Fenwick Island flirts with Facebook page

Facebook and Twitter and blogs. Oh, my!

Fenwick Island residents recently heard from Greg Hughes, from the State of Delaware, regarding the advantages of municipalities having social networking accounts – specifically, Facebook.

According to Hughes, 14 million people access such social networking sites from their phones, and 54 percent of the 200 million or so blogs on the Internet are updated daily. He explained that Facebook is the second-most popular Web site among all sites, behind only the Google.com search engine. (It topped Google in a recent report.). Facebook counts 400 million active users every month, and 700,000 new ones each day. He also reported that 78 percent of households with Internet access have at least one member on Facebook.

It is those numbers that appeal to municipalities, as well as to businesses and individuals with something to say, as the power of “social networking” literally puts thousands – if not millions – of people at their fingertips.

“They have more grandparents than high-schoolers, and sharing photos is the No. 1 thing to do,” he said.

Fenwick Town Councilman Todd Smallwood had brought up the issue of a Facebook and Twitter presence for the town in the past, and the council this week was considering a Facebook page on which to share “Old Fenwick Island” photos.

“It’s very participatory,” said Hughes. “The State of Delaware uses it and has 8,500 fans, Jack Markell uses it, the Town of Smyrna and the City of Dover.”

He also said that neighboring Ocean City, Md., uses it and has 41,000 fans. (An “unofficial” Facebook page for Ocean City has more than 60,000 fans, and yet another has more than 80,000 fans).

That size of audience had the council apprehensive about going forward. Fenwick residents and the council have been leery of how much control of content they would have on the site and concerned about the time it would take for someone to monitor user comments, as they do at the state level. There is already a Fenwick Island page on Facebook that is not official or in any way endorsed by the town.

Hughes said the type of the content on a page usually dictates the comments. For example, the less controversial content – for example, “It’s sunny and 70 degrees in Fenwick today!” – the less controversial the comments by fans. He added that it hasn’t been a major issue at the state level, and they have three simple rules fans must abide by: no profanity, no name-calling and stay on the topic. Differing opinions are welcome, as long as those three rules are followed.

“Mostly, it’s been a really good exchange,” he added.

Smallwood said he felt it was “worth a trial run,” and the council agreed. “We can give it a shot, and we can always take it down. It is really neat,” he said.