Empowering Actual Communities With Social Media - Social Media Explorer
Empowering Actual Communities With Social Media
Empowering Actual Communities With Social Media
by
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]

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Pingback: dostana()

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

      • 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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • Agreed, Master Kipp. Thanks again for chiming in!