Jim Kenney admits it. The city councilman will tell you he wouldn’t know a “tweet” from a “poke,” an OMG! from an LMAO!, an app from an instant message. He’s a fossil who doesn’t have a clue about all this high-tech stuff.
“I, at fifty-three years old, do not have that facility,” he told the Daily News last week. “So I need consultant advice to communicate with a group of folks who are not necessarily in my age group.”
Give Kenney props for recognizing this. It is indeed important for him to establish a communications pipeline to that “group of folks” — those tech-savvy hipsters who have shunned the English language in favor of short-burst sentences like “U R right,” check their e-mail just 15 seconds after checking their e-mail, and have a habit of nearly being run over at intersections while immersed in scrolling from screen to screen on their little smartphones as they cross the street, oblivious to everything around them.
Kenney’s only problem is he’s doing it all wrong. And, rightly so, he’s taking some heat thanks to a Daily News story that noted how he’s spending almost $29,000 a year — in taxpayer money — to have a Center City tech company called ChatterBlast handle his social-media program and help type and post messages from his Twitter account.
I have empathy for Kenney and his insecurity in this brave new world. I know this feeling, often muttering to myself, “Where’s Steve Jobs when I need him?” But paying all that dough to ChatterBlast . . . it’s sort of like Kenney’s a frontier guy who spent years sending smoke signals and suddenly he’s befuddled by Alexander Graham Bell’s new-fangled telephone, so he hires a company to make calls for him.
Jim . . . you can do this!!
Even if the 16 other City Council members handle social media on their own or with the help of staffers, I’m not ready to scoff that Kenney’s “just a typical politician” for squandering your hard-earned tax dollars on this ChatterBlast contract. A typical politician would have hired a 15-year-old kid from Swenson Arts & Technology to oversee this social-media stuff and spent the 29 grand on a vacation to Ireland, ostensibly as a fact-finding business trip to determine how Philly’s community gardeners could grow more robust potatoes.
It’s fine that ChatterBlast — as the company puts it — oversees an “ever-evolving digital strategy” for Kenney that includes Facebook and Twitter management, audience identification and analysis, monitoring key issues — even video production and editing for his “digital online footprint.”
Does Jim Kenney need all that glitz? Not really. His job is to fret over city budgets and unhappy neighborhoods; he’s not mounting a campaign to win a spot on American Idol.
So it’s too bad that Kenney feels the need to spend a lot of money to have ChatterBlast give him advice on his Twitter tweets. That’s how a ChatterBlast honcho put it: “We discuss what we should talk about.”
Well, good luck getting a politician to stay within the 140-character maximum of a Twitter message, but if Kenney feels the need for a consultant to coach him on the sidelines, this could get messy as he’s cruising the city in his Councilmobile, heading to appointments and stuff.
Councilman K: Maybe I should let constituents know we lost our legislation. So I guess I’d tweet something like, “Not a good Council session for us today, LOL!!” Is that right?
ChatterBlast coach: Ummm . . . not really, councilman. LOL means “laugh out loud.” There didn’t seem to be a lot of laughs when your legislation got shot down.
Councilman K: This tweeting is trickier than I thought. Well how about rubber sidewalks? . . . it has been a few years since I pushed for rubber sidewalks. They have many environmental benefits, you know, plus they last longer than concrete.
ChatterBlast coach: With all due respect, councilman, your constituents are facing the prospect of tax increases right now. I don’t think anyone gives a rat’s butt about rubber sidewalks at the moment.
Jim Kenney can figure this out on his own, I know he can. There’s no need to spend nearly $29,000 to unlock the secret of messaging on Twitter or Facebook. There is no secret. The councilman just needs to show he’s as boring as the rest of us.
Aw, #$&* . . . heading to give a big speech and I just dripped taco sauce on my pants. Wonder how to clean. Any suggestions out there? Anyone?
Perfect, councilman. Just perfect. ••