My journey into the Municipal Twitterverse
For the past 7 years, Municipal World magazine has done an annual tech issue, devoted to new technology that is playing out in the municipal sector – helping municipalities work better, smarter, faster, etc. As a result, I am always keeping an eye out for the “next great thing” to take the sector by storm. Sometimes, it’s the most unusual thing – like the pop-up public urinals we covered a couple years ago.
Last year, I started to see Web 2.0 technologies emerging in a fairly significant way in the local government sphere (see related blog with last year’s editorial). That was when I first signed up for Twitter. Frankly, at that time, I didn’t get it. I really didn’t get the concept of the followers/following, and I tweeted nothing. I looked at the tweets on the public time … I was unimpressed, and could see no apparent value in this tool vis-a-vis local government. Obviously, Twitter didn’t make it into the 2008 tech issue!
By late 2008, though, Barack Obama had made Twitter headlines, using Twitter and other social media tools to reach out, communicate, and share ideas with voters. And soon, I heard Toronto media chirping about Mayor David Miller on Twitter. By late February, Miller was in featured in headlines and news segments everywhere I turned; everyone was now a-twitter about Mayor Miller’s Twitter habit, and I could ignore it no longer… I was soon following @MayorMiller, reading his tweets, and checking out his posted pics from across Toronto. It seemed like Miller was connecting and communicating with his public in a very human way. A technology with huge potential, I now thought.
Thus began my journey into Twitter, looking for other mayors, councillors, and local governments to follow who might now be tweeting as well – and looking for information about the opportunities and obstacles that local governments and elected leaders should consider with respect to social media tools. And, I’ve been sharing what I’ve found … on Twitter.
It’s early days, really, for this technology, and, municipalities are not typically considered “early adopters.” But, the numbers of local governments and local politicians using tools like Twitter and Facebook are growing (as we might expect with the Twitter explosion we’ve witnessed in the past few weeks). And, the benefits for communities – in terms of transparency, openness, collaboration and and communication – are significant. (More on that next time.) This is Local Government 2.0.
And, now that I get it, I don’t think we’ll be able to ignore Twitter in this year’s technology issue.