Jun, Spain: Digital Democracy

Last week, the Huffington Post ran an absolutely fascinating story on the small town of Jun, Spain (Population 3,500), which is absolutely obsessed with Twitter.  You should read the story to learn more, but here are the highlights:

  • The Mayor of Jun, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Salas, is obsessed with Twitter.  He uses it regularly and encourages all citizens to use Twitter.
  • All public employees have a Twitter handle and use it to respond to complaints, concerns and other various issues.
  • The public and private life of government employees has become increasingly integrated – which, according to the article, is a good thing.  Said the article, “Jun essentially runs on Twitter…”
  • Jun has used Twitter to improve customer service and be more responsive to its citizen’s needs.

Given how small this town is, they can put a great deal of effort into getting residents on social media.  However, as obsessed as I am with government and social media, this just isn’t a realistic strategy for most governments.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but ultimately, in my mind, it comes down to resource allocation: you only have so much money and so much time in a day, and I’d rather spend my time making government work better, not making sure my residents were on Twitter.

However,  there are a few takeaways from this story that ever government can use:

  • Make your social media as accessible and visible as possible: As the article notes, the town’s Twitter handle prominently featured at the Town Hall.  Town meetings accept public comment via Twitter and are streamed over the web.  In other words, the town is clearly going out of their way to be as accessible and transparent as possible – and their Twitter use reflects that commitment.
  • Social Media for workflow: By using Twitter so obsessively, the town has been able to better respond to complaints and input – so much so that phone calls are being reduced and they have less staffing needs.
  • Twitter for morale: Town employees love seeing themselves in positive feedback, and when they do a good job, this happens.  Of course, this can backfire as well – while elected officials can (and should) expect to be on the receiving end of direct citizen complaints, I don’t necessarily think it’s fair that public employees should be so subjected to the same type of criticism.  In that sense, social media is certainly a double edged sword.
  • Expect pushback: As the article notes, not everyone is a huge fan of the incredible emphasis that Jun places on Twitter.  To that end, it’s important to remember that social media use in government is a means to an end (improved customer service, transparency and saving taxpayer dollars), not an end in and of itself.

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.

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