Posted December 29, 2010 12:39 pm by with 2 comments

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Time and time again we try to figure out just what Twitter is good for. We talk about business applications and other ways it can help people. We hear some nice stories but we also are subject to the kind of online activism that is often much more hollow than actually active.

Well, this past few days of blizzard conditions in the Northeast have provided some interesting political histrionics that have shown the good, the bad and the ugly of the political landscape. It has shown how the best and the worst in people come out in times of crisis. I had to laugh at an article in the New York Daily News telling New Yorkers to stop whining. Being a native of NJ and spending a lot of time in the city that one had me chuckling.

One story is emerging from all of this, however, shows what the combination of Twitter, social media savviness and the desire to help can do. And frankly, it is inspiring. The mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker has been using Twitter to chronicle his street level efforts to help the people he has been voted to govern. He is helping people get help in a true time of need and all the while making a political star shine brighter (a win / win). He has taken this chance to possibly set a bar so high for public officials that it can’t be matched (especially because it requires being in shape, being mobile and apparently giving a crap!).

TechDirt reports

He’s been tweeting up a storm, as he travels around Newark helping to plow streets and dig out cars and help people in trouble. As you look down the thread, he’s specifically responding to different people calling out for help — either sending people to help or showing up himself, such as the case of the woman who was stuck in her home and needed diapers, which the mayor brought himself.

The TechDirt write up also talks about how he handled someone who was angry but also not doing the right thing. It’s a classic. Here is an example of his tweet stream still today.

I don’t know this guy’s politics other than he is a Democrat but what action like this does is actually transcend the artificial barriers we place around people due to ideology and makes people concentrate on the simple word that should be the one we all aspire to in 2011: action.

Was it a publicity stunt? Who cares?! If people were helped then let’s have every PR person and political consultant on the planet take classes in this kind of ‘stunt’. We need ‘stunts’ like this. We need people getting social media like this.

It’s a pretty cool way to help close out 2011 actually. Rather than concentrate on the people who use Twitter in the most superficial way let’s take a look at someone who did something with it that had some real clout. This guy gets it in a way that others need to as well.

I have a soft spot for Newark, NJ. Growing up in NJ it was the big, nasty city that you only went to to get on a plane or have your train speed through it. It always felt like there was unrealized potential. Recently a friend of mine said the following on Facebook

At The Pru Center for Nets v Hawks. Wish I had a zillion bucks, because I’d buy Newark and treat it right. Such a beautiful and sad city.

That made me think. Now, as a result of Mayor Booker’s efforts I am thinking some more. I am thinking that maybe it’s not a zillion bucks that are needed to help but rather people who care like Cory Booker and a way to truly connect them like Twitter.

Here’s to an action filled 2011 and more people truly ‘getting it’.

  • Mayor Sam Adams (@MayorSamAdams) of Portland, Oregon is a champion at helping on Twitter (and elsewhere). In November 2009 we had a water emergency when E. Coli was found in a local reservoir the day after Thanksgiving. Virtually all city and water bureau staff members were on holiday, so Twitter was the only way many of us learned that we were required to boil water. I believe Mayor Adams’ tweets were the only consistent form of updates the public received until other public employees got back on track.

    My pal, Anne Buckley (@pdxrox) wrote about it here:

    Mayor Adams continues to break new ground in this arena, even though he’s rarely praised for it. Our local news outlets were mostly snarky about public officials using Twitter as a way to communicate with their constituents, though I think they’re coming around now.


    • I agree with Carri – Mayor Adams uses twitter effectively as a 2-way communications medium to help serve the Portland community.