Sunday, January 31, 2010

Adopting a Uniform Social Media Policy

Last week I enjoyed being in attendance at a Social Media conference which encouraged participants to engage in discussion and strategy sharing regarding their use of social media. Myself and State Representative Joe Dorman were in attendance to share our experiences of using social media as Legislators.

This forum provided me with an opportunity to explain how House Bill 2318 will empower the state's Chief Information Officer (CIO) to develop and implement uniform social media policies by which state government can use social media.

I believe this is extremely important as social media provides the potential to establish an effective feedback mechanism in which the citizens can let state officials, and everyone else for that matter, know about the performance of state government.

In the past, when a citizen was ill-served by state government they likely had a few select channels into which they could direct their story of state government's failure to perform. They could place a call to the bureaucracy which had performed poorly and with luck their complaint might reach up into the bureaucracy at some level. However, it is extremely unlikely that the leadership in that particular bureaucracy would ever hear about, much less remedy, the wrong. In too many cases the citizen's voice simply goes unheard.

I believe state government should adopt social media as a feedback tool much like the private sector is now proving possible.

For instance, a few months ago, speaking on the Charlie Rose television show, the CEO of Hulu, Jason Kilar, explained that he uses twitter as a mechanism for seeing what the people are saying about his company. He said that several times a day he checks for the use of the term "Hulu" on twitter. Not only can he can use this feedback to change his company's services to meet the need of the customer but he now knows firsthand how the customers feel about the product. After his appearance on the Charlie Rose show, a twitter user tested Kilar by posting a tweet asking if Kilar was watching. Kilar proved that he was watching by responding directly to this message.

Now, imagine the possibilities when the executives of government agencies will have this same ability to see and respond firsthand to those who are immediately affected by their decision making. The response of these officials would be public material and available for everyone to see from the comfort of their own homes thus providing for real accountability.

Currently state agencies operate under various assumptions about their legal ability to use social media tools. From limited liability issues to concerns surrounding open records requirements, there are any number of legal barriers to agencies that serve to disincentive their use of the tools. Our job as legislators is to clear these barriers and put in place a set of standards by which social media tools can serve to make state government more responsive to the citizens.

Next week I intend to write about how social media can provide state government with a data delivery mechanism which will be used to provide a level of transparency and accountability to the citizens which has never before been possible.

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