Before, during and after Hurricane Sandy, Newark Mayor Cory Booker ran into pretty much every situation a local elected official is likely to meet on Twitter. I am not prone to hero worship, but if you get elected to office and want to know how it’s done, take a look at his Twitter stream from that period.
My humble list below – certainly very subjective – offers 41 ways that Booker used social media during the crisis. The situations below are familiar to any of us who’ve been involved in government and used social media – though it’s pretty rare to run into all these situations within one event!
It’s no secret that Booker is a Twitter superstar, and he’s already considered a role model for local elected officials and social media. Here’s my analysis. This is worth looking at if you are an elected official thinking of using Twitter more. There are many reasons to do so, but you can also see it’s a lot of work.
1. Providing useful information
2. Repeating useful information
One thing you find time and time again is that people don’t want to read through your social media stream for advice or information. They want the info for themselves at the moment they think it’s useful. So, for example, Booker tweeted the phone number to report problems and needs more than 110 times during a period of several days. Just a few examples:
3. Answering basic questions from people directly involved in the situation
4. Answering questions from people concerned about other people
5. Providing resources to people affected by a situation
6. Telling people that sometimes you don’t know the answer
8. Dealing with smart-asses. You get bonus points if you use wit.
9. Providing inspiration in times of trouble
The above Tweet might take a bit of translating. There in the middle of the storm, someone says they are dropping out of Newark Public Schools; Booker says, “Let’s talk…”
11. Articulating common sense
Yep, in an emergency you should call 911; but in a crisis, sometimes it takes a leader to know that with confidence.
12. Accepting the concern that pours from others
13. Getting reports of trouble, and getting the government involved
14. Reassuring people who are concerned about others
15. Trying to identify who really needs help right away and who’s just making a fuss
16. Deciding where and when to go out and talk with people
19. Addressing frustration and rumors
This is just one example of the streams of folks who wanted acknowledgement of dire situations and rumors.
21. Telling a funny story
22. Making puns
24. Re-Tweeting or sharing other posts with useful info
25. Giving people bad news
26. Calming the over-excited
28. Sharing the history of the community
Mostly elected officials share history through social media during calmer times; I give Booker credit for remembering this historic date in the middle of the crisis.
29. Listening to the angry or upset
These are not Booker’s Tweets; they’re from one citizen within a short period of time. Just imagine what his Twitter stream looked like.
30. Trying to sort out confusing information and situations
31. Addressing assholes
And yep, they come out – if that’s the right term – in times of crisis.
32. Thanking others for what they do for community
33. Mobilizing volunteers and help
36. Acknowledging outsiders who communicate during a situatoin
This is an interesting one that I noticed myself when my city, Lakewood, was dealing with the murder of four police officers in November 2009. I and we received many social media posts and written notes from people who had one or another connection to Lakewood, and thus felt touched personally by our own version of disaster.
37. Acknowledging the good in your community
38. Educating people on how your government works with other governments and officials
39. Fielding questions that technically belong to other governments
The average citizen has no reason to care whether the mayor has anything to do with schools; he or she just wants answers. Part of the job of the local elected official is to relay what she or he knows from other governments (with great caution, as if you’re wrong, people assign you the responsibility)
40. Rejoicing with your community when something good happens
41. Accepting the thanks of the community
And that last one is very sincere. I was always amazed how many people, including complete strangers, thanked me for serving on a City Council; and I sure never had to deal with a hurricane.
So there you go … there are 41 things you can do for and with your citizens on Twitter. Why wouldn’t you be part of the conversation?