State and local governments are increasingly leveraging social media to engage with their citizens. Why? Because it’s free, and huge numbers of citizens already have accounts. Governments can have transparent interactions with their citizens as a way to build trust, relay important information quickly and promote events. In the event of a disaster, social media can be the best, or only, way to communicate.
During Hurricane Sandy, the world got a glimpse of just how powerful social media can be during a crisis. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey used Twitter to warn residents in high-risk areas to evacuate. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York let people know about recovery efforts. Governors from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania also used social media to keep their residents informed.
The strategy works, as evidenced by this report from Open Gov Blog:
On the public communications front, the City embraced social media to increase transparency and access to information, with significant results. Twitter emerged as a primary source of real-time information as Mayor Bloomberg urged New Yorkers to follow the @nycmayorsoffice channel during his online live video streams and television broadcasts. Our partners at Twitter also showed incredible support for the emergency response effort by donating thousands of dollars worth of promoted tweets, helping @nycmayorsoffice reach over a million more individuals and nearly doubling its follower count over several days.
Read Hurricane Sandy, Open Data and Social Media on Open Gov Blog.
Social media is proving to be a valuable public safety tool apart from natural disasters. Governor John Kasich of Ohio recently tweeted information about where to get flu shots, and Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa updated citizens on the future of education in his state.
Will you find some politicking on these Twitter accounts? Of course. But you will also have a direct line of communication to your state’s government and leaders. Here is a list of all forty six governors on Twitter. We couldn't find accounts for Indiana, North Dakota or Wyoming. If you can point us to active accounts, let us know in the Comments section!