Why I’m studying social meda

Why I’m studying social meda
Barack Obama vs John McCain on Facebook 1 of 2
Image by adultaddcoach via Flickr

This week, my professor, Drew Keller, is asking my class to write about what we are planning to do with the degree we are earning.  This is actually a good question, and I find that my answer changes pretty regularly.  Part me of just loves this stuff, but in the end, I think what drives me is my belief that government must stay up-to-date with communications if it is going to be effective.

I think we are approaching a crossroads in communications in regards to government.  If politicians and government agencies start to use social media in smart, innovative ways, they will be able to engage the public in ways never seen before.  However, if government falls behind, they will lose the ability to communicate effectively with the upcoming generation.

We are already starting to see ways in which social media can better engage citizens in the electoral process.  In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama championed social media with his use of Facebook, YouTube, and my.barackobama.com.  What we saw in the election was an increase in voter turnout for the Democratic Party, and a decrease in voter turnout for the Republican Party.  We certainly can’t claim causation without further study, but it is reasonable to think that Obama’s social media efforts helped drive young Democrats to the polls.

Other politicians, including Claire McCaskill, have been using Twitter to directly speak to their constituents.  The Washington State Department of Transportation uses their blog and Twitter to alert citizens of traffic issues and deal with frustrations.  The CDC took advantage of social media to spread up-to-date and accurate information about Swine Flu.

Despite the efforts of politicians and government agencies that understand social media, there are still many that don’t.  I want to make sure that these individuals and agencies learn how to effectively communicate with the upcoming generation.  If they don’t, we may see a generation of citizens more disengaged from government than we’ve seen in a long time.

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