City falls down on Twitter, apologizes

Posted by Bryce Crawford on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 7:29 AM

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Among the many pressing issues facing Mayor Steve Bach these days, communicating in a timely fashion with Twitter followers has to be the very most important. And, fine, if you think there might be other, more important issues — we have a few hospitals around here, don't we? — then I couldn't argue too hard.

But I could point out that the city recently hired a social media person, Laura Benjamin, and is paying her $56,000 a year. You would think this would at least buy you a little Twitter time, but you'd often be wrong. You'd also be wrong about who's handling these accounts.

Sending "at" replies to @mayorstevebach has often been a study in futility, as far as receiving an answer, but it's lately come to a head among Colorado Springs residents. Here's a sample tweet, which mentions our own associate publisher Carrie Simison-Bitz, referring to the mayor's account:

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For response, we first reached chief communications officer Cindy Aubrey by e-mail.

"Social Media transmission — like press releases and other communication, it is done by the communication’s staff," she writes on Wednesday. "Regarding the Mayor — I set up his FB and Twitter accounts and both Laura Benjamin and I work on those. ..."

She later called the Indy regarding the lack of responses to questions directed at the mayor's Twitter account (which she mainly runs, as it turns out, despite Benjamin's past as a social media instructor).

"Well, I’ll take responsibility for that and I need to get better," she says on the phone. "I need to get better about that, but there’s a lot going on there, and I’m lucky if I’m — you know, I’m not lucky, but I try to return phone calls quite promptly and respond to people, and it looks like on Twitter I need to step it up a little bit."

And regarding Benjamin?

"As a staff, we’re all responsible for it. She has a lot to do with our online product. But she does handle a lot of the Facebook … but we share some of those responsibilities," says Aubrey. "And, you now, it’s a busy office so we apologize for not being as responsive as we should have to those requests."

There's also been criticism of the tweets when they do come. Wendy Carson (@barelyescape) wrote, "I think it'd be cool if whoever [handles the mayor's account] wasn't an autobot tweeter, but who interacted with the community, show interest." But, hey, one thing at a time, I guess.

Comments (1)

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I always tell people and businesses it is better to do one digital platform well before adding additional obligations. When you open these platforms it suggests that you are ready to open a conversation with people. To do otherwise, creates false expectations and sets you up for well deserved criticism. Twitter, by its very nature, is a real-time platform.

I know our community holds a no-frills values frame, but we ask the city to run like a business. I don't know of any multi-billion dollar enterprise that hasn't embraced digital platforms to communicate well with its customers. The city shouldn't be an exception to this thinking. The citizens are the consumers. We deserve meaningful communications, especially from our new "strong" mayor. The city must meet us where we live and we increasingly live in a digital world.

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Posted by Denise Whinnen on 01/12/2012 at 9:54 AM
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