Some Politicians Are Real Twits
The Huffington Post reported last week on President Obama’s appointment of Jesse Lee to the position of “Director of Progressive Media & Online Response” to work with new media and serve as the White House’s liaison with the online community starting this week, working on outreach, strategy and response. He’s got a shiny new social media sword with which to do battle, his new Twitter account. Follow him at @jesseclee44 So far, he’s got a way to go to acquire more influence. I’ve got twice the followers Mr. Lee does. Maybe he should ask Charlie Sheen for some tips.
This news got me thinking about the elected officials and political staff who are part of the Twitterverse in San Diego. The lion’s share of our federal, state, county and local representatives have a presence either on Twitter or Facebook or both. They use them with varying degrees of success.
We love social media at Rostra and we get engaged in some fun banter (follow us at @sandiegorostra on Twitter). It improves the entire nature of public discourse. Social media at its best should be used to conduct an authentic, transparent, two-way conversation. It isn’t supposed to be used like a megaphone or bulletin board where information flows only in one direction. It’s tempting and easy for elected officials and their staff members to use Facebook and Twitter to post photos of appearances at community events, promote interviews on television morning news shows, or announce new neighborhood initiatives and call it communication.
The ones who really do it right take it to the next level. They engage with constituents, activists, and the news media. They answer serious questions, offer up their thoughts, and provide direction when someone needs it. They even let us get a glimpse into their authentic personality, which humanizes them in a way that doesn’t often happen anywhere else.
So who among our San Diego twits is doing it right? At the very top of my list is San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria (@toddgloria). Gloria gets it when it comes to social media. He posts the routine event photos and TV interviews but he also engages with the public and the news media. He’s smart about using hashtags when he’s discussing one of his favorite topics like filling potholes, #sexystreets. During a council meeting he directed a citizen how to get help with a water leak. Gloria and I don’t see eye to eye politically, but I admire his communication skills.
Mayor Jerry Sanders (@MayorSanders) does a surprisingly good job of communicating on Twitter and that’s not meant as a slam. A recent thread asked San Diegans to come up with San Diego summer traditions. In another recent post, he mentioned meeting Sam “The Cooking Guy” and wanting to cook with him some time. He’s probably been schooled by his staff Twitterati Rachel Laing (@RachelLaing), Alex Roth (@AlexRoth3), and Stephen Lew (@stephenlew).
Councilmember Tony Young (@TonyYoungSD)is a newcomer to Twitter but he’s getting the hang of it. Tony, you could do worse than watching Todd Gloria and picking up some tips from him. Young recently talked about his Mos Def ringtone and the casting of Marvel superhero Luke Cage.
Councilmembers Carl DeMaio (@carldemaio) and Kevin Faulconer (@kevin_faulconer) stick with a businesslike approach to Twitter, but they are both prolific posting both to Twitter and Facebook, and make themselves available (though some might criticize them for being selective about who they respond to). These two benefit from staff members who are Twitter ninjas: Tony Manolatos (@tonymanolatos) for Faulconer, and Felipe Monroig (@fmonroig) and Jeff Powell (@jpowell80) for DeMaio.
Newly elected councilmember David Alvarez (@AlvarezSD) and his aide Rudy Lopez (@rudyjrlopez) are catching up nicely, particularly Lopez.
The rest of the councilmembers have Twitter accounts, but some like Marti Emerald haven’t posted for six months.
Members of the Board of Supervisors post to Twitter, but they engage mainly in the Megaphone Approach. In the incorporated cities, there are several official City accounts on Facebook and Twitter, but not many of the officials are actively engaged. San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond has his tweets blocked. Say what? Shout out to Poway City Councilmember Jim Cunningham, who engages his constituents nicely on Twitter as @Powaycouncilman
On the state and federal level, most of our elected representatives have a social media presence that can be kindly called boring. A couple of exceptions: Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (@nathanfletcher) and Congressman Brian Bilbray (@BilbrayCA50 ) Fletcher has the usual appearances posts, but sometimes the competitive Marine comes out and he gets into smackdowns about workouts. He also discussed his recent adoption. Bilbray discusses a wide range of topics and is good with hashtags, but I’d like to see him engage the public a bit more. Congressman Bob Filner (@CongBobFilner) got himself in a spot of bother when he apparently tweeted that he was running for Mayor of San Diego, but then backed off when pressed for confirmation by several reporters.
But the truth is, none of them can hold a candle to my social media superhero, Mayor Sam Adams of Portland, Oregon (@mayorsamadams) The guy has 35,000-plus followers for a reason (Jerry Sanders has 4,600). He converses easily with constituents, looks into their problems, discusses policy matters, and has a little fun too, all in 140 characters . In the last week he’s discussed cell phone towers, crime rates, a new TV series shooting in Portland, and playing tetherball for charity.
Rostrafarians, add to this list and weigh in on the pols you like to follow, who’s doing it right and who needs to call Lady Gaga for some serious pointers. Feel free to follow (and critique) me at @PRProSanDiego