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When Elected Officials ‘Do’ Social Media Right

Ever since Obama 2008, made it clear that his voters turn to twitter for updates and information, many elected officials (or those hoping to become elected!) have used social media in their campaigns to engage with voters and constituents. The problem is, many of them are having PR or Communications people do the talking for them.

Why wouldn’t someone tweet for herself?

Well, there’s that risk factor that is assumed when someone puts themselves ‘out there’: What if someone is critical of us? How will I respond?  How will we control what is being said? Is all of this really worth it? Can’t we just do things the way we have always done them?

The thing is, it really isn’t that complicated.  If you are ‘out there’ in a genuine way and being yourself, people will know (and appreciate you for it).

So why would a political person want to put themselves out there and add another “to-do” to their already busy list?

Well, if you’re running for office or if you are an elected official in a certain region, isn’t it important to build relationships with your constituents?  Wouldn’t you like to know what is on their minds?  Shouldn’t you be accessible to the group you are here to serve?  Of course!

Unfortunately though, only a few politicians see things that way. Some accounts that I’ve looked at are clearly written in the voice of another and are backed by PR and communications teams while others (very rarely), tweet for themselves.

Oakville’s Mayor Rob Burton (@OakvilleMayor) is one of those people whose personality shines through his social media presence because he owns his account and tweets himself.  Having set up his twitter account (way) back in 2008, the thing that stands out most from reading his feed is that he doesn’t sound edited, picked at or perfected – his twitter voice sounds just like him (What a concept!). He was kind enough to chat with me about his views about social media in governments.

For Mayor Burton, social media is akin to chatting with constituents while grabbing his morning coffee at the local cafe.  He says “I’m a social person, so for me, tweeting is no different than striking up a conversation with someone I meet around town”.  He has found that for those who follow him on twitter, he has had great response and feedback. For those citizens who don’t follow him, he continues to meet with them as he always has – on the street, at events, through phone calls and emails.  Mayor Burton has found that social media gives him another avenue that he can use to reach out, engage and interact.

It all comes back to what social media experts have been saying: “Be Your Self”.  Any fabricated version of you will easily be spotted and disregarded – thereby affecting your credibility.

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