With the 2010 New Orleans Mayor’s race heating up, we decided to reach out to some of the potential candidates and see how they are using social media. To clarify for our readers, wikipedia defines social media as:
primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM). Social media comes in many different forms, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Examples include Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook , YouTube, Second Life, Flickr, and Twitter.
Beyond a candidate’s typical use of social media for getting themselves elected, we wanted to find out how they intend to use social media once they are elected to increase direct democracy, improve transparency, and help rebuild New Orleans. James Perry, the Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Housing Association, is the first mayoral hopeful to discuss social media.
How are you currently using social media to promote your campaign? Do you have any additional plans to increase your usage of social media as the campaign moves forward?
If there is a web 2.0 application, we are using it. Facebook is such an incredible tool now for organizing. It allows people to see our activity, see pictures of events, and invite their friends to be our friends. The best part is that it’s all free. Our “Convince James Perry to run for Mayor” Facebook page shut down for more than five hours, because so many people invited their friends to the group. Last I checked, over 4000 people had been invited. We also have a political fan page that gets feeds from our blog on our website, which is done through Word Press. We also use Twitter extensively. The more updates you do, the more “followers” you get. Through google analytics (we also integrate google on our site with the maps and calednar feature), we are able to track where our traffic comes from. And it turns out that we get thousands of hits from twitter and facebook. Since bloggers are a crucial part of a 21st century campaign, we also add photos to our Flickr page, so that writers can use photos for their postings about the campaign. We routinely provide bloggers with ideas for posting that relate to the campaign. The key to any successful website is constant activity. We are very busy on the campaign trying to reach as many people as possible and we want that to be reflected on these social media tools.
How do you think social media is changing the way politicians can govern (as opposed to merely campaigning)?
The Obama administration, as usual, is on the forefront of this approach. He used and is using change.gov and recovery.gov to rally citizens in support of the stimulus package and to make sure citizens understand it. We see a comparable approach to engaging citizens. We’ve discussed using a Facebook style web 2.0 application to allow citizens across New Orleans and the country to share information and learn about important matters affecting the City. The ability to instantly share documents, video and photos can allow people at home and the office to be part of government.
How do you intend to use social media if you are elected?
A key component to a more efficient city government is access to public records. New Orleanians should be able to access as much data as they want. A transparent goverment starts with good, hard data. We also will use new social media concepts to transform the city contracting process. A major part of our campaign is to implement the “blind” contracting process. If elected, we will have the Inspector General dedact the names of the contractor and a committee will be created to judge a proposal based on its merits rather than how much they donated to an elected official’s campaign. Citizens will be able to see online the names of all the contract proposals and will have the opportunity to judge the best one as well.
What are top two biggest problems facing our city’s recovery? Do you see any opportunity solve those problems through an increase in civic engagement through social media?
I’d like to bend the rules a bit and offer three problems not necessarily in order of priority: crime, housing and transparency. Each area relies on availability of data to properly understand the problem, gain the trust of citizens and ultimately solve the problem. Social media allows a community to do this instantly. Housing recovery is a great example. It is extremely difficult to find out what is happening in neighborhoods from a housing perspective. But a Facebook style application that listed all properties that were blighted, had permits, had liens, water service and power service would make it easier for a Katrina evacuee to determine what was happening in his or her neighborhood and a make an informed decision about returning. Soon, most if not all government web applications will rely on a web 2.0 approach.
Thanks, James! We also want to welcome all other candidates out there to get in touch with us to discuss your plans for social media, New Orleans, and the 2010 Mayor’s race!