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Government officials get social media tips at UNSM conference

Telling people how to piss off, but nicely.

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Don’t get angry, at least not publicly, is rule one on Twitter for government officials. Just don’t try telling that to the Liberals this week. - JESS HARTJES
  • Jess Hartjes
  • Don’t get angry, at least not publicly, is rule one on Twitter for government officials. Just don’t try telling that to the Liberals this week.

Life in the digital age means it’s user beware on the social network front. It also means local governments must use the benefits of social media to connect with their communities.

Social media is the new town crier in terms of notifying the citizenry, said a Town of Bridgewater staffer to delegates at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities’ annual fall convention last week.

Patrick Hirtle, Bridgewater’s communications co-coordinator, said social media is a crucial component of information-sharing in the 21st century, but he had a warning for users.

“Not everybody plays nice,” he told the conference, which was held November 29 to December 2 at a local hotel.

Halifax councillor Waye Mason went over several social media dos and don’ts for those in attendance. He advised delegates not to have online conversations with cranky folks on Twitter and Facebook. Take some time to step away from your device. 

“Keep your cool—don’t get angry publicly,” he said.

At Halifax city hall, the council cat who’s probably used at least a couple of his nine social media lives is Matt Whitman. Last February, Whitman was ordered by his colleagues to say he was sorry for comments he made on Twitter that were deemed to be inappropriate.

Whitman, who represents Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets, was the city’s deputy mayor when he dove into social media to publicly criticize a local RCMP officer for issuing a ticket to a constituent for using an all-terrain vehicle, with a plow, on a snow-covered street.

The councillor, re-elected in October, apologized last winter and acknowledged he’ll “be more cautious about how I tweet.”

Chester councillor Danielle Barkhouse also had some advice for her fellow delegates: “The key to any of this is learning how to tell people to piss off nicely, with kindness and facts.”

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