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The digital Governor – how Governor O’Malley is a leader in online engagement

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February 6th, 2013

As a resident of Maryland and a small business owner, I follow Governor Martin O’Malley on Facebook and Twitter.  It’s half so I can follow the legislative process in the state where I live and work, and half because I like the guy as a politician. (Please keep your political agenda out of this blog!)

O’Malley recently held his state of the state address in a digital format so people could stream live the speech or watch it later.  His office also created a hashtag (#MDSOTS) and an email form to ask legislative questions.

During the Superbowl, I saw the Governor posting pictures and status updates about his home state’s performance in the big game. This type of digital engagement with the public not only showed him as politician and public figure, but also helped to portray him in a more relatable way to his constituents outside the realm of policy and legislation.

When it comes to leadership engagement – he clearly understands how to engage his constituents via various platforms. And in today’s digitally connected world – utilizing social media is a key to doing that successfully.

What some political figures forget is that their job is to represent the residents of their jurisdiction.  And to do so requires that they engage with and listen to their constituents – not simply serve as figureheads of power and politics.

I did not vote for a Maryland senatorial candidate this past election because his office failed to acknowledge my comments and questions. I’m sure their office gets lots of inquires; however, I’m also sure they have a staff and some interns positioned to respond to them (I used to be one in a former life.)  I mean…if I feel that a leader elected to represent me won’t even acknowledge my communications, then why would I vote for them?

Lucky for Governor O’Malley, he’s got my ear. (Perhaps in 2016 as well?!)  He has embraced the meaning and importance of social media to become a digital leader who engages with his voters.

Whether you’re a politician or a leader in private industry – here is how to become a digital leader:

Utilize social media to engage with your followers.

Whether you create a hashtag on twitter or post a link on Facebook or post a picture on Instagram  – engage your audience in a discussion about it on social media. Ask for their questions – hear their concerns.  Whether you’re an elected official or a business owner – your job is to win over the popular vote. The best way to do that is to listen, respond, and learn to adapt to what the people want.  The quickest and easiest way to help do that is via social media.

Create a web page with the information you want to share in an easily accessible design.

Governor O’Malley’s state of the state address is a prime example of how to do this.  On one singe web page, I could access twitter, Facebook, or email a question or listen to the address.  Every call to action was in one place!  Place the info you want to share on your website so everyone can access it – and keep it simple and concise.

Be sure to listen to what people have to say.

Sure – the governor’s office can’t reply to every single question (and we all know the Governor himself personally can’t).  However – I sure hope his office tries.  Listening to what people have to say is usually where organizations fail in the social media arena. It’s a tool to engage in a dialogue. It’s a digital conversation. It requires listening and then responding. Would you participate in a one sided conversation?

So whether you’re looking for votes to win a political office or whether you’re trying to gain the trust of prospective customers – follow the Governor’s example.  His office has put the pieces in place to be a digital leader.  Preactive Marketing gives him a gold star, or the Lombardy trophy of digital marketing.  Just don’t tell him I was rooting for the other team on Sunday.

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