Uttercast: Hope for a Social Media Presidency?


After reading a piece about President Obama and th Web in the latest Wired (print!), I thought more about the idea of a "social media presidency." I still don’t think we’ll see a true two-way administration, but I do see some of that thinking in the staff and had a couple of thoughts:

1) Patience- A piece of my own advice I need to take. As one of Obama’s aides says in the story, "Day 1 will not look like Day 100." More interactive presidential communications could arrive; maybe not full-throated social media, but perhaps some old red tape can get cut away.

2. A legislative wiki. Perhaps this is more the domain of Congress, but what about letting the general public go to a wiki and suggest legislation, then harvest only the best ideas to roll into bills? It’s an intriguing twist on "call your Congressman." Maybe it’s a lot of work, but perhaps a workable version could appear.

What is your idea of a social media initiative the federal government (feasibly) could do?

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  1. Doug,
    Great question. Had breakfast today with Kathy Saenz (@kathysaenz) from Neighborhood America. They do this very thing for large companies and some gov’t entities. A very positive step for gov’t, but, as Richard Dreyfus said “Baby Steps” my friend… I am not convinced we will ever see a truly transparent gov’t, but we are getting there…

  2. I think individual Wikis for perhaps each congressional district has potential and still stays within a workable and logical governmental framework. It could serve as a district clearing house for problem-solving. Note that I think this should be district-focused, not focused on the member, so that the responsibility stays with the office to provide consistency when legislators come and go.

    To me, the problems still outweigh the positives.

    One, to put it bluntly, politics not only brings out the nut jobs (I was a Congressional intern, and feel fine making this statement–I have examples, like the guy who wanted us to have the FBI arrest his neighbor because he was convinced the guy was killing birds with lasers and leaving them in his yard–I won’t go on, but I could…), it also seems to bring out the worst in otherwise rational human beings. Wikis open to everyone will be flooded with some of the worst, most divisive stuff you can think of. I can think of far better ways to utilize congressional staff time than managing the hate posts that would arise.

    Two, open wikis/any open channels throw open the doors to anyone–how do you know who is a constituent and who isn’t? It does matter. One would assume that this is meant to be a two-way communications platform, so people will expect a response. But the Member’s primary responsibility is to his or her district. People routinely petition for help from Members who they feel comfortable with, or like, etc. Tackling cases outside of district is not only a) disrespectful to the MOC who does represent the constituent, it b) takes staff time away from doing their jobs–tending to constituents. (And, dirty little secret, except for rare cases, MOC don’t really *like* expending time to those outside their districts–they can’t vote for them.)

    Best use of social media by the government, IMHO, will be using the new channels (like YouTube, etc.) to make information more quickly and readily available to the public. I also think that the *principles* of social media–honesty, transparency, willingness to address mistakes quickly (did you see those interviews the President did yesterday?!)–are useful, even if the tools and objectives (two-way communications) aren’t.

    As far as a two-way conversation channel, I just don’t see how it can work.


  3. Hi Doug,

    I think if there is going to be a social media presidency, Obama is a good one to make it happen. There are a lot of technicalities that will have to be worked out, but I don’t think that makes it impossible. (Wiki posts can be screened just like phone calls and emails, maybe easier).

    The real question is: Is Obama ready to change the way the people interact with the government (with or without new media)? If the answer is yes, then the new media stuff will come in time.

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