Newark mayor using robust Twitter presence to reach snowed-under residents

By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 7:11 PM

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been battling the snow on his city's streets tweet by tweet - and getting a lot of attention doing it.

Since the Sunday storm that dumped about two feet of snow on the Newark area, he has helped lift cars, shoveled driveways and promised to send road crews to clear neighborhood streets after someone tweets that they have not been adequately plowed.

"Good 2 talk 2 u. Glad streets now clear," Booker (D) tweeted in response to @bellygirl25, who had earlier complained that Ivy Street had not been plowed.

Not only do Newark residents know that Booker is clearing the driveways of people with Twitter handles, such as @SWEETNGOLD347 and @ghostf4ce, so does much of the national political twitterati, which is blogging about him.

Booker's tweets, multiplied in their reach through retweeting, have shown another aspect of the political impact of social networking.

"He's doing something that is very effective and very much capitalizing on the potential of this media," said Doug Guthrie, a professor at George Washington University who has studied the use of social media in politics. "The lesson for politicians is you have to engage it."

Other politicians haven't fared as well in the snowstorm/social media vortex. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, both Republicans, have been dinged on Twitter and by local media for leaving town before the storm. Christie vacationed at Disney World and Guadagno in Mexico.

Booker won a second term last spring, but with fewer votes than in 2006 amid complaints that he has not effectively tackled issues such as crime and joblessness in parts of the city. The constant tweeting during the snowstorm could help boost his image.

The mayor, who has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, is one of the country's most followed politicians on the social network, and this week he appeared to be developing a new way to practice retail politics.

On Wednesday morning, Booker sent out this Tweet from a constituent showing him love: "RT @Yaki_Moto: Thanks to @CoryBooker 4 sendin a plow to St James Pl. Finally able 2 go 2 work . I ♥ My Mayor! J "

Booker told CNN on Tuesday evening that he has a great Twitter feed, with residents who are letting him know what is happening.

"We've gotten diapers to people. Delivered food. One pregnant woman who was going into labor - at least thought she was," he said. "We were able to get there before the ambulances could. We actually got an ambulance unstuck."

In the past year, Twitter has become an integral part of how many politicians communicate. A report last summer by Guthrie and New York University associate professor Scott Galloway rating the "smartest" politicians using the social network scored Republicans higher than Democrats because of their robust use of Twitter and YouTube.

In New York, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's weather-related tweets have been less personal, and he has taken heat from some residents who are complaining about slow snow removal.

The report didn't mention mayors. If it had, it is likely that Booker would have ranked high. The mayor used Twitter to the same end when the last big snowstorm hit his city.

According to the study, which has not been updated since August, more Democratic senators are on Facebook but use by their Republican counterparts is growing faster. At the time, total "likes" for Republican senators were growing 6.7 percent per month, vs. 3.6 percent growth for Democrats. On Twitter, Republicans were gaining followers growing at a rate of 4.5 percent versus 2.8 percent for Democrats.

Twitter user @Sh0rt_Bus sent out this message Wednesday: "Times Square is completely clear and running . . . so it's pretty obvious where @MikeBloomberg's Priorities were, Gotta make that ball drop! #NYE"

A Brooklynite named Mike tweeted: "Excuse me @mikebloomberg if ur not so busy would u mind sending someone over to 227th and 107th street please."

Bloomberg's response to his constituents on Twitter was staid in comparison to Booker's tweet-a-minute responses. "I know some people are frustrated by the pace of the cleanup," came the tweet from @mikebloomberg. "We appreciate your patience & are working together to do everything possible."

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