originally published at mattbeckwith.com
Andy continues to fan the fire he started last week. And it appears that his plan to #stir things up is gaining momentum. Local blogger, SlickDiaz, wrote a well thought out piece on his blog, Reclaiming the Title. Rod has not been silent on the matter, either. On Friday, Ian added his voice to the mix. What we have here is a handful of passionate Stocktonians, wanting to increase communication throughout our communities. How cool is that? Seriously. That is cool!
We have an opportunity to increase communication between city departments, elected officials and the people of Stockton. I don’t know if we’ve been at this point before. I don’t know if we are here now because of technology or because people are just becoming more energized. It is likely both. The web, with current services like Twitter and Facebook, give us the ability to interact with friends and family. It can also give us the ability to interact with our local government.
While I agree that most people don’t trust their elected officials, I do not believe that you need to trust someone to interact with them online. We need an easier way for citizens to get up-to-date information from local government and for these citizens to have tools with which to communicate with the city. Not everyone can (or wants to) attend city council meetings. Writing a letter, and even sending an e-mail, can be arduous. Using Facebook and Twitter is a simpler way.
As it relates to social media consumption, I see three populations in Stockton. Andy, Slick, Rod, Ian and I are in one group - the “veterans”, for lack of a better term. In another group are those that have no access to a computer and may not own a cell phone. The third group is the one I will refer to as the “fringe”. This is the population that may already use the web to get news and may have even visited our city’s website (provided that they remember what the URL is). They may have delved into social media but only to have fun with their friends or keep tabs on their favorite American Idol contestant/judge/host.
The size of the fringe is not insignificant. I would argue that it is the biggest of the three groups. This is the group on which we should be focusing our energy.
We mustn’t forget about that second part of the population: those on the other side of the digital divide. We still need traditional communication channels for this group. We need the smart people in our community to come up with better ways to get this population engaged.
We need to reach the fringe. Not to sell them on Twitter or Facebook. Rather, we need to have an open dialog about new ways to communicate with the City. It is our job, as members of the veteran group, to help spread the word to the fringe.
We need to hold social-media town halls. Although I am very much a fan of meet-ups (can’t wait for our first Tweetup!), getting a bunch of veterans together won’t do much to get new participants involved. We can hold how-to sessions at local libraries. We can also do what we’re doing now, talk to our friends, family and neighbors. We can keep stirring it up.
In order to realize any success in this regard, the City of Stockton must officially jump into the mix. They need to start small and identify what departments are best suited for this new medium. The city cannot wait for “enough people” to be in the channel before ramping up their efforts.
To help the city along, the Record must dedicate some space to educating the community about social media. The Record’s managing editor, Dan Blount blogged a simple post recently. Writing about social networking sites, Mr. Blount added, “As the world expands, it continues to contract through the use of these media.” We need more than a quick blog entry. The Record has the power to get in front of a lot eyeballs. This cause could benefit from that power.
What else can we do to increase and improve communication amongst the city and its citizens? What ideas do you have? Leave a comment or send an e-mail to matt-at-mattbeckwith.com.
At the end of the day, Twitter and Facebook are awesome tools to start a conversation. We need more conversations in this city and we need more people in the conversation.