When will politicians understand that Twitter is not for one-way social interaction?

Business leaders are often far ahead of Federal-level public officials, at least in my personal experience, in understanding the use of social media strategies, tactics, and tools.  I read this post, a scorecard of sorts, of government 2.0 from a “joe-average-citizen” perspective.  Good post, worth a read.

Understand this, there are plenty of politically active people on Twitter and other networks demonstrating how to properly leverage these tools, people like:

  • Walter Neary, Lakewood City Council (WA State).   Walter works to provide training to newly elected public officials on how to leverage social media properly.
  • Ari Herzog, Newburyport City Council (MA State). Ari is a leading proponent of open government and is constantly educating anyone that he can.
  • Adriel Hampton, one of the voices for the San Francisco City Attorney’s office.  I chatted with Adriel recently, you can read more about the San Francisco Attorney’s office here.
  • Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts.  While the majority of the communication comes from the Governor’s communication team, he actively participates, signing his tweets with “-D”.  He is also one of the few high-level officials that really seems involved on his own social channels.

For each of the above, however, there are dozens of Federal through Local-level officials who are still missing the boat, using tools like Facebook and Twitter to purely broadcast messages instead of actively engaging.  As 2010 begins, and I continue my focus on leveraging social media and CRM solutions for the betterment of businesses and government, I will start off with a few suggestions for elected officials.

  • As in business, determine what your goals are and how social media fits, or does not fit, with what you are trying to accomplish.
  • If you are going to leverage social media use it to get the good, and the bad, messages out there.  Get in front of the message and be the one to break the news. You would prefer that the voting public hears the news from you before they read about it in the local newspaper or hear about it on CNN.
  • Stop using Twitter for one-way social interaction.  I have been experimenting, in an ad hoc fashion, with several federal level Twitter users, sending them Tweets asking questions on government 2.0, open government, etc..  So far, no follow-up.  However, if you want to hear why they should be re-elected or some political recording, listen in.
    • If you do not have time to engage in a two-way fashion simply do not setup a Twitter account.  This is okay, it is not a crime, no social media police will come to your door.
    • Note that I am going to kick off an experiment asking all Tweeting Senators and Governor’s a simple question.  “What does the open government directive mean to you and how will it impact how your state does business.”  I’ll report back in a couple of weeks about who responded, who did not, and, for those that do respond, what their thoughts are.  Stay tuned.
  • Setup a Facebook account and use it to get the word out about your key programs, fundraising events, etc..  You can easily locate your constituents on twitter.  Have an intern or two and friend everyone in your community.  Before you know it you will be a social media rockstar..
  • Use Flikr and Youtube to get photos and videos out to the public.  Please, do not make this all about you.  Make it about your communities, the citizens.  Engage and minimize personal boasting.  Make sure people know you’re behind the great things happening, but make the message about others.
  • Leverage tools like Social Support Communities (Lithium, Helpstream, INgage Networks) to track communications and campaigns/projects.  You will gain valuable information to more efficiently drive change, to innovate.
  • Leverage Social Media Monitoring tools to track public conversations about you and your efforts.
  • Give me a call, I have a great Federal program I am lobbying for and could use your support.  It involves flying pigs and it will be huge.

John

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