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eGov: Naperville gets it

December 9, 2008

I am so proud. Not so much of my state

But my hometown of Naperville, IL, has a Twitter account. And I think it’s a sign that local government is starting to get it.

Naperville isn’t known for being cutting-edge. They’re known more for being a happy, family-friendly, booming suburb with great schools and lots of awards racked up for being the “best place to raise your children” or whatever.

I am excited for two reasons:

One, I think it is long overdue that government — local, state, and federal– start using social media to better their communities. The tools are out there. They’ve just been slow to move, as government usually is. But many towns, cities, and states are starting to embrace social media as a new form of communication, and even the White House, House, and Senate have Twitter accounts.

Two, politicians have clearly embraced social media as a strategy to get elected, but it can’t end on election day. Creating engaged and informed communities lasts well beyond election day, and so using new media can’t just be a political strategy, but should be a part of government strategy. Joe Trippi gets it when he talks about the idea of “MyWhiteHouse.Gov” — an interactive way for government officials, rather than just political candidates, to interact with the constituents they serve, and for the population to get involved in government affairs. There is so much potential to use these tools to increase civic engagement. Obama gets it when he emailed his 3 million supporters on election night promising that “the work has just begun.” This guy definitely gets it too. Instead of using blogs, Twitter, and social media purely for the sake of getting people to pay attention to an election long enough to vote for you and then dropping it, government officials can continue to use it once in office, having already created a connection with their supporters — and now, hopefully, their constituents will choose to be more aware and more involved.

Last week Chris Brogan wrote about what twitter might look like once it’s no longer dominated by tech geeks and others start to use social media in large numbers. I think we’re reaching that point. Twitter has the ability to bend to the will of its users — so it will be interesting to see how local governments can use Twitter and other social media to enhance and engage their communities in the future.

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