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West Linn taking part in municipal Twitter challenge

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt is the voice behind the @WestLinnUpdate Twitter account.It started out of Hillsboro, and with a few key strokes and the click of a mouse the message spread to Tigard, West Linn, Beaverton and Washington County.

Within the message was a specific challenge: Which of the five government bodies could reach 2,014 followers on the social networking site Twitter by the end of 2014?

The challenge, which was formally announced Dec. 30, is a friendly competition, but one that West Linn Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt takes seriously. As the voice behind the @WestLinnUpdate Twitter account — which had 735 followers as of Tuesday — Wyatt is well-aware of the importance of social media savvy.

“We’ve been trying to increase all of our social media, so this fit with what we’re doing right now,” Wyatt said.

About a year ago, Wyatt started tracking Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” based on population and number of households in West Linn and surrounding cities. As of Jan. 10, the West Linn Facebook page reached 27 percent of the city’s 9,362 households, while its Twitter account reached 8 percent of households.

“We’ve spent a lot more time on the Facebook side of things,” Wyatt said. “In the next year you’ll see more outreach to drive people to our Twitter feed. There’s so much information you can get from those 140 characters.”Between July 2012 and December 2013, West Linn saw its Twitter followers grow by 181 percent according to Wyatt’s calculations. Of the cities included in the spreadsheet, only Tigard’s increased by more at 210 percent.

A recent communications survey issued by the city showed that 64 percent of West Linn residents are active on social media, but only 25 percent of those users are connected to the city’s feeds. Twenty-four percent of social media users were unaware of the city’s presence on Facebook or Twitter — a point the city will look to address moving forward.

“The survey was interesting,” City Councilor Thomas Frank said at a Jan. 6 meeting. “There’s obviously a generational divide, but the population is starting to move to electronic devices. And they’re busy, they’re not as determined or don’t have time to attend meetings.

“Social media is the best way to reach our citizens, all 25,000 of them.”

As the cities race to 2,014, Wyatt has extra motivation to catch Tigard’s Twitter account, which is run by her husband, Kent Wyatt, the senior management analyist for Tigard.

“It’s just about pride,” Kirsten Wyatt said. “We’re both sore losers, so we’re definitely hoping we’re each victorious. Even beating other cities would also be a victory.”

The ultimate goal, of course, is to form a more immediate connection between government and citizens.

“So many families live here,” Wyatt said. “They have kids in schools and providing information as a snapshot is important.

“It’s always fun to have a new and creative way to make these things happen.”

To follow West Linn’s Twitter account, visit

Updated standings (as of Tuesday):

Tigard: 997

Hillsboro: 992

Beaverton: 942

West Linn: 735

Washington County: 617

Most active West Linn accounts:

@WestLinnUpdate — The city’s offfical Twitter account

@WLPDNews — West Linn Police Department

@WestLinnLibrary — West Linn Public Library

@mrthomasfrank — City Councilor Thomas Frank

How to get started:

For those new to Twitter, here’s how it works:

The website allows people to post short, simple messages of no more than 140 characters.

That’s not a lot of room to pontificate, but the social network has exploded since its launch in 2006, with more than 5.5 million users and 135,000 new members joining every day.

Members can “follow” other members to regularly receive their posts — known as “tweets” in Internet-speak.

The more followers you have, the more people there are reading your posts.

The site was originally designed for friends to send messages back and forth to one another, but more and more companies and local governments are turning to the service as well.

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl

— Pamplin Media Group reporter Geoff Pursinger contributed to this story.

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