22 May 2009
It started when I ate at Moe's SouthWestern Grill for the first time. I noticed that by the end of the meal we had a baseball size collection of aluminum foil used to cover each of the items we purchased. My son was playing with it and we threw it across the table a couple of times. It came time to leave Moes and we disposed of the other garbage and then the foil baseball. I decided that I liked Moe's because it was good food, it was inexpensive, and I was able to have my kind of burrito without all the mess which usually accompanies a more traditional burrito. We went back, and once again we were left with a ball of foil and I decided to call Moe's corporate headquarters and ask them about their recycling policies. I went to their website and found out that Moe's is a franchise operation, I figured that out actually before seeing the site, but my suspicions were validated. I called once and left a message. I called the next day and left a message. I called a third time and spoke with a woman who said that she had never been asked to respond to a question about recycling and would call me back. She never did.
I went to Moe's several times after calling and then I decided to jump into action using Twitter as my advocacy tool. I established a new Twitter account @MoesSouthWest and used the Moes logo as my background and a different Moe's logo for my avatar. I then type a few messages using the best hash tags such as #moes and #recycle and finally #obama just in case. I used my regular account to do similar tweets and then also made a point of explaining this action on Facebook. I used an excellent programme called Hootsuite which allows you to write tweets from one, or more accounts, at the same time. Twitter and Hootsuite really helped me in my effort to make a point about the waste of tinfoil and at the same time ask people to either leave the foil on top of the garbage can or take it home and recycle it.
In less than 24 hours I received a Twitter friend request from Dan Barash • Director, Research & Development, Moe's Southwest Grill. After accepting his invite, he did a direct message to me saying that he wanted to speak with me. We connected on the phone and he spent the next 30 minutes telling me about how he is the person responsible for planning green packaging for the Moe's food line. He told me that he contacted the PR folks at Moe's to let them know about my messages and told them that he would reach out to me in Twitter.
Dan explained that since they are a franchise centric operation that it would take time before green is adopted throughout all of the stores. Each store must decide how to provision its offerings and those are purchased from Moe's corporate operations. The cost of going green would add to the bottom line which means that each store has to choose to either “eat the costs” for going green or raise the prices to cover the costs. The latter option seems more likely, but it is a difficult balance right now given the present economy. Moe's does provide a low cost and mostly healthy meal option for people like me who have children.
Dan Barash asked that I be patient and I said that I would be somewhat patient, but in the interim I would still tweet messages to my group asking them to “Take the Foil Home.” I said that it was unlikely that many people would follow my request and Dan disagreed saying that Twitter does have the power right now to inform people into a collective and bring about consensus.
The power of Twitter evidenced itself within 24 hours and it showed that people are using Twitter to search on very specific subjects, in the case of Dan Barash, he looks for anything related to Moes. The other element less obvious was my ability to grab the @MoesSouthWest Twitter name and use it to support my goal,
13 May 2009
At the risk is mentioning the T word, I have an idea which will make government, especially local and county officials, more accessible to the people they represent - Twitter. I know that Twitter is an overly discussed topic these days but the fact of the matter is that it can play a significant role in changing the political process for the better. It can help restore a little faith in our political institutions with a simple 140 character return message letting the sender know that his concern has been received and acknowledged or if possible resolved.
I attended a conference this week called "Tech Policy Summit" and had the pleasure of meeting the former mayor of Arcata, CA, a place near and dear to my heart as it is the town where I attended Humboldt State University and received my Masters Degree in 1983. Although Ms. Stewart, the ex-Mayor had heard of Twitter, she had not used it, and had not really been exposed to it enough to know what it could do for her. I explained the political imperative and bet that the present mayor did not have a Twitter account. Neither the mayor or the city council had a Twitter account, but the Ice Cream store did. This is the exact revelation I was hoping to highlight - someone in the ice cream shop saw the role that Twitter could play in the sales and information cycle while the mayor and city council obviously did not.
The list of congressman and senators using Twitter and Facebook is expanding as the new Administration shows how Web 2.0 tools can improve political efficacy. The Obama campaign, like no other campaign before it, saw the strength of using the Internet and applications such as Twitter, Facebook, texting and email to target their message and adapt their outreach rapidly three steps ahead of the the McCain campaign.
The message to all mayors and city councils around America should be clear - your constituents - especially those familiar with technology, want to communicate with you. Even if your city adopts a single account similar to what Comcast and many other companies have done, it should be done as quickly as possible. Adapt or run the risk of falling out of favor with constituents who will only be more and more comfortable with messaging technologies as time moves on.
Constituents want to know that someone is listening to them and paying attention to their complaints. I used to work for a county supervisor in Santa Clara responding to constituents' letters. Snail mail is out. The generation which pushed Obama forward into the presidency is the most likely to use Twitter, Facebook and Email. This group will judge their representatives by how tech-savvy they appear to be. The message is the messenger and Twitter is the easiest way for every mayor and city council member to show that they are tech-aware and willing to respond to the needs of the electorate.
Thanks for reading. Find out more about me at www.glennstrachan.com