As trusted community leaders, politicians serve as a valuable resource when something goes wrong.
I don’t mean just during the next political scandal or national report on the ills of West Virginia, but in a real crisis or emergency. When people need information they look to their political leaders, and the quickest real-time place to share information is via social media.
Social media – especially Twitter and Facebook – are the new community room. It’s the place to have and host a two-way conversation with your constituents.
Politicians need to be listening, talking and sharing on social media because that is the newest form of community engagement. Never before have constituents and their elected officials been able to communicate in real time.
In today’s political world, if you are in office and not on Twitter, you might as well ask your constituents to send you a letter by pigeon.
You need a social media presence because social media is one important and popular way to “call” or write your representatives. This doesn’t take away from the traditional methods of communicating with leadership. Instead, it enhances existing methods and attracts a younger demographic to the political conversation.
The first and most obvious way for politicians to leverage social media and engage with their community is to be on the platforms and to use them. Having an account on these platforms alone makes them more accessible.
Second is the ability of politicians on social media to connect directly with voters and supporters. Social media also provides politicians with the opportunity to attract new resources such as businesses, tourists, and media interest for their communities.
However, if a politician is scared of engaging with their constituents – afraid of two-way communication, and intimidated by ideas, suggestions and critiques from their community – then it might be a good idea to stay away from the platform. Likewise, if a politician runs his social media with a closed door, they will usually run their office the same way.
I challenge the 82nd legislature – and all political offices and officers across West Virginia – to step into the 21st century and join the conversation.