Screen image: PLACE Space
Sure there’s Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, but Arlingtonians looking for social media now have one more option. The county has entered into the social networking world with PLACE Space.
The social media site grew from the county's PLACE initiative which county board Chair Mary Hynes began at the start of this year. She envisioned the initiative as a way to improve the county’s communications and decision-making processes (less formally known as “The Arlington Way”). PLACE is an acronym: Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Since January, elected officials and staff have been meeting with people and groups throughout the county as part of the initiative.
“We’re kind of responding to what we’ve heard at the forums,” said Jennifer Smith. She works in the county’s office of communications. She said people were looking for ways to connect. The county already has many Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Why not use those?
“Not everybody’s on Facebook, and not everybody wants to be on Facebook,” Smith said. She added the county is testing the new site, and in a couple months they might better see how the site is used.
The primary function the site might serve is as a directory of names, groups and contact information, Smith said. There are mapping functions and ways to connect socially. Only time will tell how the site will be used.
“[The site] could be something we didn’t even expect,” Smith said.
Stacia Aho led the development of the site. She is part of the county library’s technology management team.
They chose Ning social networking software to run the site, she said, adding that they are using an “out-of-the-box template" which kept the costs very low. About all they needed to add was artwork, colors and fonts, and the site was up and running, she said.
At this point, it is very tough to tell whether or not the site will take off. Yesterday, the Mercury became the fifth company to list itself.
Govloop has over 50,000 members while Boston’s site has fewer than 3,000. Another Ning site, Creative Arlington, was started a number of years ago by Arlingtonian Ted Bilich who was interested in the connection between creativity and the local economy.
The network hit about 300 members but has since languished. Facebook already has thousands of pages and groups listing “Arlington, VA” as their locations.
No one knows if people will add another site to their collections.
Aho and Smith both said that much of the information on the site will be accessible to members and non-members alike. Members may keep some of their contact information private; however, by becoming a member, a person or group is added to the directory.
Full disclosure: The Arlington Mercury is a member. We became one to see all of the site.