Integrating social media into a government Web portal is a no-brainer, at least according to conventional wisdom. But Marysville, Wash., saw it as something else entirely — a chance to revamp the city’s policies and educate its work force.

Marysville’s new website redesign went live May 12, but the site’s links to Twitter and Facebook will be launched sometime later this month. Why the brief delay?

The City Council and staff will receive a refresher course on the city’s internal social media policy, and officials will consider what’s deemed to be acceptable use and content on social media channels.

Doug Buell, the city’s chief community information officer, said he has met with Marysville’s city attorney and risk management officer to identify the pros and cons of social networking and to decide exactly what content should be posted on the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

“We wanted to be able to let the City Council know that so that our elected leaders — before we go live with [Facebook and Twitter links] — will have had at least one training session to explain what you can and can’t do,” Buell said.

The idea to redesign the website came to fruition when Marysville Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima took office last spring. Although under tight budget constraints, the city doled out $13,000 to implement the project and will pay an additional $3,000 a year for support, maintenance and hosting services, according to the city.

Hirashima tasked Buell with leading the project. Aside from Buell coordinating the redesign, each department identified a “go-to person” to help with the website and provide information from his or her respective department, Hirashima said.

“I think this allows us to identify what’s most valuable for the customer and make sure that we’re making that accessible from the website and also that we’re developing content to feed their demands,” Hirashima said.

The mobile website, now available on the Apple iPhone through a free downloadable app from iTunes, includes new features such as the Notify Me section, which allows users to sign up and receive emergency and special alerts, news flashes and calendar notifications, through e-mail or text message. Buell said the new features and the website’s redesign let users more seamlessly access information they need without having to click through the site so many times.

“You’ve heard of the six degrees of separation for people,” Buell said. “I’d like to call it three clicks of separation. We really wanted to be able to get people to find the info they needed within three clicks — and preferably two.”

Soon, that will include links to social media.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.