Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So why doesn’t The City follow back on Twitter?

Over the past month or so, several Calgarians have asked why The City of Calgary’s Twitter feed doesn’t follow anyone. In the social media community, not “following back” is often seen as a serious faux pas, and so we’ve faced some criticism for not following other Calgarians Twitter feeds.

While we don’t profess to have the absolute answer for social media best practices, as an organization, we’ve decided not to follow Calgarians for a few different reasons. You may not agree with our thought process, but here are some of the factors that weighed into our decision.

Firstly, there are privacy issues that arise anytime a government organization has access to private citizens’ information. This relates to the Freedom of Information and Privacy act. Essentially, as a municipal government, we’re subject to different laws than private citizens are.

Then there’s the question of where to draw the line, or even how to draw the line. If The City follows one citizen, or one alderman, or one Member of Legislative Assembly, then to be fair, we’d probably have to follow every citizen, alderman, etc.

Somewhat related to that point, we thought that there might be the perception of implied endorsement if The City of Calgary were to follow a particular Twitter account. By following someone, could it be perceived that we endorse everything that person says? Maybe, maybe not.

Lastly, there’s the whole perceived big brother angle – the government monitoring its citizens updates.

While following Calgarian's Twitter accounts may be a step towards social media engagement, we don’t feel that it’s the only way to accomplish that goal.

We are watching some of the social media conversations occurring – including the Calgary hash tag - #yyc, comments on our Youtube channel as well as posts on local blogs. If we feel we have something to contribute to the conversation, then we’ll likely jump in, but the last thing we’d want to do as a municipal government is elbow our way into conversations where we’re not welcome.

While the number of municipal governments on Twitter continues to grow (and there’s a number of municipalities who are doing a great job), we do believe that The City of Calgary is one of the leaders in Canada as far as use of social media by a municipal government, and with that sometimes comes the fact that there isn’t an established best practice for us to follow.

It’s no big secret that this has been a learning process for The City of Calgary and we welcome questions, comments and recommendations about how we’re using social media and what our citizens would like to discuss. Tweet with us, or comment on our blog or video channels any time, and we’ll do our best to respond promptly.

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