This is the transcript of a Journal-World interview with Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew about his office using the micro-blogging Web site, Twitter, to send information about local elections.
Twitter only allows users to post messages of 140 characters or less.
Shew has a plan to expand his office’s use of social media and the Internet before the 2010 election.
Journal-World reporter George Diepenbrock posted questions from his Twitter username, gdiepenbrock. Shew responded to questions through the username for his office, dgcokselections.
gdiepenbrock: Jamie, thanks for doing this Twitter-view. When did you first personally start using Twitter?
dgcokselections: I started using Twitter personally during the fall of 2008 as many political campaigns started to explore its uses.
gdiepenbrock: As an elections official and political junkie, what do you see as the advantages of using Twitter in the political process?
dgcokselections: It is an additional tool for outreach, especially for mobilization of new generations of voters who communicate via social media.
gdiepenbrock: So, was there a point when you started to integrate it more into things you do at the clerk’s office? Or has it been gradual? Any examples?
dgcokselections: It has been gradual as we test which venues are appropriate. Using Twitter to share info that is broadcast in more traditional methods.
dgcokselections: We are really interested in developing a full scale approach by the 2010 elections when social media will have expanded even more.
dgcokselections: This has been in conjunction with our expanded use of the Web site to get information out to the public like online sample ballots.
gdiepenbrock: Have you used Twitter much for the April city-schools election?
dgcokselections: We started a couple of weeks ago with information about advance voting correlating with other outreach methods.
dgcokselections: Developing a presence in SM was a brainstorm of mine and since it is so new we are taking a slow rollout approach.
dgcokselections: It could have an impact as we try to engage younger voters who may get information from traditional sources.
dgcokselections: This does not replace traditional outreach but enhances those efforts to reach all demographics of voters.
gdiepenbrock: You “Tweeted” frustrations about typical low turnout for odd-year local elections. Could social media use do anything to help that?
dgcokselections: It is interesting that within minutes of my simple tweets regarding low voter turnout, reporters called for follow up and many RT’s occurred.
dgcokselections: Social media seems to be able to spread messages quickly across multiple domains which was evident when I tweeted those messages
gdiepenbrock: Have you or your office used any other forms of social media for election-type purposes?
dgcokselections: Twitter is our first foray into SM but we are considering other methods like Facebook, etc that allow another layer of contact with govt.
dgcokselections: Governments have to start thinking outside the bricks and mortar of the courthouse to create contact points in the new information age.
gdiepenbrock: How many reporters called you after that tweet?
dgcokselections: I received three contacts from print and radio including outside of Lawrence. SM extends the outreach beyond our boundaries.
dgcokselections: Also, SM helps enhance outreach with limited cost which is important with current budgets. I must be creative because I can’t pay for ads.
gdiepenbrock: Any other future plans or next steps you can provide that are working on for using SM with your office?
dgcokselections: This is the first step into developing a complete plan by 2010, this includes other methods like podcasting from our office.
dgcokselections: I think all of us including traditional media, are trying to discover how to utilize this new tool to enhance our connection with the public.
dgcokselections: I am excited to see where we will be a few years in all of these areas of social media, especially for those of us in public service.
gdiepenbrock: OK. Those are my questions. Anything else important you want to say on the social media topic before the end of your first Twitterview?
dgcokselections: I think I covered everything.
gdiepenbrock: Optimism is a good thing during changing times. Thanks again for the Twitterview, Jamie.
dgcokselections: Thanks. It was a lot of fun and challenged keep my answers brief:)