Originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

This spring, the city of Soldotna created a new special project and communications coordinator position. Jhasmine Lamb, who has filled the position, is working with the city to create a Soldotna’s first social media policy.

“We tried to pull and focus responsibilities that had been shared by many people in the city,” Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said. “We had various people doing these things and we wanted one position to focus on that.”

Many cities in Alaska implement social media policies. Queen said that the Soldotna policy will offer employees guidelines for speaking on behalf of the city, how to conduct themselves and the type of updates to share with the public. The policy also ensures that the city is complying with state and local laws.

“Those laws are familiar when you know how to conduct a letter or an email, but they also apply to social media,” Queen said. “It presents a new challenge and we need to update our tools in order to be able to retain those comments made, whether a comment on Instagram or a comment on Facebook. Those could become public records.”

Lamb and Queen are working with the city clerk to find software packages specifically designed to retain public records on social media.

The policy will include training for employees and departments on how to best use their social media accounts. While Lamb said she will have her hands on other city department social media accounts, it will be the departments themselves communicating their own messages.

“It’s better to do more work up front and make sure everyone has the right tools to ensure these communications can happen quickly and not get stuck in an approval process that really wouldn’t work,” Queen said.

Right now, the city is assessing what social media accounts are live and worth maintaining. They plan to continue utilizing their Facebook and Instagram accounts, but an idle Pinterest account and a Twitter that hasn’t been updated since July of 2016 are likely to be deactivated.

“We’re being selective on what’s the most relevant demographic for Soldotna. I think — I don’t own a twitter account — it’s not relevant,” Lamb said. Queen said that while social media is useful, it will never replace the city’s more traditional forms of communication, such as their website and in-person public meetings.

The policy was drafted earlier this month and will be entering phase two next week. Once the policy is complete it will be posted on the city’s social media accounts for the public to see.

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