The Next Social Networks Public Leaders Need to Join

I still remember being a little nervous sending the e-mail to my University President. The year was 2011, and the e-mail attachment was a six page document on why he should join Twitter.

I found a “Confidential” stamp nearby. Using it made this feel much more special.

Fast forward five years later, and Twitter is mainstream. It’s used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. That President is retiring from the University and is doing so with nearly 2,500 Tweets.

The push to get people in power to join Twitter is mostly won. More could be done, certainly, but Twitter is nearly always a consideration when it comes to mass communication. Now, it’s time to consider the next channels that people in the spotlight — be it a University President or a City Mayor — should consider joining.

I’m not yet convinced enough on a single network to write another document on it, so let’s look at three options:


What it is: Periscope lets anyone start a live video stream instantly, and attract crowds of followers who watch and pitch in comments and animated hearts.

What it’s like: The platform feels incredibly authentic (no time to edit when you’re live) and gives a depth that other mediums just can’t match.

How it’s being used: In one extreme example, officials in Mexico City are confronting people who park illegally or drop trash, and streaming it all live on Periscope.

What more it could be used for: City cleanup crews could Periscope the painful process of cleaning up graffiti, or professors could live stream small refreshers on topics before an exam.


What it is: Billed as the “private social network for your neighborhood”, NextDoor lets neighbors come together online around a discussion board-driven community.

What it’s like: When placed next to the other set of social network sites today, NextDoor feels deliberately old school. The interface is clean, simple, and driven by community discussion. This lends itself to a very accessible service that draws young and old alike.

How it’s being used: Anything and everything is discussed on the site - news, safety tips, events, and local business recommendations.

What more it could be used for: In San Francisco, there’s a heated debate about a new store coming in the neighborhood. Sadly, this is nothing new. What doesn’t seem to happen, however, is any community feedback on a larger, more scientific driven scale. Enter NextDoor. While not perfect, a poll popped up there recently from an ordinary citizen:

Wouldn’t it be nice to see this from someone in elected office next time?


What it is: Anchor is the newest of the bunch. With a tagline of “Anchor is radio by the people, where any voice can join the conversation” it’s hard to not get excited about this platform as a way to enable community participation.

What it’s like: Think part Twitter, part podcast, part walkie-talkie.

How it’s being used: Since Anchor is early, there are new use cases emerging every day. Some brands and news outlets are jumping in. Some members are attracting a following being amateur voices for sports talk or comedy.

What more it could be used for: Public leaders could ask for opinions in real-time on Anchor. Having a hard time making a decision or need to hear more opinions? Start an audio thread on Anchor and invite others to have a voice. On the other hand — listen. See Anchor threads expressing frustration about something you can impact? Jump in there and let people know you’re listening and doing something about it.

As the first public officials join each of these networks, much will be made about these folks being early adopters and “tech savvy officials.”

That makes for a nice headline, but at the end of the day, it’s about following your duty as a leader to inform your community. These new channels let leaders do that, just as other mediums in the past did. Not evolving to this change is a failure of a responsibility to come to the people, wherever they might be.