A Place For Social Networking In Govt

I've always believed that technology has a way of drawing people together – the immediacy of the Internet, email and mobile phone gives us instant access to people like never before.

To bolster my belief, a press release recently crossed my desk from a branding company, which was claiming success in an experiment involving Twitter. Basically, they set up an account pretending to be a NSW police department, and managed to get 2,000 followers. What they wanted to know was; would people interact with the police through a social media? Would people react positively or ignore the police?

The agency, Mentally Friendly, is claiming success even though they didn't inform the police of what they were doing (at the time of print, the NSW police were not too happy with the experiment, but no other information is forthcoming as to if they plan to take action against the company). Now, I have no way of measuring the success or not, after all, they didn't give out any facts or figures such as how many of the 2,000 followers engaged positively with the pretend police. But what it does raise is an interesting question. Will people engage with state or government departments when given the opportunity? It seems the answer is yes. And, according to the agency, a lot of the interaction was constructive.

I have no idea how this would work at a governmental level – I mean who wouldn't love a job working for a government agency where you are tweeting all day, even if it is troubleshooting. Yet, what it does do, is bring the government closer. Some might gag at this idea – both federal and state governments are hardly the most popular institutions – but then again, if you are one of those who always feel the government can do a better job, what better way than social networking.

It is immediate, lets you vent, and if you get enough followers on a particular subject, how could the government ignore the people? A cynic might say "easily', but I have more faith in politicians and people power. It will be interesting to see how this develops.