Part III: Inside the Twitter Race – State of the City Edition

Posted on April 4, 2014

Towards the end of 2013, Patrick Preston, Hillsboro public affairs manager, decided to issue a challenge to neighboring jurisdictions. They wanted to expand their social media presence and specifically focus on making their Twitter account more accessible and active. So they contacted other nearby cities and a competition was born.  The race was on to get to 2,014 followers in 2014, the first community to get there would be declared the winner and bragging rights would be theirs.

The Great Twitter Race in the Headlines

Not only have other cities taken notice of the “race,” newspapers, television stations, magazines and radio stations have highlighted the Twitter race.

State of the City Edition

This time we check in with each organization to see how they used Twitter to promote, engage, or quote their organization’s State of the City address. After the robust twittersation ELGL had on the topic earlier this year we were excited to see what each organization did to use Twitter during the event.

Current Standings (As of 4/4/14 at 10:02 am)

  1. @CityofTigardOR – 1,263
  2. @CityofBeaverton – 1,232
  3. @CityofHillsboro – 1,219
  4. @WestLinnUpdate– 1,043
  5. @WashcoOregon – 978

What about where each account started at? Well here were the standings on December 16, 2013

  1. @CityofTigardOR – 874
  2. @CityofBeaverton – 823
  3. @CityofHillsboro – 821
  4. @WestLinnUpdate– 666
  5. @WashcoOregon – 500

We’ve also had some interest to show what the per capita numbers look like, so here are the percentage of households that are on Twitter for each organization.

  1. @WestLinnUpdate – 11.12%
  2. @CityofTigardOR – 6.97%
  3. @CityofBeaverton – 3.63%
  4. @CityofHillsboro – 3.54%
  5. @WashcoOregon – 0.49%

 Now onto the questions…

Describe your organization’s state of the city or county address? Did you do a speech, was it open to the public, video?

Tigard: Mayor Cook took a new engaging approach to the State of the City address. The Mayor filmed a video that was shown at a State of the City related event.



There was not a formal speech at the State of the City event, instead, the event was structured as an informal situation to meet Mayor Cook and other Tigard stakeholders. By filming the video beforehand and then posting it on the City’s website, citizens who were unable to attend were able to watch it at their leisure. (Feel free to spend your time tonight watching the video. It’s better than House of Cards.) TVCTV was a real asset in helping produce a high quality video that represents the City’s accomplishments in 2013 and charts the path ahead for 2014.

Media coverage: State of the City: Cook gets technical with Tigard address and Tigard Mayor John Cook gives State of the City address

West Linn: Mayor John Kovash held his State of the City address at the West Linn Public Library.  It was open to the public with an RSVP.  We videotaped the event, posted it on YouTube, and shared pictures on Facebook and Twitter.



Beaverton: This year’s State of the City address was held at the Arts & Communications Magnet Academy’s Performing Arts Center on Jan. 15. The event, which was open to the public, featured a 1-hour reception catered by Ava Roasteria where attendees could socialize and network. The reception also featured live music by the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra and table center pieces created by our public works department using reclaimed materials from their projects (i.e. old pipes, water main, asphalt cores, broke drill, etc.) to promote both sustainability and the good work done by our public works crews. The speech was kicked-off with the National Anthem sung by the AMCA choir and colors posted by the local American Legion, and Mayor Doyle was introduced by Jim Piro, CEO of PGE. The Mayor delivered a speech (accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation) featuring a video we created highlighting Beaverton’s economic development  successes and our business partners.



Hillsboro: Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey delivered his State of the City Address on January 30 at the Hillsboro Main Library. The speech was open to all, and a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 300 filled the Library’s Events Room. Video of the Mayor’s speech is available to view online thanks to help from our partners at Tualatin Valley Community TV (TVCTV).



Washington County: Washington County Board Chair Andy Duyck gave his annual State of the County Address at the March meeting of the Westside Economic Alliance. This year’s speech also included a video and featured each member of the board along with several community partners who weighed in on transportation, economic development, affordable housing and quality of life issues. Take a look, we are very proud of it!



Did you use Twitter for the address? Did you “live tweet” the event?

Tigard: We used Twitter before and after the event but we did not live tweet the event. Mayor Cook was effective at “tweeting” about the upcoming State of the City. The general City Twitter also promoted the event and sent out the video link to our 1,250 followers. With all the new technologies, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities for future State of the City addresses.

West Linn: I was able to include six tweets during the State of the City address; but since I was also videotaping it, I could not live tweet and tape at the same time.  We did a lot of tweets leading up to the event to publicize it and to get people to RSVP and attend.  We ended up having 120 people attend the speech.

Beaverton: We used Twitter to prior to the address to promote the event, but didn’t do much live tweeting during as we had a limited number of staff on hand. However, we retweeted what attendees were saying as often as we could.

Hillsboro: Twitter was one of several channels we used to promote the address, but we did not live tweet the event. We used Twitter in the days and weeks ahead of the address to encourage community members to attend. During the speech, City Council President Aron Carleson (@carleson) tweeted photos, which we re-tweeted to our followers. After the speech we tweeted additional photos and, eventually, the link to the video.

Washington County: We did use Twitter for this event. Some of the tweets were live, others were pre-scheduled  with the help of our Hoot Suite account to emphasize key points.

If you used Twitter did you think it was an effective tool for that event? 

Tigard: Twitter is a great outlet for reaching the local media, community groups, and citizens. One “tweet” to our 1,250 followers may be retweeted several times which expands our reach to thousands more. We all know that it’s difficult to attract citizens to public meetings, and Twitter is one strategy for taking the message to them. The use of Twitter allows us to proactively communicate a message through a unique lens that no one else can duplicate.

Twitter-Bird-Is-Over-Capacity-MemeWest Linn: Twitter was a great way to share pictures from the event.  It would have been great to include more direct quotes, but again – not enough thumbs.

Beaverton: Yes, it was an effective tool. We reached more audiences than in years past and the tweets from our attendees gave some nice updates to those who weren’t there.

Hillsboro:  We are still weighing the value of live tweeting meetings and other events, and look forward to reading other perspectives on this.

Washington County: Yes, it seemed to be a very effective tool. We had several re-tweets and others tweeting using the hashtag we injected.

Will you use Twitter at future events?

Tigard: Tigard will continue to use Twitter along with the traditional website, Facebook, and Pinterest. We’re also cognizant that we must continue to reach citizens who are less plugged in. We do this through our monthly newsletter, Cityscape. Citizens also have a unique chance to connect with Mayor Cook at his monthly Fireside Chat.

West Linn: Yes.

Beaverton: We are planning use Twitter at all our upcoming summer events as well as some forums and open houses.

Hillsboro: Incorporating Twitter into the address might be an option for the future as an interactive element. Our use of Twitter will likely grow in the future as we continue to gain more followers.

Washington County: It is likely that we will use Twitter at future events.

Are you noticing a slow down in the number of Twitter followers as compared to the beginning of the race? 

Tigard: We’re gaining 10 to 15 followers a week, and I am sure that a few of those each week are from the increased attention brought by the Great Oregon Twitter Race. While the pace of new followers has expectedly slowed down; however, it’s exciting because we’re challenged to develop new and engaging ways to reach our citizens on Twitter. With the number of Twitter users growing daily, our pool of potential followers is also growing. The question is how to we plug into groups that we previously haven’t reached. A big part of this is providing an engaging Twitter presence that our followers will want to recommend to their networks.

city of bend twitterAn indirect benefit of the Twitter Race is other local governments are taking a closer look at their use of Twitter and if it can be improved. The City of Bend, who isn’t participating in the Race, takes great pride in reminding us that Bend has more than 2,000 followers.

West Linn: Nope, we’re still going strong and gaining momentum.

Beaverton: Our numbers have slowed down a bit, but we’re still gaining followers at a steady rate.

Hillsboro: Our number of Twitter followers continues to climb at a steady pace, though not as rapid as at the launch of the contest. But don’t sleep on Hillsboro. We have plans for raising awareness of the Twitter contest here in Hillsboro, as well as adding followers.

Washington County: We have not noticed a slow-down. It appears that our followers keep growing at a steady rate.

Have your tactics for gaining followers changed at all?

Tigard: The bottom line is we’re still focused on providing a Twitter feed that our citizens find useful and informative. I am a believer that a City’s social media presence should encompass all community related news and events. For example, this week, we highlighted the Tigard High School dance team winning a national championship and the Tigard Rotary Club’s 50th Anniversary. Parents are thrilled to see their child being recognized by the City and community groups appreciate the recognition and the opportunity to be exposed to a new audience.

hashtagsWest Linn: Yes.  We have begun focusing on following more people and so now we actually follow more people than follow us (prior to the last few weeks, that ratio was inverted).  That has increased the number of people who follow us back.

Beaverton: We’ve been promoting our Twitter account more through our partner organizations’ outreach materials and working with our own city staff to include our Twitter account on their marketing and communications tools.

Hillsboro: Our strategy for adding followers remains relatively simple: provide valuable information and news, and be willing to try new things. As a subtle form of event promotion, we recently tweeted an April Fool’s Day news release that Hillsboro’s annual festival, Celebrate Hillsboro, is now mandatory for all residents. The joke was well-received, and we saw several followers favorite and re-tweet, which led to an increase in new followers that day. I hate to give away our strategy for winning this contest, but we plan to take advantage of spring and summer events to spread the word about Twitter and our e-newsletter, which is emailed every other week. We also are working with our community partners, including the Hillsboro School District, to cross-promote our communications. And we have several City departments (Fire, Police, Parks & Recreation, Library, Water) that have Twitter feeds and we work to promote each other’s content.

Washington County: Not really, we continue to push out messages that we feel are important for the community to be aware of and to highlight the messages and accomplishments of our community partners.

Name three other governments we should follow on Twitter.


Both the Lombard and Oak Park accounts are managed by former reporters who are in tune with what citizens find interesting. A great way to learn how to become an effective Twitter user is to follow those who are already good at it.

West Linn 



Washington County

Now Let’s Hear from the Peanut Gallery

At this point we turn to ELGL’s Project Manager, Ben Kittelson, will be providing his comments from the peanut gallery. One of his favorite pastimes is mindlessly scrolling through Twitter feeds and laughing to himself at funny tweets. It may freak other people out, but it makes Ben a great person to turn to in order to analyze how each City handled the use of Twitter during their respective speeches.


As usual Tigard did a great job engaging with community members, partners, and officials by retweeting what others said about the State of the City. This is an effective and easy way to humanize the Twitter account and allow people to buy into what you are saying because it isn’t just a headline or link to a press release. I realize their State of the City was only a video, but I would have liked to see some quotes from the speech and a couple more pictures. If I just see a link to a video I’m not as likely to watch as when there is also an interesting quote from the video in the same tweet. My favorite of their #StateoftheCity related tweets was this one with the mayor and council advertising the event. I love a good action shot of elected officials plus the casual language used is pretty inviting to me as a citizen.


Beaverton also did a nice job retweeting other accounts that were talking about their State of the City address, but I have a similar critique as for Tigard, I would love to see some pictures or quotes from the speech. My favorite thing about their address is that they held it at a local school, now it was a magnet academy, but I think that’s a great way to connect local government with the community. Plus you can get more people into an auditorium than you can a City Hall.


Hillsboro had some great pictures from the night of their event. My favorite tweet below is of students holding up cards to spell out “We are Hillsboro” both adorable and cool! They also had action shots of the Mayor and other speakers from the night, and even a panoramic shot of the crowd. They did a really nice job with pictures, I would have loved to see some quotes from the speech, but pictures are always crowd pleasers.


West Linn didn’t tweet very much during the event (sounded like they were missing an intern or something), but what they did tweet was really great. I liked the action shots of the mayor and of the people in attendance. They even got a nice picture of one of the City Hall regulars, which I personally enjoyed. My favorite tweet though was of a display they had at the event. Each of the things the Mayor highlighted in his address had a corresponding display for people to find out more, great idea to get people involved. My favorite was of this rusty pipe, I can’t believe water still moves through pipes like this!


I think Washington County’s approach to their State of the County address was very unique and innovative. They had the usual speech but also had a video with clips of each board member and some community partners. This is a smart way to get everyone bought into the event, its not just your Mayor or, in this case, your Chair. I love the quotes that Washington County used, using them highlights specific content and lets followers get a sense of what was said during the speech. I also liked that they used a unique hashtag for the event, #WashCoSOC, which makes it easy to find tweets specific to the event.

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