Social media has become a crucial part of how we interact with our friends, community and even run our cities. Governments are starting to take serious notice and incorporate social media into their own day-to-day actions.
Governments may not be early adopters but the proliferation of social in national media has ramped up its importance for governments around the world. While this initial stance kept politicians on the defensive, enough time has passed that individual politicians and even entire governments are starting to use social media to connect with their communities in new, open ways.
We’ve chosen a few examples to illustrate some of the many ways government is embracing social media. Have a read through some of these initiatives and let us know in the comments how your own government or political representative is putting social media to good use. The list is neither exhaustive nor does it try to summarize the entirety of a government’s social outreach. It is instead meant to start a conversation.
Social media has a strange role in America as both kingmaker and career wrecker. For every social media success story like President Barack Obama’s 2008 grassroots campaign there is another of a career-crippling gaffe, like Weinergate, when New York Rep. Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a picture of his crotch.
Social media, and particularly Twitter, have become a type of soapbox in America, on which many politicians are able to speak directly to their constituents. “I know the overall importance of reaching out through the social media, because I have 31 grandchildren and they are on all of these things,” said U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. “This is mostly a young person’s game and I’m an old person, but I’m young at heart … the only advice I’d give is ‘get involved’ and then use it in the right way.”
In fact, Republicans have been encouraging their members to get on social media with a friendly NCAA-style knock-out contest called the New Media Challenge, run by the House Republican Conference. Republicans are also using social media to reach out through initiatives like Youcut, a crowdsourced platform where the public can debate and vote on how to lower the national debt. “If you ignore [social media] and you just keep doing things the way you did when I first came to congress, you do so at your own peril,” McKeon said.
Of course the White House itself has taken to social media to help push some of its initiatives. Obama recently held a Twitter town hall where he received and answered questions through Twitter and pledged to start tweeting from his own official account. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have also been used in presidential debates and forums. The White House has even set up several verified Twitter accounts for state entities such as the secret service (@SecretService), the Open Government Initiative (@OpenGov), a Spanish White House account (@lacasablanca) and an official account for White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (@presssec). Social media has become a place where politicians large and small can register their support in a public way, for example, when Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called for the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei from police custody.