, Trail’s events and communication coordinator, the five councillors present agreed that Trail council should be heard with one voice on social media.
While Trail Mayor Mike Martin admits he wasn’t an active social media user prior to the election, he acknowledged the significant role the sites play in communication between the city and residents.
“I’ve come to recognize how important social media is,” he said. “For that reason it needs to be maintained but done in a defined manner with regards to reporting city activities. And I would like to thank staff for bringing this delicate matter forward…because we are moving into new territory here.”
With Trail’s policy in place, council directed staff to bring forward some suggestions to potentially amend the policy to include restrictions for council members when reporting city business on their own personal social media sites.
Earlier this year, Fruitvale advanced a social media policy prior to launching the village’s Facebook page. Those guidelines are clear and stipulate the site is only for corporate messages, including event postings, notifications to residents and information of public interest.
Although the Montrose Facebook page doesn’t have much traffic yet, the site is growing as posts about community events increase.
Village council reviewed its two-year social media policy, which uses a common sense approach stipulating slanderous, obscene and political posts aren’t permitted.