05/09/10 293 W - + 11 - 6 Talking Back to the City of Charlotte

From a reader, here's an interesting Charlotte Observer article about the city of Charlotte and social media. If we read the thing correctly, the city is planning a city-sponsored Facebook page and Twitter feed. But a recently adopted policy will prevent citizens from posting comments on them. Or, maybe it'll prevent people from reading comments that others post. Can't quite tell.

Why wouldn't city officials encourage comments and discussions? I mean, that's the very raison d'etre for social media! They fear legal challenges, the article reports, if they start deleting "the kind of natsy comments commonly hurled in online forums." Unlike a private business, the article adds, the city could be sued for violating free-speech rights.

Interesting approach, and perhaps entirely understandable. It can be very, very, very difficult to read "not nice" comments that are directed in the direction of yourself or your organization. People can get downright nasty in postings, and with more vitriol than they would in person. Or in person and behind a mask, which I guess is comparable to anonymous commenting. (How does that apply to professional mask-wearers? Does Batman post anonymously??)

It can be equally challenging to read respectful but dissenting views. Open the digital barn door, and naysayers and not-likers will cheerfully churn away. And some people don't want to hear other sides. Wonder what industry experts would cite as the ratio between compliments and complaints, in typical social media interactions between consumers and service providers?

The article also mentions the Charlotte Fire Department, which is already using social media platforms. They've served as a test-case for the city, and other departments are now ready to get on board. But carefully. Read the entire article.

nibble, nibble, BITE! Let me first start off by saying Facebook is the DEVIL (those of you who know me , laugh now). Social Media reared its ugly head at us long after it had infested the cyber world and instigated litigation. Now we (municipal emergency services) are stuck with the dilemma of “do we, or don’t we”. People have been socially advertising and expressing on the internet for a good 13+ years to my recollection (I got online in ’97)...and its not until recently that fire and emergency services have embraced social media as an avenue of public interaction and information. From a public education and marketing stance…this is a good thing!

Beginning with the positive of course, I will say that departments such as Durham and Charlotte have displayed progressive ingenuity with their presence on FaceSpace. Have they had problems? Ask the Admins- who knows? There’s always an A$$#ole online (AOL). And that’s where you start, by asking those who have tried it, and by asking the “fans” to see what they get from it- that’s when you determine if its for you (or your dept). If it adheres to the mission and goals of the department- “to further educate, inform, embrace technology…” whatever yours says, then it might be right up your alley. Keep in mind that people supposedly get 40% of their information online now- and the pioneers of online profiles of FD/Emergency Services intended to reach a broader audience and keep their customers informed in a timely manner. Most social media offer a privacy control that will moderate whether or not a fan or user can comment on the page, site, or post. The question is- Is having a Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter account considered a free web page of information- or a blog for opinion? Again- for the user to decide. Or the Supreme Court, if it ever gets that far. I could go on…

The downside is that you are not the owner of the site. Will your agency permit the use of social media, and who will have the final say over whats posted? Also, will the social media interpret your use as a “fan” page or an advertisement or means of marketing. After all, publicity is the goal; and will you eventually be charged for advertising or held to the same standards as a marketing campaign? The bigger issue- who IS the moderator? An Administrator, responsible rank, person in the know? Of course the basics apply…no dead bodies, no incident details, etc. Also bear in mind those that comment with something asinine will probably come off that way to the reader anyway

For public education and information sharing I agree that social media is becoming a more common means of getting your department out there. With “subscriptions” and “fans”, many people can be notified instantly- maybe even Mobile by a “Tweet” or a “post”- consider your incidents where you want the public to avoid the area…an Open House, or a job announcement. To wrap it up and leave a pot stirring, this would be an excellent group discussion amongst stakeholders, department heads, and interested parties …lets say one afternoon in Knightdale- Training room, limit 30. Round Table- Pro’s and Con’s. Take notes, have snacks, meet again? Somebody bring a lawyer and a representative from various media outlets. Don’t forget the Hawaiian shirted blogger-
J.Boggs - 05/10/10 - 07:21

Here’s the Charlotte FD blog, with all manner of feeds and channels available: http://www.charlottefiredept.blogspot.co..
Legeros - 05/10/10 - 07:35

Allen Beach likes this.
Beach (Email) - 05/10/10 - 18:19

Good relevant post: http://thefirepio.com/2010/02/04/does-yo..
Legeros - 05/11/10 - 07:26

Organizational controls are of the utmost importance. Social media is a very good tool for emergency services outreach, but it must be maintained accordingly.
A.C. Rich - 05/12/10 - 20:26

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