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Why The Capital City Isn’t As Likeable As It Should Be

By | January 7, 2014 - 5:27 pm

Photo by Jason A. Howie/Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Jason A. Howie/Flickr Creative Commons.

The City and Borough of Juneau has yet to join the more than one billion users on Facebook, though other governments use social media regularly. While city employees may be personal users, most don’t use it in a professional capacity to push information or interact with the public. But the city of Juneau is beginning to develop a social media policy.

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“We’re kind of in this, like, social media limbo right now,” says Laurie Sica, clerk for the City and Borough of Juneau. She’s helping to develop a social media policy, and admits she has a lot to learn:

“I’m learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – what else – Instagram, Pinterest. There’s just tons of them. I’ve just been trying to get up to speed so that I can speak intelligently about it and how it’s used. These things change so fast, it’s like, ‘Ah.’”

Until the City and Borough of Juneau has a social media policy, city departments are not to open accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Those that already use social media, like Juneau Public Libraries and Eaglecrest ski area, can continue to do so.

Sica says there’s a lot to consider when developing a social media policy for government use, like how much staff time should be allocated to using it, “What happens if staff update the city’s twitter account from home? ‘Oh my gosh, they’re working, we’ll have to pay them.’ That kind of stuff, you know.”

Juneau Public Libraries Director Robert Barr doesn’t consider social media much of a time suck for his staff.

“It’s not a whole lot of effort on behalf of staff. We just kind of lump it in to our typical promotional efforts. This is just one more check box on the list. Just do a quick post on Facebook,” he says.

The public libraries system has had an internal social media policy since June 2011. It has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog.

City manager Kim Kiefer knows it’s time for Juneau to establish a policy that allows other departments to be active online.

“We’re behind the curve for sure with social media. In government we need to try and reach out to everybody in the community and I think we’re probably missing a group of the population because they don’t go to juneau.org to get information. They want it yesterday and I don’t know that we’re providing it in a way that they can get it.”

The City of Fairbanks has had a social media presence since March 2010, and an internal city policy for six months. Public information officer Amber Courtney says the social media policy makes sure all information is shared in a positive and honest manner, “It’s just ensuring that we have a level of trust with the people who are sharing the information, to make sure that our tone is always professional and respectful, that we’re cognizant of the things we’re sharing and how they’re going to impact the public. For example, we definitely don’t want people sharing photos of accident scenes where somebody might have been injured.”

In Fairbanks, the city, police department,emergency communication center, and mass transit are all on Facebook. Other departments that want to set up an account must get approval from the mayor.

The push for Fairbanks to get on social media stemmed from attending FEMA workshops. Courtney learned that the public relied on Facebook and Twitter to get information from the government about disasters and emergencies.

“And so I thought, ‘Well, we definitely need to kick that into gear and start building our audience so that should something untoward happen, we have access to as many people as possible and I know that that information goes exponentially. There’s 44,000 people within a 10-mile radius of where I sit that have a Facebook account so if I can get to ten percent of them, that’s amazing, because it just goes from there,” Courtney says.

The City of Fairbanks has more than 340 likes on its Facebook page, which Courtney hopes will grow to at least ten times that. She says posting information about snow removal doubled thecity’s Twitter followers, now at more than 800. Courtney will soon have more time to grow the audience on both sites. Her job duties have recently shifted to make social media a primary responsibility.

A sampling of social media sites geared for Juneau residents:

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