2012 CSG National Leadership Conference

The world of technology is change so quickly that it’s often difficult to keep up.

For that reason, Amy Webb, CEO of Webbmedia Group, said it’s particularly important for legislators to understand all the new activities the digital world creates.

“This is particularly important to me that you understand the world you’re legislating for is changing every day,” she told attendees at The Council of State Governments’ National Leadership Conference May 19. “People legislating don’t understand enough the implications of the technologies we’re using and the way these technologies are changing our society.”

Politics can be a strange thing, said Brian Selander, a 2011 Toll Fellow and chief strategy officer for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.  “The weird thing about politics though, public service, is if you walk into a room of 100 people, 30 of them hate you,” he said. “I mean hate you—if you were laying bleeding on the side of a road, they’d stop to steal your wallet hate you. You’re really popular; that means 70 percent of the people don’t hate you like that. You’ve got to have thick skin to walk into a room and know that even if you’re the most popular person in Idaho Falls, there’s still 15 percent of Idaho Falls that’s going to dislike you no matter what.”

While social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can give policymakers and candidates for public office important tools to communicate with constituents and voters, they also can present numerous pitfalls to avoid.  That was one of the messages for participants in the Social Media Boot Camp session last week at The Council of State Governments’ National Leadership Conference in La Quinta, Calif.

Washington Rep. Ross Hunter says he’s a nuts-and-bolts type of guy when it comes to tax policy. He didn’t understand why his state would have a tax policy that focuses on bricks-and-mortar stores—whose sales are flat—and not concentrate on collecting taxes from online retailers, whose sales grew 15 percent last year. “For Washington state, this is somewhere between half (a billion) and a billion dollars in revenue a year that we are losing to (online) sales,” Hunter said. “We don’t have an income tax. … It’s a huge deal for us. Our annual budget is in the $15 billion range. Half to a billion dollars is real money.”

As a public official, you know how important the Web has become as a tool for citizens to learn about you and their government. The virtual world presents both opportunities and risks. In order to successfully navigate both, you need to know how the internet and social media can both help and hurt you. Amy Webb is a leading expert on life on the Web.