January 28, 2012

On Town Halls and Social Media


THE SOCIAL media town hall has become a staple of the Obama Administration with events conducted via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube in the past three years and a Google+ hangout scheduled for Monday, January 30.

Federal agency heads have followed suit, often taking Twitter questions during live streamed events. This month State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland is answering questions every Friday from the department's 10 major Twitter feeds.

Taking debate questions from Twitter and YouTube, a novelty during the 2008 campaign season, has become standard fare during the 2012 contest's numerous Republican debates.

Political pundits' verdict on these social media town halls has been generally positive and even dubious observers can't seem to find a political downside.

Whether these social media experiments bring something new to the table - and what metric they should be measured by - has sparked more spirited debate on Twitter and elsewhere. Having followed that debate along with the events themselves for about nine months now, I have a few humble thoughts.

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