My friend Shahrzad Rizvi, along with co-author Joshua Kelly, recently published an article in Public Management Magazine titled “Communicating Emergency Information on a Budget.” The article covers low-cost ways for emergency managers to connect with their communities. It highlights social media, new types of alert systems, and free online mapping of public safety concerns. The article includes links to some of these new tools, so I encourage you to check it out.
One example is Michigan state representative Justin Amash. According to a 2011 article on mlive.com, Amash posts “all his votes, reasons behind them and other news from the floor on his Facebook page.” He emphasizes that it increases transparency for voters.
Twitter is another increasingly popular tool in politics. The Chicago Redeye reported on the trend on January 9:
In addition to [Chicago] Mayor Emanuel’s handle (@rahmemanuel), aldermen in 29 of the city’s 50 wards have Twitter accounts, according to a RedEye review, although each varies in how frequently he or she posts. . . .
“They don’t get it,” Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said of his colleagues who don’t use the microblogging service. “It takes effort and I think [the City Council is] way, way, way behind the curve. There is no reason not to have it.”
There is even an assistant professor at IIT, Libby Hemphill, who is tracking Chicago politician’s tweets looking for patterns about the information shared.
For politicians, however, using Twitter (or Facebook) is not without risks.
Politico reporter Scott Wong summed it up like this:
Twitter’s a dream for politicians with an itch to reach voters in candid, quick bursts, but the fear of jokes gone wrong, gaffes and hacks is becoming palpable.
Because of the potential for gaffes, one democratic consultant recommends that politicians stick to Facebook and not personally post on Twitter.
The best solution may be for politicians to hire professional tweeters to post tweets for them. As Wired covered in November 2011, many celebrities already employ “ghost tweeters,” who go to great lengths to copy their employers tone and voice while tweeting frequently in an effort to connect with fans and increase the celebrity’s profile. Of course professional tweeters are far outside the budget of most politicians (though probably not Mitt Romney), so they are stuck with drafting carefully.