As the region struggled to dig out from last month's blizzard, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch utilized a powerful new tool: social media.

In addition to harnessing the city's traditional channels of communication, Finch garnered the power of Facebook and Twitter to gather information about what areas of the state's most populated city needed the most attention. Simultaneously, he used the networks to ease residents' concerns about the pace of the city's snow removal efforts.

"I want to know what's going on in the community," Finch said. "Facebook and Twitter have helped me to better understand what people are thinking."

Finch is not alone in tapping into social media. Almost all of the region's municipal leaders have signed on to the rapidly evolving technologies.

Connecticut's leaders on the state-wide and national levels also are on social media.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office posted Facebook and Twitter messages within hours of being sworn in as the state's chief executive. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman also tweet and maintain Facebook pages.

While the technology does require a considerable time commitment, it gives the community the opportunity to interact with local government in a new and dynamic way, Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek said.

"The only way to get truly transparent is to get as much out there as possible," Vavrek said.

However, not every town leader wants to tweet or post a status on Facebook. Fairfield First Selectman Ken Flatto called the technology a "nuisance."

"There's nothing additional that I would gain by interactions on Facebook or Twitter," he said. "Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are not that relevant yet for our day-to-day work."

Flatto said there are so many other ways for residents to connect with their local leaders. "From my vantage point, frankly, to a certain extent, it's a distraction," he said. "I really prefer face-to-face and voice contact."

But Flatto may be missing out on a chance to connect with constituents, experts say.

"Social media at large is becoming more difficult to ignore as more people use it," said James Castonguay, associate professor of media studies at Sacred Heart University.

"It's a new medium and a real player. I don't think it could be ignored locally or nationally."

However, he said, officials need to be cognizant of the digital divide and that everyone is not signed on to Facebook or Twitter. He said the lack of Internet access in poor communities remains a real issue.

Also, there are certain risks to using networks like Facebook, Castonguay said.

"A lot of it can backfire," he said. "On one hand, someone may want to use it as a bulletin board, but that's not taking full advantage of the one-on-one communication it offers. Nonetheless, however, you could say you at least have a Facebook presence. On the other hand, you could have a communications team carefully edit your presence."

Even the ads on the Facebook profile pages, which are not under the control of the politician, may send the wrong signals to potential voters.

Also, election laws and social media policies do not make it easy for politicians to use the technology, Finch said.

Politicians are supposed to use special Facebook accounts and some users may be uneasy connecting with politicians on these special accounts.

However, Castonguay said the platform is worth the risk.

"They have to get in," he said. "They can't ignore it, at least in Connecticut. If they want to get elected, those are the people you certainly want to reach. They are using social media to communicate and so it would be unwise not to be part of the conversation."

Stratford Mayor John Harkins said he wants town leaders to tap into social networks, but it can be tricky.

"It's a challenge," he said. "Not everyone uses the same devices or even a computer. But as times change, we try to change, too."

Harkins, who has uses his Facebook account to post photographs of town events, said he is considering launching a Twitter account.

At the end of the day, however, Harkins said he would recommend residents to call his office or e-mail him with a problem.

"Face-to-face is still preferential," he said.