The Mayor’s community

Given that our class just had the Interim Director of the Social Media for the Mayor of Los Angeles as  a guest speaker, I was curious how other other cities approach social media from the mayor’s office. Mayor Villaraigosa will be tough to beat, but is Los Angeles the king of mayoral social media?

San Francisco

I first turned to our  neighbor to the north, San Francisco. I know SF’s most recent mayor, Gavin Newsom, had a significant presence on the internet — he frequently tweets to his 1,000,000+ followers and posted city addresses on YouTube — but how about the city’s new Mayor, Ed Lee? Well, that penchant for e-connecting with constituents didn’t quite make it to the new administration. I first checked out the website for the Office of the Mayor of San Francisco. It has some pretty pictures and, well, that’s a plus, right? Yes, it did have a Share menu to post the webpage to popular social websites , but it lacked any feeds of generated content.  No twitter, no Ed Lee Youtube videos, not even a “Check us out on Facebook” or something of that sort.  To be fair, Mayor Ed Lee is on Twitter. If you weren’t aware of that, it might be because you’re not one of his six followers. SFWeekly touched on this topic, noting “Lee was even quoted in the Chronicle in mid-January, saying, “I’m not a Twitter guy. I’m not even a Facebook guy.” It’s okay Mayor Lee, it’s not like you’re living on one of the most connected cities in the universe.

New York City

Okay, so the current San Francisco Mayor has some work to do in social media outreach.  In taking a look at another city, let’s skip the small players for now and jump right to the Big Apple. It’s Michael Bloomberg we’re talking about here, he could just buy Twitter and turn Flickr into his staff of interns, right? Well, seconds after landing on his Office of the Mayor homepage, you see this guy is on top of it.  He has a “Stay Connected” module on the left sidebar of the page with links to his Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr accounts. It’s not as fancy as what Mayor Villaraigosa has going on, but it’s a nice attempt. Even if Bloomberg is personally not the biggest fan of social networks, he is savvy enough to push for a presence on popular new media outlets for the good of the city.


So this isn’t a USA-only party of a blog post, we’ll jump the pond to see how London’s mayor handles social media. Here is the webpage for the Mayor of London:  Fun URL, but a pretty empty webpage, right? Dig deeper, my fellow Americans. When you click the link for Boris “I-don’t-need-a-hair-stylist” Johnson you see that the right sidebar of the page is the social media mother-lode. He has a Facebook link, a Twitter feed,a Youtube feed, and a Flickr feed thrown in for good measure.

A Newark approach

Now it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to gauge whether these Mayors are effectively using  social media strategy/resources and just how well  they are reaching their audience, but it looks like there are varying degrees of investment so far. However, I will give one example of a Mayor rocking Twitter like a pro.  Last December, the northeast United States fell victim to what Twitter users dubbed “snowpocalypse”.  If you were paying attention, you saw Youtube videos of cars sliding around on icy streets and photos of the multi-day pileup of snow inundating Brooklyn suburbs.  New Jersey’s Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, deftly used Twitter to coordinate city services to help city residents deal with the snow.  Newarkites would tweet messages of plight and at times the Mayor himself would swoop in to, in one case, help dig out a car. The media took notice and wrote many articles detailing his “superhero” actions.  Here are a few of those articles.

Barack Obama’s brilliant 2008 presidential campaign set the standard for how a politician can wield social media tools.  Not every candidate or office-holder these days does so with such finesse, but expect the use of these new communication avenues to only increase.  When I lived in San Francisco, District 11 City Supervisor John Avalos asked me for help in managing his Facebook presence. Although he lacked the time to properly handle this outreach method, he recognized its role. It’s obviously in a public servant’s best interest to reach his/her audience efficiently and effectively and social media has proven itself here.


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