City's top leaders take to social media to increase transparency
When Superstorm Sandy shut down the city that never sleeps, the mayor and other elected officials looked to that little blue bird to keep New Yorkers up to date.
But whether there's an emergency or not, more elected officials are taking to Twitter and Facebook to communicate with New Yorkers.
Besides posting the occasioinalfunny picturewith apet or an appearance at a parade, New York's political players say social media is a necessity for 21st Century leading.
"It's about transparency and getting the message to your constituents," Councilman David G. Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who has 3,195 Twitter followers said. "You're not going to put out a news release for everything and my constituents want to know what I'm doing."
Greenfield is one of the 42 council members with a Twitter and/or Facebook account..
Although he doesn't do the posting himself,Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes the City Hall Twitter crown with nearly 400,000 followers. His potential successors, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John Liu, are trying to amass a similar following.
William Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University, said politicians flock to social networking to give some sense of openess.
Constituents also get a virtual soapbox to air their concerns to or questions, the professor added.
"You will hear that frustration. It will come through louder and more direct than the traditional way and [politicians] will have to be on their toes," Ward said.
Ward said politicians diverge into two personas online: those who tweet themselves and those who have full control over their account. No one method trumps the other, according to Ward, because it all depends on what message the leader sends.
For example,during Superstorm Sandy, Bloomberg's office tweeted instructions and updates while and MTA chief Joe Lohta personally responded to straphangers.
"Some of the great things about social media is that two-way communication," Ward said. "The TV ads don't allow anyone to interact."
Of course that transparency comes with a price. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner's fall from grace after he accidentally sent racy self photographs on Twitter is the most famous example of a social media backfire.
Councilman Peter Vallone, who personally updates both his Twitter and Facebook pages, said he was at first hesitant to join social networking due to those risks, but today he doesn't hesitate to speak his mind on all sorts of topics.
When he took to his Facebook page to rant against the ABC show GCB, aka Good Christian B------, Vallone became the talk of the social media scene and even ended up on TMZ.
"I am the benevolent dictator of my Facebook page," joked Vallone (D-Astoria).
Council members, like Brooklyn Democrats Charles Barron and Matie Eugene, who aren't big social media users declined to comment about their small presence online, but Ward said if they plan to be viable elected officials they need to catch up.
"It is certainly moving in that direction. Social media could be 15-20% of marketing budgets of companies in the next 5 years," he said.
The city's elected officials really love Twitter. Here are the top members based on their followers.
Mike Bloomberg -- 395,280 followers
Christine Quinn -- 14,039 followers
Bill de Blasio -- 6,006 followers
John Liu -- 4,387 followers
Brad Lander -- 3,541 followers
Yvette Clark -- 3,374 followers
Politics aren't the only thing on the minds of the localofficials. Many take to Twitter to share their thoughts on a wide variety of topics.
-- Councilman Peter Vallone referring to the Facebook copywright status hoax in a Nov. 26 tweet: ok stop posting "i call copyright" messages on FB. you cant copyright by saying "i copyright this". you can only call shotgun :)
-- Councilman Jumaane Williams on Knicks loss to the Nets during their first meeting in Brooklyn: LOL. It's ok. Nets deserved the 1st one at their new home. Won't happen twice
-- MTA Chief Joe Lhota on Thanksgiving: "It doesn't get any better than this. Sitting at home with my father watching The Godfather waiting to eat a fat bird. Thankful, I am."