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Sunday, July 27, 2014         

ON POLITICS


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Abercrombie wants to be your Facebook friend

By Richard Borreca

POSTED:



L.P. Neenz Faleafine and her laptop are scrunched under an awning behind the camera stand at the inauguration. The social media director for Neil Abercrombie's successful gubernatorial campaign is celebrating her 40th birthday by feverishly flinging reports and photos of the historic event on the Internet.

"I'm checking the live video stream, checking the chat room, making sure that questions are being answered," Faleafine says.

She is directing a team of iPhone-equipped volunteers who are pouring pictures and video into her computer.

"I am the hub," she says, explaining how Hawaii's new governor will now be able to reach out through Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Ustream and YouTube.

Although Faleafine is still a volunteer with Abercrombie, Josh Levinson, director of communications, sees a big change in state government communication via tech-savvy people like Faleafine.

Much of Abercrombie's media campaign was modeled on the plan used by Barack Obama's social media team in 2008.

The ever-hip 72-year-old Abercrombie even announced his candidacy on a Twitter feed to followers and kept supporters in the loop with live videos of speeches and appearances.

Levinson, who organized communications for Abercrombie's campaign, thinks the same new ideas will transfer over to government.

"We talked a lot about the idea of people being their own broadcasters -- everybody has the ability to broadcast what they are interested in and working on their own personal networks.

"It is easier than ever for people to communicate within their networks. We want to make it a focus with their government and the office of the governor.

"To ask questions, to give input -- it is another way to be responsive to the community," Levinson said.

It is envisioned that interested citizens will be able to talk to, and even talk back to, their state government via Facebook.

"We want people to tell us what they think. We just want to know what issues are important to people and watch the trending of issues," Levinson says.

He acknowledges that the Internet is not always the friendliest of places. Outrageous, ill-informed, mean-spirited gossip is flung out in blogs and that sort of thing could find its way into a state of Hawaii website.

A certain degree of control has to be given up, Levinson says, but admits, "It is people speaking their mind. The truth is, they are going to be speaking their mind whether you are controlling the message or not."

The risk of an uncontrolled message dancing through cyberspace is not as great as the risk of government not getting the message. Besides, Levinson says, "It is very difficult for people to get away with being misleading in social media."

As it turns out, Neil Abercrombie is not just your governor, now he's your Facebook friend.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com






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