Thursday, December 4, 2008

Twittering Away Local Government

How should a local government use Twitter, the micro blogging service that has gained so much popularity? Should it be 1.0 broadcast only? Should it be totally 2.0 interactive or should it be somewhere in the middle? Or should Twitter even be in the mix for local governments?

Some time ago I setup a simple Twitter account for the local government I work for to use as a test for keeping people up to date without them having to check our RSS feed, sign up for a notification system, or visit our site. Right now it is a test, no publicity, no front page story, just testing the waters. The @CityofShawneeOK account picked up a few followers just based on our location but we haven't done much with the account yet. The long(er) term plan is to use the account for notifications when formal meeting Agendas and Minutes are posted, when local news is updated on the main website or when general information needs to be sent out to concerned citizens.

More recently I added some code to an internal notification program I wrote that is used to update key people inside our local government via email, when certain types of Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) or 9-1-1 calls come in, to allow posting to a Twitter account. The accounts @ShawneePD and @ShawneeFD push out certain Police and Fire related calls and updates. This is basically the same process used at the Charlette NC South police department. My solutions builds on the CADCOM (Computer Aided Dispatch COMmunicator) program I build a few years ago but never fully implemented.

Then I read THIS ARTICLE and now I question the initial concept, or at least the total concept. Obviously push only is not what Twitter is necessarily about, although it is often used that way. I like to see the activity come up in my Twitter window better than email and I can easily determine if mobile notifications are desired through my Twitter profile setup for those accounts.

However, my current concept seems to break all the rules of Top 5 Ways to Screw up your Corp Twitter account so is the solution useful at all?

Comments anyone - Should we Twitter away Local Government or not?

What else in a local government could Twitter be used for?


Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen. I think we should, and I base that on a generation coming through rather than those who tend to consume resources now, that is preparing the Council now, for interaction with the community in a few years time.
In the UK there are a number of Central Gov depts using twitter and I find it increasingly useful seeing whats coming out of all the Depts, choosing to follow through on tweets that interest me.
Social networking amongst friends will extend to networking with Authorities, the trick is in making content relevant across the strata's within the community

Stephen Nolen said...

Thanks for your comments Mark. Very interesting hearing from over seas.

I'm still trying to figure out how to effectively make web 2.0 work, in a local gov, on a minuscule budget... or with no budget at all.

Anytime I've seen abilities for feedback, conversation or social networking abilities it always ends up a nasty name calling process instead of discussion.


Adventurous Wench said...

One thing people might find useful, and make it more engaging, is to notify people of topics they might be interested in, and solicit feedback either through Twitter, e-mail or the regular meetings. E.g. "Interested in the school renovation project? We're discussing Wed 7pm, public is welcome", or "e-mail your questions or comments to xxxx".

Even if people weren't interested in this particular project, they might start following in case other topics come up that affect them.

It seems like a good way to get people more informed, engaged, and involved with their local government. Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen, I take your point about name calling when you open up channels. My background is as a Local Councillor over here, not sure what the equivalent would be your side of the pond. I always felt that the manner in which Local Gov went about soliciting engagement with the community was based on old styles of patronage, mainly that decisions were often taken and the public were consulted, i often had feedback that suggested the decision was already made. If channels were truly opened up, and people could see their imputs in service redesign, policy and strategy or communities having tangible benefits, i believe like other social networks, the community become self regulating. I think Deanna makes a good point in the style of engagement, particularly through emerging channels that may go some way to engage some strata within the population that may feel disenfranchised by politics and the process as it stands.
Keep pushing!