The city launched its first ever Twitter account Monday with the handle @CityofBerkeley.
For its inaugural tweet, the city posted, “Hi, Berkeley, we’re here!” It has since used the account to advertise an event and solicit feedback on proposed policies.
According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, who is responsible for running the account, two main functions of the Twitter account are to connect people to the city’s website, CityofBerkeley.info, and to facilitate the dissemination of information.
“The tool isn’t as important as the information,” Chakko said. “What we’re focused on as a city is providing good information to the public, which increases transparency, gets people more involved with government and raises awareness for city events.”
City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin has been lobbying for the city to establish a presence on social media platforms since he took office, but until recently, progress had been slow.
“I had raised this issue six years ago, and either because it wasn’t a priority for the city or because there were liability concerns, the city decided not to move ahead in using social media,” Arreguin said. “It’s honestly rather frustrating that it’s taken this long to get on Twitter, but I feel very strongly that we need to move into the 21st century and use this very important means of communication to connect with our constituents.”
At Arreguin’s request, City Council decided to move forward with creating a social media presence at a regular meeting in April 2014. According to a memo released Monday from City Manager Christine Daniel, all news items will still be available on the city’s website, “allowing equal access to information regardless of subscription to any particular communication platform.”
In addition to posting general news information on Twitter, the city will also post job openings on its LinkedIn account, while Berkeley Police Department has been using an email-notification service called Nixle for about a year.
“Right now we’re limited to just those platforms, but now that we have a social media policy in place, we can start exploring expanding into other platforms like Facebook,” Arreguin said. “This is a really inexpensive and effective way to communicate with the community.”
Arreguin stressed the importance of the new Twitter account’s role in informing the general public and of expanding the city’s social media presence to engage younger Berkeley residents. UC Berkeley junior Jingting Wu, for one, said he would follow the city on Twitter.
“I think this will make it a lot easier to learn about what’s going on in Berkeley, especially stuff like information about events,” Wu said. “This is how our generation gets news, so it’s good that the city is participating.”