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Category: Social Media Page 1 of 3

The Importance of Social Media for Gov

Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to the President, took to Medium yesterday to talk about the importance of President Barack Obama’s new Twitter account, @POTUS. He makes three key points:

  1. Twitter (and really, social media in general) is the place to talk to the public.
  2. You have to “go where the conversation is happening” and “actively participate in it”.
  3. The President will have to be active on Twitter for this to work. He also notes, “Anything that breaks down barriers and brings the public and politicians closer together is a good thing.”

These apply to governments and not just politicians. Maybe even more so. It’s about time to stop pretending that public hearings, press releases (and newspapers), and town halls are the best place to interact with citizens. Those are three ways to meet your residents. I mentioned on Twitter last week, I think govs should use both online and newspaper channels (and every other way possible) to reach citizens.

Gov Social Media Authenticity

On the need for authenticity in social media for gov folks:

It has to be an engagement strategy of actually, like, going back and forth with people, responding to people who disagree with you, or thanking people who say nice things or favorite their tweets. That’s not a natural thing for folks in government because it’s not really what people are trained to do. There’s risk involved and your goal as someone who works in the White House or anywhere in government is to keep yourself off the front page of the newspaper and not get unwanted attention.

The Problem with New Open Source Social Media Platforms

The problem with the new, open source, social media platforms?

They (typically) don’t run on basic php/mysql web servers. Plain and simple.

I’ve written lots on open source before (see here), so needless to say I see a lot of value in open source software.

These new, open source, social media platforms I’m talking about include diaspora* (explanation here), MediaGoblin (explanation here), and (explanation here). Each of these require server resources above the standard shared server. Thus, the cost is to high for your average user. Typical shared hosting costs anywhere from $5 to $10 per month. Typical virtual private hosting (the next step up and able to run these platforms) costs anywhere from $15 to $25 per month. That’s a big difference for your average hobbyist. Like myself.

Sure, you can find pods or installs of this software to use. But part of the need for these platforms is that you can host and own your content. And there’s no guarantee of ownership when you’re using someone else’s install and someone else’s server. If I wanted someone else to host and manage my content, I’d upload my pictures to flickr or Google+.

I’ll compare to the WordPress content management system (on which this site is built).

WordPress has a huge user base. WordPress powers 23% of the web. Nearly a quarter of all websites run on the open source WordPress software. It’s not all self-hosted, like this site. Much of it is run on, an install of the WordPress software maintained by Automattic. But for most everyone else, it is self-hosted and runs on cheap, shared hosting.

And this is why I think WordPress is so popular. Cheap, shared hosting.

Cheap, shared hosting that any hobbyist can afford. That any business can afford. That any non-profit can afford. That any government can afford.

So here’s a shoutout to everyone working on the likes of diaspora* and MediaGoblin (and many others, and all the future open source platforms). Design it to work on cheap, shared hosting and on php/mysql. This combination powers most of the web. And it allows us hobbyists to run your software. I really want to use it and tinker with it and contribute to the code and contribute back to the communities around them.

But I can’t on my shared hosting plan.

I killed Facebook and left its body in the woods. Great article from The Verge. I deleted my account just about two years ago, August 23, 2012.

Backing Up Twitter with WordPress

Last week I found out about an updated WordPress plugin that let’s you archive your Twitter feed within WordPress. The plugin: Ozh’ Tweet Archiver.

I’ve already put it to use with my own Twitter archive here. I’m using the Hemingway theme for the moment, but Ozh already released a theme that looks like the new Twitter profile that I might utilize.

Ozh’s plugin only imports the most recent 3,200 tweets (thanks for that restriction, Twitter), and he just posted a way to use your Twitter archive to import your previous tweets. That wasn’t available last week, so I used the Advanced CSV Importer plugin to take the csv file from my Twitter archive and put those older tweets into the WordPress database.

This plugin is a really good way to maintain a usable archive of your tweets. Twitter might not always be around, plus, this is your writing, store it on your own website! Thanks, Ozh, for your hard work on this.

Social Media in the Aftermath of Sandy

Before Sandy hit, I wrote briefly about Google’s use of a crisis map to help residents and responders.

Since then, we have seen actions across the social media boundaries that have helped those affected by Sandy.

And then there is Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I’ve written before about Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter. During Sandy and the ongoing recovery, Booker has tirelessly worked to respond to citizens and deliver necessary supplies to those in need. And when a woman messaged him that her power wasn’t on, he invited her and any other residents to stay at his home. He provided wi-fi, his DVD collection, power outlets to charge phones, heat, and food. Pretty incredible in this day and age. For a collection of his best tweets, check out this link.

I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.

Google’s Sandy Crisis Map

Google has created an awesome “crisis map” to help citizens and public safety officials respond to Hurricane Sandy (see it here). The map has layers with the forecast track cone, projected storm surge, weather radar, precipitation, cloud imagery, web cams, public alerts, hurricane evacuation routes, traffic, and active evacuation shelters. The evacuation shelter information also includes their capacity and the number of current residents (courtesy of the Red Cross). Incredible.

This isn’t something that Google had to do. But their infrastructure and existing projects allow for easy deployment of tech like this that could save lives.

H/t to TechCrunch.

This Is Why Governments Struggle with the Use of Social Media

Unless government organizations understand that what really sets social media apart is the word “social” rather than “media”, and that they are people tool and not corporate tool, most attempts at developing effective strategies will be futile.

Andrea Di Maio, This Is Why Governments Struggle with the Use of Social Media.

Social Media Lessons from the Indian Gulch Fire

Mayor Jacob Smith of Golden, Colorado, has posted an excellent overview of the lessons learned from the Indian Gulch Fire that began on March 20th. Specifically, he speaks to the communication lessons having to do with social media. I watched the news of the Indian Gulch Fire closely because it burned within sight of my office in Golden, Mayor Smith was one of the most important voices hitting the Twitter hashtag search for the fire.

Mayor Smith was one of the (unofficial) point people for the Indian Gulch Fire online (he’s @jacobzsmith on Twitter). Another was Golden City Councilor Bill Fisher (@goldenbilfish). Both utilized Twitter, Facebook, and their personal websites to communicate to the citizens of Golden.

Mayor Smith speaks directly to the intricacies of working with professional emergency managers (and their public information officers) during a crisis situation like the Indian Gulch Fire [original author’s emphasis]:

Bill and I occupied an interesting space. We weren’t official voices of the City of Golden, but we had enough credibility that our information was taken seriously. We were both diligent about checking our facts before hitting ‘send,’ and we always tried to make sure the info we posted was accurate. Nonetheless, for any future emergencies we’ll need to think about how to keep the accuracy level high without slowing things down. Ironically enough, the only error I’m aware of was the result of an error on one of the official news releases.

An interesting point Mayor Smith makes is that emergency response personnel (from the City of Golden, the Jefferson County, and the Federal government) were able to concentrate on the fire, enabling he and Councilor Fisher to concentrate on communicating with their communities:

This enabled us to communicate with staff about issues that needed more attention or about information gaps that might not have been as important from the “protect people and homes” perspective but helped reduce the uncertainty among residents.

More important for followers of social media, Mayor Smith identifies that Twitter and Facebook were the fastest methods to get information out quickly, while email newsletters allowed him to communicate with residents who weren’t on social media.

His conclusion:

Communicating across such a wide range of tools required a great deal more effort than simply relying on the traditional news release-driven approaches, but my sense is that the effort was worthwhile.

My conclusion? It is pretty clear that governments need to make use of social media (and new technologies) to enable quick information exchange with citizens. I have long been a fan of using social media in emergency situations as an alternative form of communication: just last fall, the City of Boulder’s reverse 911 system failed to get out a timely evacuation order during a wildfire. At the very minimum, local governments can post to Twitter and Facebook the same information they are giving out to media. And at the most, governments can inform the media as well as residents.

The Effects of Social Networking on Revolutions

Fareed Zakaria:

But clearly today’s information technology has the effect of disintermediating. It breaks down hierarchies. It breaks down monopolies. That’s got to be good for the individual, and it must be bad for dictatorships.

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