Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Growth of social media use in US congress - is it sustainable?

Apparently 33 of the US's congressmen are now actively using the Twitter micro-blogging service to give timely updates of what is occurring on the floor of the US Congress.

From the article, Twitter takes flight in Congress, in Federal Computer Week, the service has facilitated real-time discussion with constituents regarding legislation under consideration and appears to be beginning to influence how elected representatives engage with their constituents. From the article,

Ari Herzog, a political blogger who has been following the use of Twitter in Congress as well, said that he sees Twitter as a way for elected officials to show taxpayers and voters what they are doing.

“Whether the future with the Congress will be in YouTube or in Twitter or in some other technology, I think [those type of technologies] are where it’s going to be,” said Herzog.

The article does point out the risk of these technologies being used purely for political messaging, another way to distribute media releases.

In my view this is the risk of any communications medium, and the best equivalent is talkback radio - yes it will be used to communicate political messages, but it will also support communication between public office holders, government agencies and citizens.


  1. Hi Craig, in an effort to further shrink the size of the world, I saw my name and figured I'd write and say hi. Thanks for the mention.

    Since the FCW story was published last Friday, I identified two more Congress members using Twitter, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

    Though it should be added her feed, like presidential candidate Barack Obama's, is primarily used for broadcasting data, not unlike content in her office press releases.

    I tweeted a message to Obama and Hilary Clinton (who also has a feed, though not updated as of late) over the weekend. To date, I haven't received a response.

    By contrast, in reaction to a new blog post of mine today, I just received a response from John Culberson, also quoted in the FCW story. Culberson represents the state of Texas; I live in Massachusetts, yet he still wrote me. That's the power of transparent media like Twitter and that's why I think it's inevitable other congressional and government employees will follow suit.

  2. Hi Ari,

    I hope you are correct about the growth of social media use by elected officials.

    I've also chatted with Congressman Culberson several times, via Twitter and via an online video tool.

    I've not yet managed to encourage him to post a comment on my blog however!

    Let me know if you get a response from Obama or Hilary - my experience has been that they primarily use Twitter as a broadcast tool, as do Governor Schwarzenegger and several other US Governors.

    I have been interested to see how much information is posted about their movements. It could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

  3. Hey Craig,

    I was interested to see the inclusion of a twitter feed in Gordon Brown's new website (along with YouTube and Flickr on the fornt page), being utilised both for news broadcasting and as a feedback channel.

    It feels like a step forward to me.