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Top 5 – Social Media Tips for New Governors and Their Staff

This month, a number of new governors will be transitioning into office. Most of these governors used online media to win their campaigns (from campaign web sties, email lists to Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Google/FB ads, and more).

As they transition into governing, I have 5 quick tips on how to build upon their desire to use online media while also noting the difference between governing and campaigning.

1) Put Someone in Charge – At the federal government level, new media really took off when the White House created an Office of New Media at the White House (led by Macon Phillips) and appointed New Media directors into each cabinet agencies. Consider doing the same within your state.

2) Quickly Launch a Small But Consistent Presence – When most elected officials enter governing, they either do two things: 1) Complete shut-down all online activities for months until they figure out what to do OR 2) Start a-blazing posting like crazy before they get their hands slapped and then they slow down. It’s important to find a middle – set up a small, defined presence to continue the momentum while working out any logistical issues (and the assessment of step 1)

3) Assess What The State Already Has – Before running too fast, it is important to do a quick assessment of what your state already has. It probably already has a web portal, most likely an email list, and probably a number of social media channels (Ohio has a list of all their social media channels). It may already have a social media policy, internal collaboration tools, and other programs. Find out what you already have + find out what talent you have internally (you may already have a number of state employee rockstars in the field)

4) Integrate into Your Key Issues and Mission Problems – It’s easy to think of social media and communications as just a way to communicate where the governor is speaking or upload some photos to help people stay in touch. The true value of online media is when it starts to help solve your campaign promises or key issues in the state. For example, if one of your issues is increasing economic development in the state, focus on using online communication to increase development. Most states spend millions of dollars buying ads in Wall Street Journal to “come set up your business in Ohio”. Why not spend part of that money creating a fantastic online presence with key tools that potential businesses can use to assess Ohio? Why not hire a social media strategist to listen to Twitter, Facebook, and other places regarding what companies are talking about relocating (and also maintaining relationships with your major current businesses)?

5) Learn from the Best – Governors should not start from scratch but learn from the best practices in online communication of the last five years. Look at the great work of states like Utah (and David Fletcher), check out Massachusetts (folks like Sarah Bourne and Brad Blake). There are great sites reporting on these issues (govtech.com, governing.com, techpresident.cm, govfresh.com, ohmygov.com) and we have a lot of information ourselves (http://bit.ly/ej888q and http://bit.ly/aQOQrp). Reach out and schedule calls with folks with experience (other state politicals, state govies, and outsiders that care about the space (the Tim O’Reilly, Alex Howard, Andrew Rasiejs of the world – personally I always get a few of these and love taking these calls)

It’s a great time to become a governor in respect to social media and online media. These new technologies and approaches can help your messages reach and engage large audiences as well as drive costs, increase revenues, and solve mission problems when implemented skillfully which is key in these tough economic times.

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Profile Photo Sarah Bourne

Thanks for the shout-out, Steve! You’ve covered all the bases in what you have to do. I’d like to add that the most difficult thing is learning about the difference between using social media for campaigning and using social media for governing.

The rules and expectations are different. Public record laws, for instance, must be considered when determining how you deal with comment moderation. Requiring registration/identification will be perceived much differently on a campaign site, where people are almost always your supporters, than on a government site, where you are seeking participation from everybody, many of whom did not vote for you.

Navigating these shoals is why it’s important to reach out to the people who have been doing it. You don’t want rookie mistakes getting more attention than what you’re trying to do!

Just getting started? You’re welcome to make use of the social media toolkits we’ve been maintaining for Massachusetts government.

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Profile Photo Sarah Bourne

I’m not aware of any resources, per se. I would imagine that there would e a lot of variation state-to-state, depending on their campaign, ethics, public records, privacy, security, etc., laws and regulations. The best “resource” is awareness: awareness that different laws may pertain in different ways, and awareness that the goals of campaigning are different than governing and will likely require different strategies – and different strategies for different objectives.

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