“Hurdles” to gov’t use of social media


So I told Griff Wigley I’d be a panelist for his webinar on government use of social media…and you can listen to the audio of the webinar which happened last week.

The webinar, however, only served to get me thinking again about what I might say about my own social media use and what obstacles I might have encountered.

For use of social media by local government – the corporate city body – I’d say there are issues to be managed, but the biggest obstacle is simply reluctance.  Creating a city-hall managed Facebook page to push information to residents, staff tweeting city updates, using the internet to solicit/increase citizen input, putting functions of government online…these require a shift in how the city manages information and change, as we all know, it hard.   Reluctance, uncertainty, lack of a how-to manual from the League of MN Cities and…lack of coordinated leadership by the Council and general lack of awareness by staff.

Then, there are quasi-governmental blogs like this one. First Amendmently speaking, I should be able to blog and the city should make no law abridging the Right to Blog beyond the limitations already imposed or suggested by data practices and open meeting laws .   Open Meetingly speaking, I follow, or rather my fellow council members follow, the directive not to comment on this blog to avoid the open meeting problems.   Journalistically speaking, I believe I should do my best to check my facts, not make unsubstantiated allegations, cite my sources, etc.  These are issues to be managed, not hurdles per se.

For me, though, the real hurdles are personal: what to write, how much of myself I would like to exhibit (in prose, pictures, or both) and how much of my sense of humor I should reasonably allow out in public.

What to write: Picking topics about which to blog is easy enough, but I try very hard to step away from the keyboard when angry, frustrated, or excessively tired.  My general rule is: Never blog after Council meetings until I’ve had a good night’s sleep and run at least 5 miles.  Does this mean my blog is less spontaneous and immediate – you betcha!    And it’s a good thing, too.

How much of ME: An internet law specialist friend of mine once said, when asked how privacy could be protected on the internet, said: “There IS NO PRIVACY on the internet; get over it.”   So, I figure anything on this blog is very public and if I wouldn’t say it in the middle of Bridge Square or a Council meeting, I shouldn’t say it here either (However, read about some of the political dangers of forgetting there is no privacy on the internet).   My personal life and family is just that, personal, so don’t expect stories about them here.  Or pictures of me.  My dogs’ privacy, however, I have sacrificed by putting their pictures up from time to time.

Sense of humor: This is the really tall obstacle for me – no kidding.  A college friend told me I had such a highly developed sense of creative invective that I should be an art or movie critic.  Another friend pointed out that I really do have a sense of humor and I should let it show more when campaigning or in Council meetings rather than scowling.  There is probably some middle ground between writing scathingly trenchant observations about public policy and being dull, formal, and no fun whatsoever.   Still working on it.


2 responses to ““Hurdles” to gov’t use of social media”

  1. Thanks again for your participation in the webinar, Betsey. ‘Twas really good to have your perspective as an elected official who’s been blogging quite a while.

    I think City Hall has the means to get more involved with social media, given that there is money in the Cable TV fund for public communications that can’t easily be used for anything else.

    With IT Director Melissa Reeder’s position going unfilled, I think there’s now an opportunity for the City to get some outside help on it… probably not from me!

    FYI, the LMC published a social media white paper a year ago:
    http://www.lmc.org/media/document/1/socialmediaandcities.pdf

    They also have a white paper on the Open Meeting Law as it pertains to online communications:
    http://www.lmc.org/media/document/1/electroniccommunications.pdf

    I also emailed Rhonda Pownell about these since she’s on the LMC board.

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