Town hall meetings, Twitter, hotlines, e-mail… The list of potential lines of communication goes on. There are more open lines of communication between agencies and the citizens they serve than ever before. Since the advent of the Internet, they are constantly evolving, particularly social media, to better serve the public will. But are we better served, or do many of them fall flat?
Twitter, for example, limits tweets to 140 characters, making it difficult to produce meaningful dialogue between the citizen and agency worker. However, as I can personally attest to, some organizations will quickly put you on the phone with someone who can help after they notice a negative tweet. The organizations that do that are doing a great job at utilizing social media, but if I end up on the phone with them anyway, shouldn’t I have just called in the first place? I have also found that it’s often only possible to be helped in person. In the end, I may as well have just went to the office and straightened everything out right then and there, in person.
There is no doubt, in my opinion, that platforms such as Twitter are useful for one way communication. It’s great that I can follow an agency on Twitter and instantly have access to their latest happenings. The question is whether or not social media is as effective for dialogue as many will argue.
How many different methods of communication are necessary to serve people? Do you find that many of the problems that your constituents face can be solved via social media, and therefore it is an important medium to use?