Call it #reluctance for some County of Wetaskiwin councilors, but the municipality will move forward after approving a social media policy at their regular meeting June 8.
The council meeting had been rescheduled to run on Friday.
The proposed social media policy was brought to council by communications officer Sharon Radis. “At the March 13, 2018 Council General Meeting, Council resolved to table approval of the proposed Social Media Policies and Revised Communications Strategy for further information on “push only” options,” stated Radis in the agenda item.
“The policies were brought forward as the Business Plan for Business Unit 1215 Communications contains an action stating ‘Implement and update the Communications Plan and Strategy’. Included in the Communications Plan, which was approved by Council March 1, 2016, is the requirement to develop a County digital engagement policy, including Social Media for staff and Council.
Radis stated a social media policy was discussed because local taxpayers mentioned such things in the results of the 2015 Communicating with the County survey. She said she contacted other governments to see how such policies are handled.
“Administration has reached out to the Alberta Municipal Communicators group, via its Facebook page, questioning use of push only Social Media,” stated Radis.
“All responses indicated two-way communication in their Facebook pages and several pointed out that Social Media is designed specifically as a two-way conversation platform. Reference was also given to the new public participation requirements of the Municipal Government Act, noting that push only would not meet the guidelines of public participation.
“Several rural municipalities were polled regarding Communications staff and Social Media usage and results of the survey are provided for Council’s information.”
Radis mentioned one municipality told he they use their Facebook page to market their recreational lakes, which is popular and regularly used.
Councilor Terry Van de Kraats said he remembered social media being fairly far down the priority list in the 2015 survey, and said he didn’t really see a positive side for social media also noting the staff time and money needed for this. However, Van de Kraats said it’s obvious social media isn’t going away.
Van de Kraats also stated social media could collect information or feedback from people who aren’t residents of the County of Wetaskiwin.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers said social media is an easy, quick way to send out information and she supports it. “I think it’s only as bad as we make it,” said Rooyakkers.
Councilor Lyle Seely said the county doesn’t have to respond to everything that happens on social media, especially if it’s something the county is already aware of.
County CAO Rod Hawken said social media is similar to other channels. “It’s another tool to communicate with our residents,” said Hawken. He estimated managing social media accounts would take about five hours of staff time per week.
Councilor Josh Bishop said he was concerned staff would be spending a lot of time reading Facebook posts.
Councilor Dale Woitt said social media is part of modern culture. “I think by resisting we’re just falling further behind,” said Woitt.
CORRECTED “Brazeau County has a manager of Economic Development and Communications and a communications coordinator, both of whom are staff members. We handle all social media for the County,” stated Brazeau County’s Ken MacInnis, corporate communications coordinator, Community Services, by email June 14.
Van de Kraats asked how much resources the county would have to commit to social media, and Hawken said no answer is available for that right now. Seely noted it’s not really the councilors job to worry about staff work, that’s Hawken’s job. Seely said councilors approve policies and staff implement them.
Councilor Ken Adair said social media is very important to younger people. “That’s what the younger generation accepts nowadays, so for me it’s not an issue,” said Adair.
The social media policy was approved by vote, with Van de Kraats and Bishop opposed.