Facebook was created 11 years ago and is now available globally, with 1.44 billion active monthly users as of March, 2015, but despite this reality, the City of Fernie is not active on Facebook.
During the April 27 council meeting, Rob Klein approached council to discuss the need to incorporate the social media site into their municipal updates.
“Since the City of Fernie represents the residents and we’re making decisions on behalf of them, I think it’s tremendously important that the city find ways to effectively communicate with the people that live in Fernie and make sure they understand what the decisions are that are being made,” Klein said. “Social media is an effective away to communicate with residents and followers.”
Klein listed a series of benefits to the social media site, including posts taking little time and effort to share, no cost being associated with the site, being able to communicate important messages quickly and making updates as necessary.
After following the 2014 Fernie municipal election, Klein discovered that a lack of civic participation in local government was a key issue.
Doing some research, Klein came to the conclusion that by the city engaging in social media, this issue may be resolved.
He noted that a study revealed that 59 per cent of Canadian adults over the age of 18 visit Facebook on average nine times a week, and as of April 19, Elk Valley Garage Sale — a Facebook page where locals can buy and sell used and new items — had 8,500 members; making up more than the population of Fernie and Sparwood combined.
“In reality a lot of people are already [using Facebook],” Klein said, noting that the District of Sparwood began using Facebook in 2010 and already has over 1,500 followers.
Council agreed that incorporating Facebook into their practice is essential.
“I think it’s something we’ve known for a whole,” Coun. Dan McSkimming said. “I appreciate you putting it in context. We need to have that discussion and set a time line and commit to it.”
Coun. Jonathan Levesque said that because the city already does updates on their main webpage, it could be as simply as copy and pasting that information to Facebook.
The city, however, said that the Facebook administration duties would be assigned to the corporate officer, a position that has been unoccupied since the end of November 2014.
“It’s a matter of being short staffed,” Mayor Mary Giuliano said. “I believe once we get a corporate officer, we will do just that.”
Despite this feedback, Klein still said that the City of Fernie needs to make the use of the social media site a priority, adding, “If it’s a priority you have to be able to make it happen.”
Coun. Ange Qualizza reiterated Klein’s remarks, stating that during a presentation by the former Mayor of Golden, she stated, “If you think you can ignore Facebook anymore, I’m here to tell you, you can’t.”