Social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube) and other services with user-generated content have made a staggering amount of information (and misinformation) available. Government officials seek to leverage these resources to improve services and communication with citizens. Yet, the sheer volume of social data streams generates substantial noise that must be filtered. Nonetheless, potential exists to identify issues in real time, such that emergency management can monitor and respond to issues concerning public safety. By detecting meaningful patterns and trends in the stream of messages and information flow, events can be identified as spikes in activity, while meaning can be deciphered through changes in content. This paper presents findings from a pilot study we conducted between June and December 2010 with government officials in Arlington, Virginia (and the greater National Capitol Region around Washington, DC) with a view to understanding the use of social media by government officials as well as community organizations, businesses and the public. We are especially interested in understanding social media use in crisis situations (whether severe or fairly common, such as traffic or weather crises). © 2011 ACM.