Using the Power of New Media for Good

August 27, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In my previous post I mentioned social networking sites as a type of media that has great potential for marketing to college students. Today I read about a way social networking and blogging are being used to communicate with students, and not to sell them pizza, textbooks, or credit cards.

It’s to protect them.

Yes, you read that right. But who would be so altruistic?

The government. Yes, the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs actually has launched a blog and a Facebook page. Who knew the suits could be so swish?

The new blog, launched this week, is titled “This Should Be Illegal.” Its goal is to let Washington, D.C. college students know that they don’t have to live in unsafe housing. Four area universities have about 35% of students living off-campus, and two more average 10 to 15%, according to an interview in Shannon Paul’s Very Official Blog. Many don’t realize that the law requires landlords to meet certain safety requirements, or if they do, they fear that reporting their landlords for violations will get them evicted rather than protected.

After several incidents, ranging from a wall falling in on several students (no serious injuries) to the death of a student in 2004 when a fire broke out in her building, where there was no smoke alarm and the barred windows were padlocked, government officials knew something had to be done to reach students. After all, when given the opportunity to pledge a fraternity or sorority and go to a game, er, I mean, go to the library and study, what college student would choose instead to call a government agency for information or visit a booth for a safety brochure? The blog and Facebook page have already gotten several responses from students, some of whom are amazed that the powers that be are reaching out to them on their level. Commenting on a blog would be much less intimidating than going to a government office in person to formally file a complaint, don’t you think? It remains to be seen what effects this campaign will have on D.C. landlords, and whether other government agencies will be inspired to try newer media vehicles.

In a world where pop-ups annoy and commercials blare, it’s nice to see somebody using the media powers for good.

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