From Wisconsin to New Jersey, the New Global Communication Weapon May be Mixing Street Protesting and Social Media

28-Feb-2011 12:00 PM EST, by Rowan University

Newswise — With many Americans concerned about rising gas prices, state budgets and inflation — and with battle lines drawn in several states between governments and unions — the U.S. can expect more social media “wars" in the near future.

“Union protesters will take to the streets and use social media to communicate their message in order to build support,” said Rowan University (Glassboro, N.J.) adjunct marketing professor Jennifer Regina, who also is CEO of a marketing firm that specializes in social media (The Marketing of Everything, Washington Township, N.J.).

The subject of unions using social media is in its infancy, but organizers in Wisconsin have demonstrated success with it, and Regina expects more state groups to follow that example.

“The ease of creating groups and engaging participants is the biggest benefit of social media. Although it is easy to collect members, the key is to create an atmosphere where action is taken by those members,” Regina said. “It can be as simple as calling their government official, donating time or material or taking a stand in the streets or courthouse.”

Regina said organizers also can use Twitter to inform people on the route of a protest or what supplies and materials to bring. In a few short days, a very organized group can be formed and messages communicated on the fly.

Of course, both sides of the battle can use social media. State governments also can employ social media to create a more effective way to communicate their messages to their constituents.

“Officials will use social media to persuade residents what needs to be accomplished in order to turn the souring financial picture around,” Regina said.

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker has used Twitter effectively in the past to communicate with the state’s residents, Regina said. “In December 2010, he used Twitter to tell residents about the city’s snow emergency. He created an open channel of communication and asked people to tweet him information about the city. Many people asked for help during the storm and were helped after tweeting requests to Booker,” she noted.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools can be used in any forum or for any agenda. “As long as state governments create their social media channels as forms of open communication, they can create trust,” Regina said.

“Residents will feel that their comments and thoughts are taken seriously and, in return, they will be more open to listening to what government officials have to say.”

With many states facing similar issues compared to Wisconsin, the trend will be for both sides of a problem to air their fight publicly and in social media channels, the professor added. “There is a correct way to properly navigate these new communication methods,” she said, “and those who don’t embrace the rules will lose the social media war.”

NOTE TO REPORTERS: Jennifer Regina is experienced working with print and electronic media. She is available via Skype as well as on campus.

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