When it comes to politicians and elected officials interacting with their constituents, communication sophomore Chloe Seymour thinks President Barack Obama’s campaign efforts using social media in 2008 were the precedent.
Obama’s social media campaign was widely praised as building up a strong base, but now that using social media has become the norm, more people are flocking to it to advance their causes — including Gov. Rick Snyder.
In his first two years in office, Snyder has utilized multiple media platforms online, developing a presence on Twitter, Facebook and holding interactive chats and live-streams.
Last week, Snyder continued to diversify his interaction with Michiganians, at a virtual town hall held on Google . He was accompanied by several state representatives from localities nearby, including Jackson, Frankenmuth and Delta Township.
During the virtual town hall, Snyder touched on topics suggested by attendees or online viewers, ranging from budget questions, the newly proposed second bridge to Canada or small businesses. He said the town halls give him an opportunity to talk to people directly as well as take questions.
Each of the five meet-ups was facilitated by the area’s state representatives, who took questions from the audience for Snyder to answer.
Rep. Mike Shirkey, R- Clark Lake, said he was honored to have Snyder attend the town hall, even virtually, and the event would help encourage more interaction between Snyder and other Michiganians.
“This is just one of the ways we can harness the latest technology to give people direct access to their state government,” Shirkey said. “It’s a great way to participate in the democratic process.”
Snyder’s staff also held mobile office hours across the state during the past month to speak with Michiganians on similar issues, traveling to more than 60 locations to answer similar questions.
“(It’s) a wonderful opportunity for citizens to ask questions or share their thoughts with representatives from my office,” Snyder said. “We want to make government as accessible as possible.”
Social relations and policy junior Shelby Thelen said although she doesn’t interact much with the governor online, social media can have a huge effect on how elected officials are viewed.
She said she does follow other lawmakers on Facebook, where she can interact with them and post her own thoughts.
“It helps keep people informed, but it also makes legislators less scary, in a sense,” Thelen said. “They’re no longer just a bunch of lawmakers cooped up in a big room.”
Still, Seymour said although social media is primarily a beneficial way to interact with people across the state, it could take away from the formality or seriousness of recognizing important issues that need to be addressed.
“I’d rather have Governor Snyder actively doing something about Michigan’s struggling economy than sitting at his desk tweeting,” Seymour said.
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