Local Politics and Social Media

I have been receiving a ton of messages regarding my past few posts on social media and politics. One observant reader over at Makemebe.com, Henri, noted that I was only talking about politics on a large scale. Henri is right and the reason behind it is that national and local politics are two very different monsters.

Ask any person who is running for President and they can tell you at least two of the candidates. Ask that same person who is running for Representative from their district and I am certain you will get a blank stare. Take it to the next level; city counselor, school board, magistrate, or any of the host of other local elections and people become interested again.

Reps and Senators are another ball game, dm me if you would like a post about that, but local politics is a great venue for social media to make a real difference. Unlike national politics local elections and government have direct contact, almost daily, with the people they serve.

With the run about most people have in their daily lives today they do not have time to be overly active in local politics, here is where social media can make a difference. Imagine a city a counselor’s meeting being streamed over Ustream.tv with an active chat forum being monitored during the meeting.

Citizens could voice their opinion and present questions to their representatives while at home or at the office. Citizens would be in ‘virtual attendance’ to meetings that would affect their lives. I am not suggesting that people could vote online but at least they could get their voice heard. After a period of time many of those virtual attendees might start to physically attend local meetings, therefore becoming more involved.

Local politicians could also hold virtual conferences with their constituents. Local ‘town hall’ style events that would let people hear directly from leaders. Utilizing tools like twitter and directly converse with a massive amount of private citizens. Upload these meetings to video hosting service and send out an RSS or email letting your citizens know the meeting is now online.

I certainly think local politicians can still use tools like Utterz and podcasts to create interest in campaigns and issues, but local politics allows a greater connection with citizens. By that same nature the social media that politicians use can be more direct forms of communication. The social media options they choose shouldn’t be static or just a post; they should offer their constituents an active voice and a chance to debate online.

Local politicians should also utilize message boards and forums as much as possible. Again, since time is often a key reason local citizens don’t get involved in local politics well monitored forums give a citizen an opportunity to enter a debate without facing time constraints.

Remember the key to getting people involved in local politics is to defeat the two main hindrances of lack of time and lack of information. Properly using social media combats both of these enemies and allows citizens to engage their government on the citizen’s terms, which is the best way I think.

Do any of you out there agree with me? I find the topic of politics and social media incredibly interesting but I must admit I have never worked directly in politics, only indirectly through a PR capacity. I would love to hear from some of my fellow District Dwellers on this topic. Send me a DM or comment here with some of your thoughts.