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Grabbing some 'face' time

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Kids are all using it; heck, even mom and dad are writing on each other's walls these days.

In 2009, it seems, everybody is on Facebook. Why not your city, too?

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Cottage Grove this month joined the Facebook age with its very own Facebook page, a place where the city can post reminders of upcoming events and meetings and where residents can become a "fan" of the city to receive automatic updates when they're published.

"I think more and more people of my generation are finding themselves on similar sorts of (Web sites)," said city administrator Ryan Schroeder. "An advantage we see (with Facebook) is that immediacy of notification."

With its Facebook page, the city of Cottage Grove has joined a wave of cities across the Twin Cities utilizing social networking sites to connect with residents beyond periodic newsletters and city Web sites.

A search of the Internet shows cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Richfield, Edina, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and Savage with a social networking presence. Most are using Twitter, a micro-blogging service that allows its users to write short, 140-character-or-less updates known as tweets.

Twitter users can follow those cities and automatically receive the tweets, similar to how a fan of Cottage Grove on Facebook will get updates posted to the city's page.

Mayor Myron Bailey, himself a Facebook user, said he's excited by Cottage Grove's Facebook foray. And expansion to trendy Twitter, he said, might not be far off.

"I can't believe how many people use Facebook," Bailey said. "It really is another way to communicate with people and for them to communicate with us."

Schroeder said the idea for a Cottage Grove page on Facebook, which has more than 100 million users worldwide, came from the police department. Public safety officials suggested a police-specific page to provide online alerts to residents. Then, on Sept. 14, Cottage Grove debuted its page with a post highlighting that week's public works open house.

As of Monday, Cottage Grove had 17 fans, including Bailey, city council member Justin Olsen and a few city employees. That's less than, say, New York City's 928,000 Facebook followers.

But Bailey said he thinks the Cottage Grove site could catch on as an easier way to keep residents abreast of goings-on in the city than its Web site.

With a Facebook user's ability to send messages to the city through the Cottage Grove page, and for the city to respond individually, Schroeder said city hall is becoming more accessible than ever before.

"Hopefully, it's something that people see as having value," Schroeder said.

How to check out Cottage Grove on Facebook

You don't have to be a Facebook member to view Cottage Grove's new Facebook page, anyone can view recent events, meeting notices and photos posted by clicking on a link on the city's Web site, www.cottage-grove.org.

But if you want to receive the city's updates automatically, you'll need to sign up for the site and become a fan of Cottage Grove. Go to www.facebook.com; sign up is on the Facebook homepage.

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