Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mayor Booker Tweets Through the Storm

While some area residents may have turned to liquor to make it through Hurricane Irene, Newark Mayor Cory Booker turned on his Twitter.

The social media savvy mayor garnered a bit of attention this week after keeping up real-time Twitter interaction with constituents during last weekend’s hurricane. He counteracted much of the sensationalism bouncing around the microblogging service with helpful and positive messages, many of which were in direct reply to his city’s residents. On a few occasions, he even asked constituents to direct message their phone numbers and addresses to him so he could help them immediately. When constituents came to him with less-severe problems, he provided them with important emergency phone numbers and advice within minutes.

Booker’s extremely effective Twitter communication is almost unprecedented during a natural disaster, with the only exception coming last winter when Booker helped constituents during #snowpocalypse. Newark residents were snowed into their houses and it was Booker’s use of social media that helped clear the roads. He used Twitter to find the worst-hit areas of the city to help coordinate plowing and cleanup efforts. He even went so far as to show up at residents doorsteps with supplies; one of his Newarkian tweeted at Booker that the blizzard had prevented his sister from buying diapers, so Booker picked some up and hand delivered them.

Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter is revolutionary, especially when compared to other mayors in the area. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter tweeted over 20 times during the hurricane, but his tweets look pathetic when compared to those of Booker. Nutter rarely responded to constituents and his best piece of information was essentially to keep off the streets. I’m sure Nutter had his hands full during Hurricane Irene, but more effective social media outreach could have gone a long way to help Philadelphia’s residents – many of which were victims of flooding and power blackouts. It’s a classic tale of two cities and Newark seems to have come out on top.

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