Christine Stuart file photo

Since starting her Facebook page about three weeks ago Gov. M. Jodi Rell has made 830 friends and since starting her Twitter page last week she has 100 people following her tweets.

Why does a governor with a 75 percent approval rating want to use social networking?

Adam Jeamel, the governor’s director of public affairs, said this week that when Rell first took office in 2004 she put an emphasis on constituent communication, which in 2004 meant sending out emails. In 2009 Jeamel said more and more people are turning to places like Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch. She sends out text messages too.

Does Rell actually type out the tweets and the Facebook posts?

Jeamel said she tells her staff what to say.

Like earlier this month Rell asked the staff to update her Facebook status.
when Rosa Rebimbas won a special election in Naugatuck for Kevin DelGobbo’s vacated House seat.

“Jodi Rell is congratulating new State Rep Rosa Rebimbas and the House R’s on their great victory in Naugatuck today,” the March 3 update read.

Rick Hancock, assistant professor in residence in the Journalism Department at the University of Connecticut, said in a phone interview Thursday that the key to social networking success is “to give people something they can use and make it something they want to share.”

He said if a politician uses the medium correctly they can filter out the media and reach their constituents directly. But, he said, it has to be “communication that empowers people to do something with that information.”

He said President Barack Obama used these forms of communication well during the campaign and Democrats in general have been good at using social media to reach their constituents, but here in Connecticut things are turned on their head.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been on the Democrats Web site,” Hancock said. “As an institution the Republicans are doing way more and have been aggressive in trying to embrace this stuff right now.”

He said in Connecticut the Republican party seems to be better at using social media. “They’ve found a way to connect with voters in a lot of different ways,” he said.

Hancock thinks Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton does a great job at using Facebook page and giving his constituents information about town services. He recalled how Boughton would update his Facebook status from the scene of a fire and link to town services. Hancock doesn’t live in Danbury, but thinks the information the mayor puts out there would be useful if he did.

Rell is not the only governor on Twitter. She joins Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick whose staff even replies to tweets directly and by using Twitter Search’s RSS feed.

According to a post on Tech President, a blog created to cover how the 2008 presidential candidates were using the web, Deval quickly squashed rumors that he was being considered for a post in the Obama administration via Twitter.

“As the Governor has said countless times, he is staying put and running for re-election. – Kyle Sullivan, Press Secretary,” the tweet read.

Patrick has 1,623 followers and he’s following 1,612 on his Twitter site. He has tweeted 120 times.

So far Rell has only tweeted nine times and is following 26 people, but then again it’s only been a week.

What do you think about Rell’s use of social media? Will you use it to communicate with her?