How is Rahm Emanuel Using Social Media to Shape His Agenda?

When Rahm Emanuel won the Chicago mayoral race last month, he immediately promised to bring change and reform to a city that has had the same mayor for the past 22 years. And his first order of business has, so far, been just that, change, starting with a little tool called social media.

When Rahm Emanuel won the Chicago mayoral race last month, he immediately promised to bring change and reform to a city that has had the same mayor for the past 22 years. And his first order of business has, so far, been just that, change, starting with a little tool called social media.

Following the latest trend set by new governors and mayors around the country, Emanuel launched a transition website, Chicago2011.org, inviting applicants to submit their resumes and asking Chicagoans for their ideas and advice on his agenda.

What sets Emanuel’s site apart is its degree of interactivity. In contrast to most solicitations for input that are more like black holes where your comments go to never be seen or responded to, Emanuel’s page allows visitors to view, vote and comment on the ideas submitted by their peers, in the same vein as a Digg or Ideascale.

As the previous White House Chief of Staff, Emanuel is, of course, well acquainted with the juggernaut of a social media campaign that helped his former boss, President Obama, win the presidential election in 2008.

Those same principles of using social media to recruit volunteers and retain voter information are evident in the Chicago2011 site.

You have to log in to post comments or vote on other proposals, and you have to link the site to one of your existing social media accounts, such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, in order to get that done.

Just submitting a proposal means the campaign gets your email address and zip code for future use. Logging in with Facebook, for example, gives the campaign access to your user profile, list of friends and any information you’ve shared on the site, while logging in using Twitter leads to a warning the application may read your direct messages or tweet on your behalf.

Emanuel followed the Obama campaign model in the race leading up to his election as well, and had quite the web presence.

According to his campaign, Emanuel had 61,956 Facebook fans, 12,784 Twitter followers and a substantial amount of traffic to his campaign site, ChicagoForRahm.com by the February 22nd election.

His presence on Twitter, for example, rose to the level of acquiring a Twitter alter-ego that became one of the huge storylines of his campaign.

The transition team is also using the site as a forum for citizens to comment on the issues, without having to submit a full proposal. Under the heading, “Interact,” interested citizens can read the administration’s policies on topics like “Fiscally sound government” and “Successful students and educated workforce” and comment on or “like” the positions.

The Emanuel team promises to review the citizens’ proposals and present some on the transition website for discussion, a move that would set him apart as one of the very few politicians to implement the latest trend in social media, Q&A-type sites, and create an open forum for transition ideas online.

Emanuel’s transition site also includes a “resume submission feature” to “attract a wide range of applicants from across Chicago” to apply for unspecified jobs in the administration.

President Obama’s transition team also solicited resumes online after he was elected in 2008.

The final elements of the site are more of what may now, in the always-changing field, be called “social media-lite,” a blog, links to follow Emanuel on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and bios of both the Mayor-Elect and his transition team.

Tell us what you think. Do you feel more connected to the political process through social media? Do you think social media helps amplify your voice as a citizen?