Letters to the Editor

Monday, 18 June 2012

City of Fredericton "Gets Social"

By Mark Burnett

Fredericton - The Purple Violet Press
June 18, 2012

The City of Fredericton seems to be getting the hang of it. 

Fredericton Fire Dept. on Twitter
It’s an important time for the City to start connecting with its residents in a more reachable way.  Many residents of the city use social media on a daily basis.  In fact, over 17 million people in Canada are actively on social media, according to an Ipsos poll taken in 2011.  Now City services, as well as City staff, are using this method of communication to stay in touch and share information.

Mayor of Fredericton, Brad Woodside, took some time Thursday morning to discuss how social media improves his accessibility.

“If you look at the tweets last night (Wednesday), somebody sent me a tweet 'What is the height of fences around pools?'".  So, I told [him] it was 1.5 metres.  What I find is that it's giving people relatively instant communication with an elected person and I think people like that.  I don't have the answers to all the questions obviously, but if I don't, I forward it on through email to staff to get the information.”

Woodside continued to say, “I like it in that respect.  You don't have to wait until 8:30 in the morning the next day to find out that I'm at a meeting and I can't call you back.  Social media is convenient, in so far as, you can do it at anytime, anywhere, any place.”

Open communication was a hot issue that was discussed during the May election.  While many said they’d improve communication, Woodside described how it wasn’t an election thing for him.

“ If I'm going to have a communication link with the public, it's really important that I'm on it.  They get used to the fact that if you've got a question, you tweet it to Woodside, he's going to answer you back.  I can get back to people very quickly - that's not the part that takes time.  I also like to see who's following me and who I'm not following back.  So, there's a lot of maintenance.  I do that once in a while [and] usually do it on the weekend.”

At the time this story was written, Woodside had 10,805 followers on Twitter.  He is following 10,732 of them.

“I think the city is getting into it.  Now we have departments and we have the organization through our communications people tweeting information.  As far as a social media plan, I haven't got one and I think that's probably something that will happen sooner than later now that we have a new council.”  

When asked if the city had a plan to get the police department on social media, Woodside went on record, stating, “That's going to be part of our corporate thing that we're doing when we're first meeting as a council on [June] 23rd.  Communication is going to be something that we'll be talking about.  That in all probability will be something that will be discussed in terms of all departments and how we're linked and how everybody is getting their message out, which could very well turn into a policy.”

Stacey Russell, Manager of Social Media and Travel Media Relations with Fredericton Tourism shared her thoughts on the City’s “Town Square Social Hub”. 

“We’re happy with how well they are coming along. The goal for our Town Square Social Hub is to develop a pool of conversations within local residents – something that for when visitors are planning their trip (or are already arrived in) Fredericton they’re able to jump in and ask questions.”

“This has proven to be very beneficial for Fredericton Tourism as part of our overall strategy moving forward.”

The one City service most noticeably present on social media has been the Fredericton Fire Department (FFD).  From accident reporting to issuing recall notices, they seemingly have everything covered.  Cameron Dunn, an Inspector with the Fredericton Fire Department and the man behind the tweets, shared his thoughts on where the FFD is excelling.

“Specifically we use our feeds to engage people’s interest in fire safety, recalls and also let them know when we are at an incident that will result in street closures, etc.  From the feedback @cityfredfire receives, we can see we are getting the fire safety message out to followers and Facebook friends.” 

Dunn continued, stating, “It has allowed us to react quickly to evolving situations at calls and inform the public of issues that might affect them immediately.  We have also found it is a great forum for answers to questions a lot of the public have about the FFD.  Issuing recalls, we see the trail that these take through “likes” and “retweets” to a large portion of our population.  Just getting people talking about recalls make for greater public safety.”

Do you think that the City of Fredericton and city services are on track to lead the country when it comes to use of social media?  Where do you think they could improve?  Have your say in the comments below or tweet me @burnettisms.

Connect with the City of Fredericton on Twitter and Facebook:

Mark Burnett was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick and currently resides there with his wife and daughter.  He works in the social media industry and practices photography in his spare time.  If you have an idea of something that you’d like to have featured here, please contact Mark to make it happen.  He can be reached by emailing mark@burnettphotos.ca. 


  1. Great article Mark! It's awesome to see the city of Fredericton finding value in being a part of the local conversation. Hopefully more and more groups of Frederictonians will find ways to have open conversations with Mayor Woodside and other city staff.

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