Social media in public works 101 - Miscellaneous Tools

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Most of the tools covered in this series have been around for several years and are now accepted as mainstream social media. But there are a couple new tools that we want to focus on in this post because they soon after their launch, they gained a large user base and people are now wondering if they are worth using. The first site, Pinterest, is a content sharing platform. The idea behind it is that you create an account with boards. Each board represents a topic or interest. Then you “pin” online photos or images to those boards to share with others who might follow you or view your boards.

The benefit of a site like this is that it is an easy way to collect, organize, and share images online. And it makes it easy for others to share those same images on Pinterest on their own boards. But while it has been hugely popular, there have been several questions and issues raised about its terms of use. If you visit the site, you will see an almost overwhelming display of images people have pinned. Based on the displays, it appears people are pinning to their boards numerous photos and images they find anywhere online. However, if you sign up for a personal or business account and read the Terms of Service and acceptable use policy that you must agree to, you will find the following language:

You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the User Content you post to Pinterest.

You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Products.

You agree not to post User Content that contains any information or content that you do not have a right to make available under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships

And the rights of others and of Pinterest to continue in their use of your content extends beyond your termination of your account. So basically, while you retain ownership of whatever content of your own that you would choose to post on Pinterest, you have also granted Pinterest broad rights to use your content. The other point in the terms of service is that it appears you are not allowed to pin anything that is not yours. However, it seems not everyone follows these terms. As an individual, perhaps they believe the risk of having a copyright infringement filed against them is low. But many businesses are usually not comfortable with this risk.

So, is Pinterest a site worth using in our industry? Every professional, agency, or business must answer that themselves after weighing the legal issues and risks against the value the site provides. At this time, I have not seen a full-scale use of this site by many in our industry.

The other online tool that has gained a large following in a short amount of time is Google+, which really is just a natural extension of your regular Google account. But in order to use it, you will have to activate it. You do this by logging into your Google account and then clicking the words “+You” located in the upper left side of the toolbar at the top of the screen. This takes you to a screen where you can set up your public profile. Google Plus UpgradeGoogle asks you to set up a photo, fill out your name, gender, and birthday (I just chose Jan. 1 for this demo). Then you click the “Upgrade” button. Next, Google takes you through a step where you can add friends. Finally you can set up your own Google+ profile page by adding your photo if you did not do it in the upgrade step, adding a “cover photo, and then editing the “About” section. While the profile photo is displayed as a small image in the corner of the top part of your profile page, the cover photo gives you a chance to upload a larger photo that will extend all the way across your page. You can see an example of my Google+ profile page in this post. 

Down the left side of your profile page, you will see there are other tools Google+ offers. Because Google+ gives you the ability to communicate with friends and share content with them, you will probably want to add some of your friends to what Google has called your “circle.” Google also offers you the ability to collect your friends into circles based on interests or location of where they live or any other parameter you choose. Then when you share information or content on your Google+ page, you can choose to share it publicly with everyone or only with specific circles. This is a nice feature because if I want to tell my public works colleagues about a new transportation resource, I can choose to only make that post viewable by people in my public works circle. The people in my family circle won’t see it at all. On your Google+ home page, you can also choose to only display posts from people in specific circles.

Google Plus Profile Page Example

Another nice feature is the ability to create and join communities organized around a specific topic. Each community page offers information and discussions about issues important to that group. There is a Public Works Community, Civil Engineering Community, Water and Wastewater Community, a Transportation Community, and many others related to our industry. If you join a community, make sure to indicate if you want posts sent to your email or not because an active community can generate a lot of emails. You can turn off this notification feature by visiting the community page and clicking the little bell symbol under the profile photo for the community.

Some of the other useful features of Google+ are the ability to easily launch Google hangouts with your friends, set up and invite your friends to events, or indicate if you are attending events set up by others. You also have the ability on most posts to comment and show your appreciation by clicking on the +1 button at the bottom of the post.

There are many other aspects to Google+ you will probably want to check out on your own. Google offers more information here:



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About the Blogger

Pam Broviak

thumbnail image A former senior editor of PUBLIC WORKS, Pam Broviak publishes the Public Works Group Blog at (All views expressed in this blog are her own and not those of PUBLIC WORKS.)