The power of social media

by Brian Keaney

A few years ago I had the great fortune to live in Waikiki and work for the Vice President of the Hawai’i Senate as her communications director.  It was a great job in a dream location but, being the parochial New Englander that I am, I missed home (even the snow!) and knew that eventually I would return.

In the meantime, I knew that life at home was not frozen in time and that there were conversations taking place that I wanted to participate in.  At the time, a major conversation was ongoing about the special election for state representative, but there were plenty of others as well.  Fortunately, in the day and age in which we live, residing half way around the world does not prevent  you from taking part in those conversations any more.  At least, it doesn’t have to meant that.

From my lanai overlooking the Ala Wai Canal and the Manoa Valley, I started a blog about the town that is home to the Charles River and the Peanut Butter Valley.    Nearly three years later, I’m back in Dedham and a different special election is taking place, this time for the U.S. Senate.

In the world of state politics, I’m nobody special.  I’ve worked and volunteered on campaigns, but I don’t command an army of volunteers, nor do I have a platform like Blue Mass Group in which I can reach a statewide audience and speak with credibility.

I did, however, have myDedham.org.    With an audience of roughly 2,500 unique visitors each month, it was a pretty healthy chunk of a town with 8,600 households.  I also think that I’ve built up a fair amount of credibility with those 2,500 visitors.

Dave Atkins of Dave Atkins Media!, an expert in the field of social media, has written on my LinkedIn page that myDedham “is notable for the high level of participation by residents and responsiveness of elected and representative officials. I don’t know how he finds the time and forges all the connections he does, but the result is a must-follow site for anyone who wants to know what is going on in Dedham.”

So, too, apparently, did one of the candidates running for the Senate seat think that I had audience that I could speak to with authority.  I was invited to several conference calls for bloggers with Congressman Mike Capuano.  Since myDedham focuses strictly on local issues I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to participate, but it told me that the Congressman “got it.”

We all have personal networks, and increasingly they are moving online.  I have a network of family and friends that I speak to in person frequently, and I have a much larger network of friends, business associates, and acquaintances  online.  They put the social into social media.

My friends and I will sit over a beer and discuss politics, or sports, or technology, or just about any other conceivable topic.  I take their thoughts and advice seriously, and I will often incorporate it into my own life.  The same thing happens with social networks.  If I know that a friend that I know is politically astute, and I read on Facebook that he is supporting candidate X, I’m that much more likely to dig into Candidate X’s beliefs myself.

Why? Because my friend is an expert in politics, and I value his judgement.  I can’t sit down with all my friends every day and pick their brains on all topics.  I can, however, log onto Facebook or Twitter once or twice a day and read what they are thinking.  It takes just a minute of their time to update their status, but they reach hundreds of individuals.

Incidentally, my friend Mike Lake is running for State Auditor.  I would appreciate it if you would give him your consideration.   See?  That’s the power of social media.

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