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Cities battle to gain most Twitter followers

                         The city of Tigard is challenging other local cities to a duel.

A virtual duel, that is.

The city is competing against Hillsboro, Beaverton, West Linn and Washington County to see which government body can reach 2,014 followers on Twitter by the end of next year.

“It kicks it up a notch for some cities that are trying to decide how much value social media has,” said Kent Wyatt, a senior management analyst and the man behind “,” the city’s official Twitter account.

With more and more young people turning to social networking sites, Wyatt and other Tigard city officials have turned their attentions online when it comes to spreading information.

“You can reach out to audiences we wouldn’t necessarily reach otherwise,” Wyatt said. “Those are the kinds of people who are not attending council meetings; they are not interest in government, per se.”

Community building

The challenge, which will be formally announced Dec. 30, is friendly competition, said Patrick Preston, public affairs manager for the city of Hillsboro, which issued the challenge to the cities.

“It helps everybody,” Preston said. “It grows the lists (of follwers we have) and inspires people to pay attention to news and information coming out of their cities.”

Most cities in Washington County have about 800 followers apiece.

Tigard currently leads the pack with 887 followers.

The standings (as of Dec. 20)

Tigard: 887

Beaverton: 832

Hillsboro: 829

West Linn: 675

Washington County: 515

Preston said he looks to Tigard’s Twitter feeds as inspiration.

“Their tweets are fantastic. The amount of thought they put into this, the way they make it so easy for somebody to participate in the online conversation, those are all things we've noticed.”

Tigard operates about a half-dozen different accounts on Twitter, covering everything from recent economic development to construction projects.

When Mayor John L. Cook came into office last year, one of his first actions was to set up a Twitter account of his own to connect with residents.

“People are always curious what mayors do,” Wyatt said. “Most people don’t know what the mayor or city planners do. We can use Twitter as a way to get that across in relatively inexpensive way.”

The city posts scores to Tigard High School football games, posts photos from around town and promotes events.

That’s obviously more than just official city business, Wyatt said, but it’s an important part of community building.

“I’m clearly a big proponent of this, but there is some community building in that,” Wyatt said.

Twitter played a big part in the city's recent community attitudes survey, Wyatt said.

“Half the people who took our the online survey took it through a Twitter link,” Wyatt said. “That’s a powerful statement.”

List of Tigard's active Twitter accounts:

@CityofTigardOR - The city's official Twitter account

@TigardMayor - Mayor John L. Cook's official account

@TigardCM - Tigard City Manager Marty Wine's official account

@TigardPolice - Tigard Police Department

@TigardLibrary - Tigard Public Library

@TigardMainSt - Major construction work on Main Street is set to begin next month

@Tigard_Roads - Paving and street maintenance

@KennyAsher - New businesses and economic news , run by the city's Community Development Director Kenny Asher

'Serve our neighbors'

But not everyone is behind making Twitter a priority.

At a Tigard City Council meeting in December, some councilors pushed against the idea of engaging in social networks, saying that residents wouldn’t be able to use the service to dig into the complexities of city government.

“Kids who use Twitter and texting, you can’t explain a lot of what we do in 140 characters, it’s not feasible,” said City Councilor Gretchen Buehner. “Texting doesn’t tend to be long and allow you to explain relatively complex concepts. Kids are missing out on learning what they need to learn because their preferred method of conversation.”

Whatever method the city uses to spread information, Preston said getting information out to the community helps the city to do their jobs.

“At the city, we are working to serve our neighbors,” he said. “We want them to have good information about the city and information they can use to have conversations among their peers.”




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