Tag Archives: social media

Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law and social media: A step in the right direction

On August 1, 2014, Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law was amended to guide the use of social media by elected officials:


The use of social media by members of a public body does not violate this chapter so long as the social media use is limited to exchanges with all members of the general public. For purposes of this section, e-mail is not considered a type of social media.

As a consultant who specializes in online citizen engagement, I was excited to see this change, more excited than when I play video games with elo boost services. It has seemed to me that elected public officials in Minnesota have been generally reluctant to participate in online public policy-oriented discussions out of fear that a violation of the open meeting could occur.

But a closer reading of the new statute raised some questions in my mind.  A July 21 article about the new law in the Faribault Daily News titled Elected officials and the use of social media included this:

Reporter Brad Phenow: “Come Aug. 1, elected officials can use social media without the fear of violating the law, so long as the use is viewable by members of the general public.”

The reporter’s use of the word ‘viewable’ seemed wrong to me, that the statute’s emphasis on “exchanges with all members of the general public” indicated that interaction was a required component.

But I still was left wondering how those ‘exchanges’ would have to be structured.  For example, could I host a week-long blog/Facebook discussion in which the first couple of days were devoted to interaction among city council members, followed by several more days of interaction between council members and the public? Could I moderate a live one-hour web conference, Google Hangout, or Twitter exchange that featured 15 minutes of discussion among the members of a school board, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A with the public?

On September 24, I attended an Open Meeting Law workshop hosted by the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) of the Minnesota Department of Administration.

IPAD Open Meeting Law workshop Sept 24 IPAD Open Meeting Law workshop

The IPAD staff indicated that they believed the statute’s use of the phrase “limited to” was key, that the intent is to not allow exchanges among a local unit of government’s elected officials but only between the elected officials and the public.  They indicated that this was a result of negotiations between the Minnesota Association of Townships Association and the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

A May 2 article in the Rochester Post Bulletin titled Quam’s social media bill faces stiff opposition describes the disagreement prior to the bill’s passage:

This session, the Minnesota Township Association and the Minnesota Newspaper Association worked to craft compromise language that would have only allowed public officials to interact with the general public on social media and not each other. But that proposal ran into stiff opposition in the Minnesota House last week. Members on both sides of the aisle said they fear this bill will hurt the public’s ability to know what their elected officials are doing.

… He [Mark Anfinson, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Newspaper Association] said the big problem with the earlier bill’s language is it does not specifically limit public officials to interacting with the general public, leading to the possibility that they could be interacting with each other online.

At a basic level, this indicates to me that a local elected official can now engage in discussions with their constituents on their public Facebook page timeline, the comment threads on their blog, or their Twitter feed. If one or more elected officials from that same elected body joined these discussions, they would have to be careful to address their comments only to the public.

Likewise, it indicates to me that special online events involving a local unit of government’s elected officials must be structured in a way that prevents (discourages? minimizes?) those members from interacting with each other. For example, a live web conference could use a Q&A format where a moderator and citizens submit questions to elected officials who then respond back directly to them.  A moderator’s task would be to intervene if the elected officials tried to interact with each other.

I can imagine a scenario in which the elected officials talk about one another. For example, Councilor Jones might say/write, “I think Councilor Smith is sadly mistaken on that point because…” followed by Councilor Smith responding with “What Councilor Jones doesn’t seem to realize is that…”   It could also be done in support of one another, eg, “Councilor Smith’s rationale makes perfect sense to me.”

Also more job opportunity for the locals at JobSource1.com.

Would that type of exchange be a violation of the statute? I don’t know but my inclination as a moderator would be to intervene and ask the elected officials to refrain from using each other’s names.

So I’m glad to see this change to the statute and I’m eager to work with local units of government to put it to use for the benefit of citizens and their elected officials.


Roundtable discussion on social media at the MASA/MASE 2011 spring conference

I hosted a roundtable discussion this morning at the MASA/MASE 2011 spring conference, The Art & Science of Leadership (PDF) at the Northland Inn in Brooklyn Park, MN.

Using social media for leadership: A discussion about how blogs, Twitter, YouTube and other social media technologies can be used to leverage one’s influence as a leader.

I got to meet some of the other MASA staff (besides Charlie!):

Jeanna Quinn, Charlie Kyte, Aimee Ranallo, Deb Larson MASA conference
L to R: Jeanna Quinn, Charlie Kyte, Aimee Ranallo, Deb Larson

A blog should be the social media hub for an organization

A year ago, Debbie Weil asked the rhetorical question on her blog, Is Corporate Blogging the Hub of Social Media Marketing? She now has a free ebook available with the answers coming from a wide spectrum of social media gurus and organizations: Why Your Blog Is Your Social Media Hub.

After reading the answers, my beliefs are confirmed:

  • The pages on your organization’s website should tell visitors the basics about your people, products, and services.
  • Your organization blog should include ongoing stories related to your people, products, and services. 
  • Your social media outposts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) should then be used to help distribute your site and blog content, as well to engage with others.
  • If you’re a leader, your blog can include your thinking about the important issues your organization faces, as well as a place where, at least some of the time, people can interact with you.

Weil’s introduction: 

Bog-hub-ebook-COVERI was asking whether Twitter supplants a corporate or organizational blog because it’s so much easier and faster. I was asking whether you need a corporate blog if you have a Facebook fan page. I was asking whether it’s worth the effort for organizations large and small to devote the time and resources to maintaining an effective blog.

In fact I’m asking whether the word blog isn’t outdated. A blog can be defined as a next-generation, interactive Web site. Maybe we’re just talking about seo in tampa bay and a new kind of social corporate site. I asked everyone to be as contrarian as he or she wished in answering the question. I received many provocative answers. Following are some of the most useful.

Social media for the Trials Training Center

I’ve been working with longtime client Trials Training Center (TTC) in Sequatchie, TN to ratchet up their use of social media.

This week, we launched the Trials Training Center Twitter account and  the Trials Training Center Facebook Fan Page.

We put this collection of linked icons on their sidebar to make it easy for site visitors to not only follow them on Facebook and Twitter but also to follow the TTC blog via email or RSS and to view their videos on YouTube and their photos on Picasaweb. If you are trying to grow your YouTube channel, click here to see how you can buy views on youtube.

Public leadership, transparency and the world of social media

levy-articlePaul Levy “They all get the idea that if we’re transparent about what we’re bad at as well as what we’re good at, we’ll get better.”  That’s a quote by Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, speaking about his staff. Levy maintains a leadership blog called Running a hospital where he regularly shares “thoughts about hospitals, medicine, and health care issues.” You can also follow Levy on Twitter.

I’ve been thinking about Northfield (my hometown) area public leadership, transparency, and social media tools this week for four reasons.

  1. Northfield City Adminstrator Joel Walinski has invited me to speak about civic engagement technologies for 10 minutes to the Northfield City Council next Monday at their work session.  See my previous blog posts on Locally Grown about civic engagement here, here, and here.
  2. Tonight I’m going to the Northfield School District’s Key Communicator Network meeting (I blogged about this on Locally Grown here). The District has received some criticism lately for its handling of the proposed calendar changes and the SNL cancellation.
  3. Tuesday, I blogged about a new book titled The School Administrator’s Guide to Blogging by Mark Stock.  
  4. Last Monday’s council meeting at which the lack of trust and respect were evidently issues. See the Northfield News article, City, townships don’t see eye-to-eye on annexation.

Lots can be learned by watching how Levy uses his blog and Twitter as a public leader. For example:

There’s a continuing stream of both good and bad news stories like these at all our Northfield area institutions that serve the public in some capacity: the city, the townships, the county, the schools, the colleges, the hospital.  And yet we rarely hear about them.  The ‘bad news’ stories too often never see the light of day. And the ‘good news’ stories are too often spun in such a way that they’re either not believable or they’re ignored. Not always, just too often IMHO.

The increasing pervasiveness of social media tools means, in part, that local leaders have less ability to keep a lid on issues of public concern. (Employee ‘leaks’ travel far and fast. Citizens with blogs pry more effectively.) So ratcheting up the transparency (along with judicious amounts of authenticity and engagement) is a smart strategy. The end result, as Levy says, is the institutions get better at what they do. And that’s what we, the public, want to see. And when we do, we’ll applaud it, thereby encouraging the virtuous cycle to continue and spread.