One statewide officeholder is using social media as a forum for discussion with citizens who know the right “hashtag.”
Politicians have long held what they call town-hall meetings that mimic the governing conferences small towns in the northeastern United States hold a few times yearly to decide community issues. In recent years, members of Congress have tapped new technology that calls constituent homes to invite them to participate in teleconferences labeled as town hall meetings.
Now, Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols is scheduling an online discussion via Twitter, a social-media Web site that automatically searches pre-requested topics. Because the site limits messages to 140 characters, users quickly discovered a simple way to devise unique, searchable labels for specific conversations is the addition of the hash mark symbol that isn’t otherwise common in text messages.
Echols is using the hashtag #GASolarChat for his 30-minute discussion because the main topic is solar energy. It’s timed to allow citizen input on the commission’s vote every three years on Georgia Power Co.’s 20-year plan for generating electricity from various sources like coal, nuclear and natural gas.