13 May 2009

Simple Concept Which Can Reap Great Rewards

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

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