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More and more businesses are getting on Twitter in the downtown core as they recognize the value of social media, but also the downtown and its streets. The DBIA has run a terrific Twitter account for some time @downtownPtbo. More recently, Hunter Street is being represented @hunterstptbo and now George Street is on Twitter @georgestptbo. Email us—or better yet, tweet us—when other street accounts get activated downtown.
The City of Peterborough has taken a big step—they are on Twitter and tweeting @CityPtbo. We wanted to find out why they took this step now, and the back story on how it came together. Heather Watson, Councillor Services Assistant with the City of Peterborough, explains in this interview.
PTBOCANADA: This is a big step for the city. How much planning and logistics went into deciding to activate this account? Has it been in the works for a while? Many internal conversations? What were your main concerns in joining Twitter?
WATSON: There has been a group working on a social media policy since the Mayor was elected in 2010. After much collaboration, a social media policy was adopted by Council in the Spring of this year. The policy and accompanying procedure explored the use of various social channels by each of the departments within the City. Concerns discussed and addressed were the timely responses to postings, regular monitoring and security (password management, who has access etc.).
The Mayor's Office was not involved in the working group, however we did have input once a draft policy was presented. Our concern was to ensure that members of Council would be free to maintain social media profiles and respond to their constituents in a way that they saw fit. We also wanted to know that staff who managed the accounts were able to respond to requests made through social channels in a timely way to provide good customer service.
PTBOCANADA: Who will be looking after the account and will it be monitored during weekdays only? Will there be interaction with Tweeters (aka "tweeps") who have questions/concerns?
WATSON: Any City department or program can start a social profile. As in the case of the City of Peterborough Twitter account, staff are assigned to be responsible for the management, monitoring and responding to queries. The @CityPtbo is managed through Corporate Services staff member Sharron Hayton. The account will be monitored Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. The purpose of the account is to relay messages as it relates to media releases and information that is already public. Interaction with tweeps will be responsive to questions and to refer them to the right channel.
PTBOCANADA: What is the main "mission" of the account?
WATSON: To get messages out to City residents in a timely way and to respond to customer service inquiries.
PTBOCANADA: Do you see this as another step in the city embracing the age of social media? Mayor Bennett, of course, has been on Twitter for a while.
WATSON: Yes. This is something that Mayor Bennett has been encouraging since being elected. Now that a policy has been adopted by Council, citizens can expect to see more engagement through social channels. He was the first Mayor to tweet in the City of Peterborough, has held two Twitter Town Halls to engage citizens and he proclaimed June 30, 2013 as Social Media Day in the City to recognize the important role that social media plays in our community.
PTBOCANADA: Will it be used in times of emergency for the city?
WATSON: This account will be used to get timely information out to citizens during times of emergency.
Note: Watson notes there are a number number of City departments/programs that currently maintain Twitter sites. Here they are:
Peterborough Airport: @PtboAirport
GPA EDC: @PtboEcDev
Peterborough Fire Services: @PtboFireRescue
Peterborough Museum & Archives: @OntheHill3
Peterborough Lakefield Police: @PLCPS
Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre: @PSWC1
Peterborough Transit: @PeterboroughTr1
Peterborough Utilities: @ptbo_utilities
Riverview Park & Zoo: @RiverviewZoo
When it comes to deciding on where to get my haircut, I rarely stray. With a great local barber located less than a block away in my neighbourhood, all it takes is a quick walk and I’m in and out. No harm, no foul.
Recently, I was faced with an unexpected dilemma: my barber had taken holidays! And I needed a haircut bad.
Naturally, I turned to Twitter. Social media in Peterborough is always buzzing, and I thought if I sent out a quick tweet asking for suggestions, I might get a few replies. I wasn’t expecting much, but boy was I ever surprised when my mentions feed started to blow up! Within minutes, I had so many responses with people sending me names and salons that I just had to check out in the city.
This told me a few things. 1) We have an awesome city filled with a ridiculous amount of selection, and 2) I need to get out a little more. These shops were all locally owned and operated.
Just a few of the responses I received: Bloodline Parlor, Tonic, Henry’s Barber Shop, Kouture Hair Studio, and Salon 5thirty1. The best part about these shops are that they’re located within walking distance of each other!
With so much choice, it came down to personal preference because from what I can tell, each shop offers a unique atmosphere and style. No two places are alike, and they are all obviously doing quite well, because let’s face it: a haircut is something everyone needs at some point or another. You can only avoid the scissors for so long!
In the end, I ended up taking @jacksoncreek's advice and took my hair to the great chaps at Henry’s Barbershop to deal with. It had such a welcoming down to earth feel and I would recommend them to anyone.
This was a great first step in experiencing the world of haircutting outside of my safety net. I know I can’t be the only guy in this boat and suggest you all get out and try someone new!
Peterborough is filled with a lot of talented hair dressers, so what are you waiting for?
—By PtboCanada's Aaron Elliott
The power of social media showed itself again last night (August 8th) as Royal Wood invited local musician Natalie Hughes up on stage to play with him at Peterborough Musicfest after earlier seeing a tweet from PMZ suggesting she play. Royal had never done anything like this before. Check out the video here PMZ captured of Royal introducing Natalie...
For the hundreds of students who call Peterborough home, the daunting task of searching for a summer job often feels like an uphill battle. However, students losing hope shouldn’t give up because when armed with a little bit of creativity, knowledge of local resources, and a lot of effort, it becomes possible to win this battle and successfully gain a job.
What’s impressive about Peterborough is the large number of resources that exist to help students living in the city. Websites such as Employment Planning and Counselling and Peterborough Careers list a broad range of positions, many of which are temporary student jobs.
Yet with so many students living in the city, sometimes it takes more than just this knowledge to land an interview. Over the course of my own job search, I discovered that social media is a great tool for connecting locally and receiving leads on jobs. I sent out over ten tweets in which I tagged locals who specialize in the area I was looking for work (Communications), and I couldn’t be happier with the number of responses I received. No one had jobs available with their organizations, but many tweeters went out of their way to direct me to others companies and job postings that I may find helpful. Social media also helped me learn that tourism is extremely important to Peterborough and therefore businesses that benefit from tourism are extremely likely to hire seasonal help.
Another way I’ve learned to make local connections is through volunteer opportunities. I think many students (myself included!) expect to see job postings that are an exact match to their interests, skills, and education—oh how rare that is! While some people aren’t picky about summer opportunities, those that are hoping to eventually find work in their field should highly consider volunteering for organizations that interest them.
The beautiful thing about smaller cities like Peterborough is they have a great community feel, and local professionals are often more than happy to help a keen student looking for opportunities to grow. I’ve had many friends tell me that they’ve called and emailed people they would like to work for, and that as long as you demonstrate you’re passionate and carry yourself with courtesy and respect, you can gain some great advice and unpaid experience from these organizations.
Of course the ultimate goal is to gain employment with the organization, and maybe that will come the following summer, upon graduation, or maybe never. But the references, networking skills, and experience that can be gained through volunteering are greatly rewarding.
Occasionally, individuals try all the above strategies and are still stuck. It’s at this point that some students take matters into their own hands and use their education and passions to create their own job. This is what I’ve done for the past three summers. Having received a certificate in music from Humber College, I realized I’d be hard-pressed to find a summer job relative to my field in Peterborough, so I started teaching saxophone and piano lessons. While this has only been a side job for me, I’ve spoken to several other students over the years who rely on their entrepreneurial skills to make all of their summer earnings. Examples range from photography businesses to dance and music lessons.
The key takeaway is that living in a smaller city is not always a bad thing when it comes to the summer job hunt. Being able to get your name out relatively easily and talk to a variety of resources on a regular basis is a unique opportunity that Peterborough students should be proud to say they have.
Beth McClelland is a public relations student and music certificate graduate of Humber College in Toronto. She grew up in Peterborough and enjoys spending summers here with her family. Beth is passionate about innovations in social media, music performance and marketing, and community service opportunities.
Note: This is the 3rd column of David Goyette's "Backroom Briefing" for PTBOCanada. For more info on it, click here.
Q: I would love to know if the City is going to update its social media policy and start using social media in more active ways—especially as part of their City communication plan. Is it? –Alana Callan
Goyette: Good question. Let’s begin with the assumption that social media—communication among online communities enabled by electronic tools and protocols—is here to stay. Online and cellular communication has already changed the way that people consume, relate to and share information. This website is an example of that. About 8 million Canadians have Twitter® accounts. There are a prescient few who foresee growing user fatigue, but the digital cat seems well out of the bag.
Governments are not typically early adapters of technologies, and that caution is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when taxpayer money is at stake. On the other hand, the wider public sector has so much to gain in relating to its communities via social media that its employment seems obvious. Consider the advantages to government in dealing with its constituencies: wider and faster reach; interactivity and engagement; new marketing and survey possibilities; program and event promotion; staff collaboration; new payment options; and all with greater frequency and speed at less cost. Add to that the spin virtues of openness, transparency, going green and enhancing customer service and you have a genuine catalyst for change.
On the political front, the Obama campaign of 2007/2008 was a turning point in the value verification of social media. The 2010 Bennett mayoralty campaign employed online innovations such as a virtual campaign office, Twitter®, video messaging, monthly opinion surveys and accessible scheduling. It's important to remember, of course, that if you are going to reach out to the world, the world is going to reach back in ways that may not be to your liking. The promotion of engaged communities always has its price.
By any measure, the City of Peterborough has an excellent website. Eight corporate Facebook® and/or Twitter® accounts are held by City departments or agencies, including the Mayor. The City is now in the process of reviewing its social media policy, and it has to be said that this is more complex than it might first appear. First, it requires a cultural shift involving a more relaxed view of the sharing of information and tolerance for varied opinion. Second, care has to be taken with matters of content, confidentiality, privacy, personal information, record keeping, liability, intellectual property, online/offline integration, compensation and employee conduct outside of the workplace. I have many of these same issues to deal with in writing this column.
Nonetheless, there is no denying the benefits of a form of Local Government 2.0 that one day might have you contacting your public transit operator to check out bus schedules on the go; being engaged in a City-sponsored survey on current issues or budgets; contributing to an online public meeting; or updating a street by street data portrait or photo file. It’s a brave new digital world.
David Goyette is the Executive Assistant to Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett. For more on his Backroom Briefing column, click here. Email your burning questions for David about City Hall to email@example.com.