At yesterday’s Cardiff Council Standards & Ethics committee a presentation was made about the Council’s current tests with social media.
Catherine Thomson, operations manager for communications at the Council and Tony Price from the online team respectively showed how the Council was starting to use twitter to interact with residents.
Thomson said: “We have undergone pilot activity on social networks, primarily on Twitter. Once you enter into it, it’s labour intensive. If you committ you have to be able to see it through. We have to be prepared to enter into conversations.”
The Cardiff Council Twitter account has over 1,000 followers and Price showed how the Council monitored tweets about the council and hot topics, such as Bute Park.
“We started off with phase one, which was a Twitter account but it was all one-way,” said Thomson, “we put out links to press releases and service announcements, such as bin collection days. We saw our number of followers grow, so we moved to phase two where we’ve started to respond to tweets at the council, some complain about bins not being emptied or rubbish. It allows us to be more responsive.”
Thomson showed tweets from yourCardiff as examples of how their monitor stories and information, and also spoke about the Guardian Cardiff blog and how the Council was engaging with their FixMyStreet service to spot potential problems.
He said: “The difficulty is anyone can register, post a comment and put out disinformation about issues in my portfolio. It motivated me to register so I could get my reply in. People certainly seem to slag people off rather than praise them on these sites.”
Thomson responded that there was nothing the Council could do about comments posted on media sites, but that it was working with key bloggers and recognising them as key opinion formers.
The issues of councillors blogging and potentially having blogs hosted on the Council website was debated at the meeting.
Coun Simon Wakefield, Cathays, said: “If a councillor puts out a leaflet they have to put ‘put out and published by’. You may have people saying things electronically they wouldn’t put down in print.”
Thomson said: “We really need to look into councillors blogging. It brings up issues with blogging politically and blogging operationally.”
Kate Berry, Council solicitor, said there were issues over councillors blogging but that they are elected to represent the views of their community – and this could be achieved by blogging.
She said: “I think the issue of using Twitter and blogs is a training and development issue. We need to think about the support we give to members so they can have a clear understanding of the issues.”
Thomson finished by saying that any foray into wider social media would require extra resources, and that the Council was due to release it’s social media strategy and guidance in September.
What do you think? Should councillors have blogs? Are councillors who have Twitter feeds clear enough about their use? Let us know in the comments below.