Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Last week, my friend Scott Clark and I had the honor of co-presenting to the National League of Cities State League Staff Workshop in Louisville. Hopefully, what we covered helped league staffers better understand how they and their cities can use social media to help enhance communications with those they serve.

Part of our offering was to share some examples of cities, government agencies and even politicians engaging those they serve via social media. Some of those examples are below for you to chew on. I’m sure you may know of others, I’d love to hear about in the comments section.

I’ve long held the belief that social media can change our government. While you could argue Barak Obama‘s election proves that point, I think driving grass roots political activation in an election is just the tip of the iceberg. Certainly, the Obama administration is more open than those before it, but the reality of the staying power of bureaucracy proves even an idealistic new president’s approach can be stymied a bit.

But social media — or, better said, the power of the people — is having a positive effect on politics. Look at the administrations of Governors like Deval Patrick in Massachusetts or Mayors like Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., or David Miller in Toronto. Two years ago, I stood in a room and listened to one of the Governor of Kentucky’s primary communications people lament the existence of blogs, saying they were, “killing the message,” of government. Today, my Governor, Steve Bashear, has his own blog, extending the message of the Commonwealth. (No, you can’t comment on it. Yes, I’m ashamed to tell you that. But progress is slow in political arenas. Big ole’ cruise ships don’t turn on a dime.)

The Hamilton County Job and Family Services website features links to the department's various social media connection points.

The Hamilton County Job and Family Services website features links to the department's various social media connection points, plus RSS feeds of the site's content.

Look at what Mike Boehmer is doing with the Hamilton County Job and Family Services in Cincinnati, Ohio. The county department that handles welfare, child support and child protection, among other social services, is leveraging their own website, a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even BlogTalkRadio to reach their strategic audiences. No, their live chats on BlogTalkRadio haven’t had more than 30 folks at a time, but they’ve had 30 folks who need the information they are communicating. As word gets out how easily it can be had, more will come.

Even though they are just starting, Peoria, Arizona, is diving into social media. Kelly Corsette, their public information officer told me they still have some legal issues to iron out and are in the midst of a “soft launch” of sorts to get their feet under them in the social realm. But they’re hoping to use the tools strategically.

“The overarching strategy is to get our information to folks in the places where they’re looking for information,” Corsette said. “As you know, the fragmentation of the channels out there for us to distribute and receive information in is off the charts. I’ve been with the city over 11 years. When I first started, we didn’t have a website. We’re just adding the channels as we’ve had the resources and desire and need to do it. Understanding there are folks that are communicating and looking for information in these channels. If we want to connect with them this is the way we need to participate.

For me, it means more than just the fact you can Twitter with the city PR folks or see what the Mayor’s public calendar looks like, though. I imagine a day when city council meetings are not just broadcast on public access television, but on UStream.tv with a live chat monitor reading off public comments during the meeting. Or perhaps a congressperson readies for a vote, turns to their constituents on Facebook and offers up a quick poll to see how they would prefer he or she vote.

The more accessible our government and its leaders can be, the more actively we’ll all participate in it. Social media tools make it possible. It’s only prevailing attitudes that make it unlikely.

Let’s change that, shall we?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kbodnar32

    Jason

    Good points. Again this comes back to organizational change the political leaders need to drive their staff to better two-communication. Just like like everything else though, as positive results start to appear from having an online dialogue we will see an up tick in communication.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Master Kipp. Thanks again for chiming in!

  • mikeboehmer

    Thanks for taking the time to check with those of us in government who are incorporating social media into our communication strategy. It's great how you help us learn from each other as we blaze this new and exciting trail.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Just keep up the good work, Mike. You're doing a hell of a job and I love the fact you're not caught up in low numbers meaning it's not worth it. Every person counts and you guys know that better than any of us.

  • http://tinyurl.com/dhbqjr Ryan Biddulph

    Prevailing attitudes are changing quickly. My parents are political junkies and even though they are slow to adopt technology (a microwave was a big deal a while back ;) they recently opened a twitter account and are following guys like Chris Chritie and Cory Booker here in NJ. Like anything as it becomes more acceptible people will do it. The herd-like mentality will never change.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen to that Ryan. Good for your parents and good for New Jersey that they're helping move in that direction.

  • http://twitter.com/djwaldow DJ Waldow

    Jason – Thank you for highlighting the progress local and national government organization are making in the world of social media. As we all know, if implemented correctly (strategically?), social media can be extremely powerful. I'm interested to see how politicians use SM as time goes on. Will it just be the one and done strategy to get a boost in votes or can they sustain it. You give some great examples above.

    Thanks for continuing to always pump out great content.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the comment D.J. And for listing your title. I hadn't connected those dots yet. Love Blue Sky. So much that I finally found someone to fix my account so I could use it.

      I'm also a little leery of folks throwing social media efforts up there as a one-and-done tactic, but I think the evolution of this world will require folks to stay committed and honest to their publics. The people will demand it. Those who drop the ball won't stay in office long.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • http://twitter.com/djwaldow DJ Waldow

        Jason: Yeah, wasn't trying to pimp BSF by listing my title. Was just letting you (subtly) know about my new gig. Would LOVE to talk more about *how* you are using Blue Sky Factory. Let me know when you have time.

        Oh yeah…thanks (http://idek.net/KmL). In case you missed it on Twitter.

        DJ Waldow
        @djwaldow

  • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

    In your final paragraph on the notion of #gov20, you write: “Social media tools make it possible. It’s only prevailing attitudes that make it unlikely.”

    If only it was that simple, Jason. Attitudes do not prevent the use of social tools, but a mixture of outdated infrastructure and policies are bigger issues at play. Also, despite the pseudo-importance of this or that tool, if it bears no relevance for the agency's mission, there is no point in using it. It's great the CIA is recruiting with Facebook; but that doesn't imply other agencies should use Facebook for human resources as every agency is different.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That's why I said “make it unlikely.” Not “impossible.” Your point about using the relevant tools is spot on, but it IS the prevailing attitudes, not infrastructure or policies at play. If it were, then those who are doing it and doing well wouldn't be. Anything is possible if you have top-down buy in and direction.

      Thanks for the push back, though.

      • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

        Focusing on your last sentence about possibilities and top-down buy-in, Jason, that's not necessarily true either. Many heads of state – from President Obama to Governor Patrick as you alluded – are using aspects of social media in their endeavors, but that doesn't suggest their appointees have it or know what it is.

        It's easy to correlate possibilities with leadership – but there's a reason why Wells Fargo has more blogs than Bank of America and I'll hazard a guess it has less to do with the bank CEO.

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          If you think top-down means heads of state, you're not getting the true picture of reality. Department heads run government. Heads of state just push conceptual policy. Which also explains your banking reference.

          • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

            The reality, Jason, is my reaction to your examples. In your above blog post, you cite seven people and/or agencies yet only one is not respective of a president/governor/mayor, and that is Mike Boehmer. I agree with your portrayal of Mike, but you brought up everyone else and that is what I'm referring to.

  • Pingback: Internet Marketing, Strategy & Technology Links – July 21, 2009 « Sazbean

  • http://frontporchforum.com/ Michael Wood-Lewis

    Glad to find your post, Jason. You might be interested in Front Porch Forum. More than 40% of Vermont's largest city subscribes to this network of 130 online neighborhood forums, resulting in tens of thousands of postings among clearly identified nearby neighbors… from debating local politics to finding lost cats, from recommending a roofer to reporting car break-ins and lots and lots more. Nothing else achieves this level of participation with this kind of civil and constructive involvment. http://frontporchforum.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Wow. Thanks for the point, Michael. I'll dive in and check it out soon. Much appreciated.

  • http://frontporchforum.com/ Michael Wood-Lewis

    Glad to find your post, Jason. You might be interested in Front Porch Forum. More than 40% of Vermont's largest city subscribes to this network of 130 online neighborhood forums, resulting in tens of thousands of postings among clearly identified nearby neighbors… from debating local politics to finding lost cats, from recommending a roofer to reporting car break-ins and lots and lots more. Nothing else achieves this level of participation with this kind of civil and constructive involvment. http://frontporchforum.com

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Jason: Yeah, wasn't trying to pimp BSF by listing my title. Was just letting you (subtly) know about my new gig. Would LOVE to talk more about *how* you are using Blue Sky Factory. Let me know when you have time.

    Oh yeah…thanks (http://idek.net/KmL). In case you missed it on Twitter.

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Wow. Thanks for the point, Michael. I'll dive in and check it out soon. Much appreciated.

  • Pingback: dostana