Ordinary Meeting


Wednesday, 21 April, 2010

at 6.30pm







Hornsby Shire Council

Table of Contents

Page 1







Item 21   GM7/10 Online Community Engagement         




General Manager's Report No. GM7/10

General Manager Division

Date of Meeting: 21/04/2010







This report has been prepared in response to Notice of Motion (NOM) 13/09 from Council’s Ordinary Meeting of 9 December 2009. 


The Notice of Motion stated “THAT: A working party consisting of key staff and interested Councillors be formed to consider Council’s approach to on-line community engagement and that a report containing the recommendations from the working party be provided for Council’s consideration by the April 2010 Ordinary Meeting.  The report should contain an evaluation of opportunities to use services like You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and other online media to promote Council services and activities at a minimal cost.  The report should also contain comment on issues associated with the generation and moderation of content for these online communication forums.”


This report is not an exhaustive review of web-based information sharing facilities. It has been limited to the most well-known Web 2.0 services that are currently used by other councils in metropolitan Sydney.  The research of Web 2.0 services was also limited to those services that did not impact on identified time or budget constraints.


This report recommends that Hornsby Shire Council establish and manage a corporate presence using three social media for a trial period of six months, and that the trial be administered by Council’s Web Services Coordinator.  This report also recommends that a further report be presented to Council at the end of the trial period, documenting the findings from the trial and recommending future actions.


The six months trial is to be separate and distinct from the current social media used at the libraries by Council’s Library team.  The social media recommended for trial are:


·    Twitter

·    Flickr

·    Vimeo




This report delivers Councils Online Community Engagement Working Party’s recommendations regarding Council’s approach to online community engagement (in addition to current Library practices).


It is written in response to NOM13/09 of the 9 December 2009 Ordinary Meeting of Council.


The research was conducted by key staff of Hornsby Shire Council and interested Councillors who formed the Online Community Engagement Working Party. Working party participants are listed later in this report.




A précis of each of the ten social media is included below.


1.   Blogs


A blog (short for "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting) (Source:


·    Content generation: timely and for best for incorporating words, photos and videos

·    Moderation: can be difficult, defamatory / unsavoury remarks may be permanent

·    Used by Manly Council’s library for local studies and North Sydney Council

·    Cannot be effectively evaluated through statistical means.




Delicious (formerly, pronounced "delicious") is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. Delicious uses a non-hierarchical classification system in which users can tag each of their bookmarks with freely chosen index terms.  Its collective nature makes it possible to view bookmarks added by other users. (Source:


·    Content generation: can be time-consuming

·    Moderation: manageable, but not immediately straight-forward

·    Hornsby Library uses primarily for high school student homework

·    Cannot be evaluated through statistical means.


3.   Facebook


Facebook is a social networking website whose target audience is more an adult demographic than a youth demographic. - cite_note-4#cite_note-4 Users can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Additionally, users can join networks organized by workplace, school, or college (Source:


·    Content generation: time consuming and for best utilisation incorporates words, photos and videos

·    Moderation: very difficult; reviews can’t be deleted: only reported through to Facebook. Also hard to remove ‘graffiti’

·    Used by City Of Sydney - grant submission information, Chinese New Year prizes, YouTube videos etc. Also have albums (photos) and list events

·    Used by National Library of Australia

·    Can be time and resource intensive

·    Doesn’t attract younger audience


4.   Flickr


Flickr is an image and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. - cite_note-flickr-photo-use-by-bloggers-1#cite_note-flickr-photo-use-by-bloggers-1 As of October 2009, it claims to host more than 4 billion images (Source:


·    Content generation: comparatively effortless and quick

·    Moderation: three safety levels - safe (for global audience), moderate (when unsure) and restricted

·    Successfully used by Hornsby Library

·    Can be measured through statistical means.

·    Low impact on human resources

·    Comparatively easiest medium to promote events, services and opportunities via photos and photo albums


5.   My Space


MySpace is a social networking website whose main competitor is Facebook.


·    Content generation: time consuming and for best utilisation incorporates words, photos and videos

·    Moderation: pre and post moderation is difficult, but possible. Can’t moderate fan updates (live feed) that roll on the front page

·    Used by Camden Council’s Library

·    Is less popular than Facebook


6.   Nings


A ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks.


·    Content generation: reasonable

·    Moderation: manageable

·    Used by Hornsby Library staff

·    Used by Mosman Council’s Library




Twitter is a mass communication and social networking application that allows participants to post short messages, known as ‘Tweets’, limited to 140 characters in length, and to converse with other users via their phones or web browsers. Unlike email or text messaging, these conversations take place in the open. The platform is experiencing a phenomenal adoption curve and is being used increasingly by government departments.


·    Content generation: simple and fast

·    Moderation: can moderate comments before authorising a person to post more

·    Used by other councils for business including Mosman City Council, Wyong Council, Wagga Wagga Council and Hurstville Council

·    Used by LGSA, Kevin Rudd PM, BigPond, Dell, General Motors and more

·    Can be measured through statistical means


·    Low impact on human resources


8.   Vimeo


Vimeo is a video-centric social networking site which supports embedding, sharing, video storage, and allows user-commenting on each video page. Vimeo has gained a reputation as catering to a high end, artistic crowd because of its high bit rate, resolution and relative HD support (Source


·    Content generation: comparatively simple and quick

·    Moderation: Vimeo does not allow commercial videos, gaming videos, pornography, or anything not created by the user to be hosted on the site

·    Hornsby Library uses Vimeo (for Author Talks) and prefers it to YouTube

·    Often associated more with music


9.   Webcasting Council meetings


A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet (Source:


·    Content generation: direct from Council meeting

·    Moderation: can be achieved but would defeat the purpose

·    Used by Botany Bay Council

·    Possible privacy implications

·    Value to community yet to be proven worthy of time and expense required to do this properly


10. YouTube


YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations including CBS, the BBC and other organisations offer some of their material via the site, as part of the YouTube partnership program (Source:


·    Content generation: straight forward and relatively quick (few minutes to an hour)

·    Moderation: allows comments only to be flagged as ‘spam’ rather than the ‘inappropriate’, which is reserved for videos only

·    Council’s Library prefers to use Vimeo rather than YouTube

·    YouTube is seen more as a home video collection


Council function



Council contact



Upcoming events - one month out, one week out and stalls, activities, entertainment available

Community Relations

News / press releases


Dissemination of information

Community Relations

Footpath / road closures


Notification of dates / areas effected


Learner Driver workshops


Notification, contact for bookings




Sell participation to prospective stall holders and ride providers

Community Relations and Community Services

Mall activities


Sell participation to prospective stall holders and other users




Promote key attributes of parks


Clean Up Australia Day


Promote event and past achievements


Clean Up Australia Day


Communicate locations for event / registration details


Information Sessions (e.g. Indian myna birds)


Communicate time,  location RSVP details of session/s

All who hold information sessions

Promotions (e.g. February Fiesta / Coronation Street)


Communicate promotion dates and details

All who hold promotions

Australia Day events


Locations of events happening across the shire to celebrate Australia Day

Community Relations

Australia Day events


Promote Council’s celebrations of Australia Day (pre and post event)

Community Relations

Swimming lessons


Fill class vacancies / promote programs


Committee member sourcing


For seeking local residents and interested community members to participate in the management of  meeting rooms, community centres etc

All who need to establish community committees

Public Notices


Enhance existing communication methods

All who need to publicise public notices

Slow down on local roads


Augment existing campaigns


Bushcare Volunteers


Promotional video of benefits of being a volunteer


Bushcare Volunteers


Recruitment appeals




Emergency use

Communication mediums should always be appropriate for the task, which means that there is a place for social media in communicating emergency information.


Council, like other government organisations, could use Twitter to communicate bushfire warnings, flood warnings or other emergency information relevant to the community.


From The most practical government applications for Twitter are in public safety and emergency notification. …. citizens near a wildfire in Griffith Park in 2007 tweeted to the LAFD about wind direction and smouldering hot spots, which helped fire fighters control the 800-acre blaze.


Considering the low bandwidth requirements of SMS and Twitter, it makes sense to use them during times of emergency when networks are likely to be congested.


It is understood that emergency services in Victoria are investigating this method of communication given the failures surrounding Black Saturday.


Hornsby Council would need to evaluate and determine the use of social media in emergency situations following the implementation, and successful building of relationships, via online media. 




This report recommends a trial period of some Web 2.0 services using existing resources, and therefore there are no budge implications.




A draft social media policy will be developed prior to the commencement of the trial period. It would be evaluated and refined during the trial period.




A working party of key staff and interested Councillors was formed and charged with evaluating opportunities to use social media to promote Council services and activities at minimum cost.  The working party members included the following persons:


·    Ms Michelle Edmunds (Manager - Community Relations) - convenor.

·    Mr David Johnston (Manager - Community Services Branch)

·    Mr Craig Munns (Manager - Information Systems Branch)

·    Ms Julie Williams (Manager - Corporate Strategy Branch)

·    Ms Liz Berger (Graphic Designer)

·    Ms Lisa Cahill (Community Development Manager)

·    Ms Cheryl Etheridge (Manager - Library and Information Services Branch)

·    Mr David Hayes (Media Coordinator)

·    Ms Sharon Mizzi (Coordinator, Youth Services)

·    Ms Laura Plini (Graphic Designer)

·    Mr Michael Hutchence (Councillor)

·    Mayor Nick Berman (Councillor)




Members of the working party also met with Mosman City Council’s Internet Coordinator for advice based on their experience in utilising social media.


Other internal and external consultation occurred as research to prepare for meetings and to finalise this report.




Triple Bottom Line is a framework for improving Council’s decisions ensuring accountability and transparency on social, environmental and economic factors. It does this by reporting upon Council’s strategic themes.


Working with our Community

On line media provides an opportunity to engage a significant proportion of our community quickly and effectively than is possible using traditional media.


Conserving our natural environment

The use of on-line media may reduce the need to use paper base products to deliver a range of messages to residents within the shire. This will be evaluated as part of the trial.


Contributing to community development through sustainable facilities and services

Not applicable.


Fulfilling our community’s vision in planning for the future of the shire

Not applicable.


Supporting our diverse economy

Not applicable.


Maintaining sound corporate financial management

The trial of the selected on line media will not incur additional expenditure. The media is free and the trial will be introduced and evaluated by current staff.


Other sustainability considerations

Not applicable.




The responsible officer is Michelle Edmunds, Manager, Community Relations, telephone 9847 6702 between 8.30am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.







1.         Council trial Twitter for six months as a tool to communicate and build relationships with the community.


2.         Council trial Flickr for six months as a tool to promote Council events, services and activities.


3.         Council trial Vimeo for six months to inform and educate the community about Council’s services and activities.


4.         A further report on social media be presented to Council at the end of the trial period.










Robert Stephens

Acting General Manager





There are no attachments for this report.


File Reference:           F2009/00853

Document Number:   D01380297