Archive for social media

Should the government tweet?

Posted in WikiWay with tags , , , , on June 1, 2009 by Pete Forsyth

Ted Wheeler is getting some heat for his desire to have a modern media expert on staff at the County, working with tools like Twitter and Facebook. He’s doing a pretty good job of justifying his position, but it’s pretty ridiculous that he should even have to do that. Let me explain why this whole discussion strikes me as being completely ludicrous.

Last week, a bill I’d been working on (unpaid) was before a legislative committee in Salem. I had expected it to be heard on Tuesday, but at about noon on the previous Friday, I learned that it was going to be up at about 3pm that day.

So I canceled appointments with clients, and arranged to get from Portland to Salem. I then delivered my testimony, reflecting about 6 months of volunteer work facilitating a discussion among a broad group of business, policy, and government experts.

The committee chair did not listen to a word of my testimony (maybe 45 seconds); he was talking with the committee secretary about something more important.

On the whole, a massively inefficient, and somewhat humiliating, interaction. It’s fun to learn the steps to an odd 19th century ritual, but pretty frustrating to be required to do it just in order to sum up my work to a decision-maker.

I didn’t let it stop me, but many people with something to offer do. They don’t even consider the possibility of meaningful communication with their government institutions.

I, for one, applaud Ted Wheeler for daring to ask how government can become better at leveraging modern technology to better communicate with the public.

Am I suggesting that I should have been able to “tweet” my testimony? Of course not.

But here are just a few groups that have recognized that Twitter is an important dish on the modern communications menu, and have invested substantial capital or sweat into getting it right:

  • The Obama campaign
  • Innumerable news outlets
  • Innumerable retail businesses
  • Many elements of the Portland small business community
  • Any modern communications consulting business
  • etc., etc., etc.

To those of you who claim you’re “too old” or “too unhip” to get it, you’re wrong. If you think Twitter is a trend, or diminishes personal interaction (rather than enriching it), you’re wrong. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a communications revolution — and many of the tools that emerge represent significant progress. 20 years ago, you were telling me that email was a toy for academics and computer geeks, and would never catch on. 5 years ago, you were saying something similar about blogs. Pardon my lack of interest, but admit it — your track record isn’t that good.

If you genuinely want to understand how Twitter or related tools can fit into an effective communication strategy for the County or any other institution, I’d be happy to sit down and have a discussion.

But, fair warning: I’ll charge you a lot of money for that discussion. That kind of consulting is in pretty high demand these days.