Social media, local government and elections: reflections on COGEL and @DCBOEE

This week, I was proud to be one of two speakers for a session on social media and government at the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) conference in Washington, D.C. I delivered an adapted version of the talk on social media and government I gave the Social Security Administration’s Open Government Awareness Day earlier this year, focusing on the elements that would be of greatest interest to a group of lawyers, regulators and academics. The presentation is embedded below:

The speaker that followed me, however, was able to share a fascinating view of what social media looks like from inside of government, specifically in the District of Columbia. Alysoun McLaughlin, the public affairs manager for the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. Here’s her bio, from the COGEL session description:

She joined the District last year, just in time to implement a long list of reforms for the 2010 election including new voting equipment, early voting and same-day registration. Prior to becoming an election official, she was a project manager for Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. She previously spent a decade as a Washington lobbyist, focusing on election issues for the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Association of Counties. She is here today to share her experience with social media during the 2010 election.

And share she did. Over the course of half an hour, she talked about Facebook, Twitter, local media, citizen engagement and much more. I captured most of her presentation on my iPhone (sorry about the unsteady hand) and have embedded her presentation, “To Tweet or not to Tweet: Engaging the Public through Social Media,” below.

If you want an excellent, practical perspective of the local government side of social media, these are worth watching. A couple of key takeaways from her presentation:

  • How can governments get insights from Twitter without using it? “Just type in the name of your agency and see what they’re saying.”
  • On D.C. elections: “We know there are going to be lines. Come to the website to see what they are.”
  • Don’t trust this to an intern. You “need someone skilled in crisis communications.”
  • “The days that I’m heavy on Twitter are the days my phone rings less.”
  • Viral tweets can raise awareness: “…and we just confirmed that a voter used a write-in stamp. on a touch screen.”

Part 1: Introductions

Part 2: Reflections on Twitter and Facebook

Part 3: Twitter and the 2010 DC Election

Part 4: Who follows @DCBOEE

Part 5: Listening and using social media in government

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


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