Use of Social Media in Washington State Cities

Olympia to expand media presence socially


Olympia is ramping up its use of social media this year, including Facebook and Twitter. But the city is taking a slow, cautious approach over concerns about maintaining public records as required under state law, city spokeswoman Cathie Butler said. That’s a common concern for other South Sound governments considering using social media.

“This is a big year for us on new ways to communicate with people and for interested folks in our community to find information about what’s going on in the city,” Butler said.

The city is dipping its toe a little deeper in the social media waters with a new Twitter account on the 18th Avenue project. Updates will be posted on the $2.5 million project to improve 18th Avenue between Boulevard Road and Redwood Estates with a new sidewalk, bike lanes, lighting and other street improvements.

Butler considers it a pilot project, a test.

“If we’re successful with this project, then we do intend to do a more general … Twitter account for notifications,” Butler said, including more updates on construction projects. That could come in the second half of the year, she said.

City leaders have experimented with Facebook and Twitter before. The city’s parks department began using Twitter two years ago to send alerts on ballfield closures and notices about the city’s skate park.

The city started a Facebook page in August 2009, but it last was updated in September 2009. Butler said that will start to change this year, too.

Butler envisions two Twitter accounts for short announcements, one for construction and road news and another for more general announcements. Twitter allows only 140 characters per post, limiting loquacity. But Facebook allows longer posts, and Butler said that site could have different content, such as information about recreation classes.

Concerns about maintaining public records are holding the city back. Under state law, the city would have to provide a backlog of Twitter or Facebook updates, for example, to anyone who requests them.

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