The use of such social media outlets for marketing or even recruitment is nothing new among law firms. But Bradley & Guzzetta has expanded its services beyond its former niche of telecommunications, broadband and cable television law to begin offering technical and legal support in the development and deployment of social media.
We’re grateful to Minnesota Lawyer for publishing an article about our social media policy and consulting services. If you’re a subscriber of Minnesota Lawyer, here’s the article on their site.
I’m not a big morning person. Never have been. So when it came time for blogging, morning was out. For now, I’ll blog over lunch. But “Lunchtime Bites” may at some point turn into “Midnight Snacks.” We’ll see. This is my first entry.
With technology today, a person interested in producing a video is as easy as pulling out a smart phone and shooting video and uploading it to Facebook or YouTube or some other type of interactive social media network. Anyone with access to widely available video recording devices can produce and distribute video. Add a mac or pc to the mix and now you can produce a fully edited video clip for distribution. So with these capabilities in our hands, is there any reason to support Public, Educational and Governmental (“PEG”) television?
PEG Channels are cable channels that are typically operated by cities or counties. A “Public Access” channel is generally open to anyone who wants to put some type of video programming on the channel. It is the public soapbox in the cable television world. An “Education Access” channel is typically a channel that is programmed by the local school district or college/university and could contain classroom instruction or video of school board meetings and other school activities, like a school pep fest. A channel that shows local government meetings and other information on the local community is a “Government Access” channel. These PEG channels have been around for about 30 years now.
While there are new and inexpensive ways to produce video, PEG operations still allow people to produce video in a higher quality and shown to a local audience. While you can put a video out on YouTube, the chances of it being seen by significant numbers of people is still very small. There are still some financial obstacles to producing video. Although the technology to produce a decent quality video has decreased significantly over the years, there are still many people that simply do not have access to the cameras to shoot the video, the computers to edit the video, or the internet to upload the content. Many PEG operations also provide training to help new producers make quality video productions. Sometimes these productions are later shown on other channels, such as PBS. Volunteer producers go on to careers in video production.
The audience of the PEG channels should also not be underestimated. For example, folks who want to know what is going on with their local government need only tune into their local government access channel. They will likely see the council or board meetings that they are interested in, shows about current city/county/state projects, and perhaps bulletin board notices with important information. Viewers know where this information is and the amount of content exceeds what you can put on a social networking site.
Is PEG Television relevant in a social media world? Yes! Should local governments exclude the use of social media? No! Local governments can and should use social media to highlight good programming and information. Robust viewership is good for the future of the PEG channels and good for the cable operator providing the channels. Food for thought!
Government Technology reported today on a recent survey of top US cities using social media. The report requires a bit of parsing, as the focus is on all types of business people using social media — not how cities as organizations use social media. But one very interesting tidbit is revealed about how governments use social media: there is a preference for LinkedIn over Facebook and Twitter, although the gap in interest between these services is smaller for government workers than for other businesses in general. That is, cities and city employees are more likely, proportionately, than other business types to favor Facebook and Twitter along with LinkedIn.
What does this say about local governments and their employees using social media? I think it shows a greater connection with constituents — the general public. Public servants are seeing the value in communicating on the networks that most most of their residents favor.
I was disappointed to read that a city in California plans to abandon its Facebook page due to legal concerns. While it’s true that a municipal attorney’s job is to spot potential problems and help head them off before they strike, it’s unfortunate when that advice hampers a very useful communication tool for citizens.
None of the legal issues raised in the above-linked story are insurmountable, they just take some careful planning and consideration to ensure they’re handled in a way that limits liability while maximizing the value to residents and city staff. In many cases, the tradeoffs involved in, for instance, a municipal Facebook page, will tip the balance towards keeping the page active.
On questions of censorship and First Amendment rights, cities can:
- Limit users’ ability to post comments.
- Post explicit, carefully-crafted policy on how the Facebook forum is to be used if comments are allowed.
- Address borderline comments openly and respectfully in the same forum.
- Lead by example in keeping the conversation clean and productive.
For records retention concerns:
- Third-party services can help governments cheaply and easily incorporate Facebook and other social media content into records retention activities
- Archived social media posts can help city officials follow important issues of citizen concern
Regarding open meetings violations:
- A quorum of officials commenting on any online platform can be a violation, so why not use the opportunity to educate officials and benefit from social media?
On concerns of employee use:
- Cities need to have policies on official and personal social media use by employees. Eliminating an official Facebook page is not going to keep employees off of Facebook, nor will it keep them from discussing their jobs while online. Careful policy creation, training, and enforcement can enable employees to use social media in ways beneficial to the city and to themselves.
It’s sad to see cities turn away from social media. Their citizens, employees, contractors, and current and potential businesses are leveraging social media. Cities should be, too.