By Cole Parkinson
With social media continuing to be an easy method for municipalities to spread information, the Municipal District of Taber is exploring a social media policy.
Previous discussions around the matter have led it back to the policy committee at their meeting on June 17 where they discussed if they needed one or not.
“The M.D. of Taber operates a number of social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook. The M.D. also has Facebook pages for each of the six fire stations (Barnwell and Taber are shared) and the community peace officer program,” said CAO Derrick Krizsan.
While there is no distinct social media policy, there are two municipal policies are relevant which includes Internet, email and digital media.
In terms of the M.D.’s use of social media, the shift to digital has been necessary as it provides a quick way to get their message out to residents in a matter of seconds.
“It provides transparency on all public services. It provides key benefits which includes saving money. Traditional public outreach including advertising is expensive and social media cuts costs. It educates the audience, it has transformed how the M.D. of Taber communicates with people by providing relevant up to date information on programs and policies as well as matters conquering public safety,” continued Krizsan.
According to administration, it also keeps citizen engaged, builds public trust and attracts, engages and maintains citizens in volunteer capacities.
“We did a quick scan of other communities in the area and they are engaged in social media with apparent equal success,” added Krizsan.
With Facebook pages for their community peace officer program, all fire stations and the M.D. itself, running the accounts are split between many people.
In terms of how much time is dedicated to keeping the Facebook pages and M.D. Twitter account updated, some time is dedicated throughout a typical day.
“Myself and chief Schafer have taken care of that (M.D. Fire Facebook pages). The M.D. page, Bryce (Surina, director of GIS and IT) and Dean (Parker, information services technician) do that as well as Candice (Robison, administrative clerk) and Joanne (Bronsch, development clerk). Dean and Bryce run the Twitter accounts and Twitter is mainly for road bans. We don’t have the same type of engagement on Twitter as we do on Facebook,” added Krizsan.
On top of their social media accounts, the M.D. also runs their official website which has meeting agendas, minutes, fire/road ban alerts and many other things.
The website can also be updated at any time during the day which gives the M.D. a chance to keep everyone up to date minute by minute.
“Do enough people go to the M.D. website for looking at agendas, minutes and all that sort of stuff? Is it being accessed through the Facebook page?” asked Reeve Merrill Harris.
“We are averaging, on our website, roughly 10 to 20 engagements per day. Mobile devices are what people are accessing on and that is what people are using to gather their information,” responded Krizsan.
In today’s vast social media landscape, there is always a concern of people lashing out online and how to handle it.
While it has happened on occasion to some of the M.D. accounts, there hasn’t been a whole bunch of it, which the M.D. is happy about.
“We’ve been pretty lucky. I think there have been only two incidents on the M.D. Facebook page where we had individuals go off on the M.D. I can’t recall on the regional fire pages were we ever blocked or taken off a comment. It is there to gather information and we respond in a professional way,” stated Krizsan.
With direct messaging available in almost all social media, a question was asked if any of the M.D. accounts have gotten messages and how often they get them.
“We get messages through the Facebook municipal account and we get lots of inquiries about fire bans, road bans and inquiries all over looking for patches, t-shirts and memorabilia,” said Krizsan.
A motion was made to bring more information back to the next policy meeting in regard to establishing policy and was carried unanimously.