‘Social Mayor’ Cory Booker Talks Waywire, Civic Engagement and the Power of Twitter at SXSW

The Newark mayor ventures to SXSW for one-on-one conversation

Newark Mayor Cory Booker drops into South by Southwest for one-on-one conversation with Time.com Assistant Managing Editor Steven James Snyder (Image: Mike Street)

Newark Mayor Cory Booker took the stage at South by Southwest (SXSW) for an open Q&A session entitled “Cory Booker: The New Media Politician” on Sunday, discussing his social media site Waywire and how he uses Twitter to engage with his constituents, as well as providing his tips on using social media tools for governing. The panel was moderated by Time.com Assistant Managing Editor Steven James Snyder.

The famed mayor has become a (Twitter) superhero of sorts: tweeting resources to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, even offering his home up for victims in need; running into a burning building to save his neighbor, and rescuing a dog who was left in the cold last December, to name a few life-saving duties.

While most politicians stick to the script—often fed to them from their public relations team— and have a couple hundred thousand followers, Booker, who has over 1.3 million followers on Twitter, has his own agenda. He wouldn’t have a single follower if it weren’t for actor and tech entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher, who convinced the would-be senator he could take his message to a wider audience and really create change via Twitter.

Mayor Booker’s message was clear, focus the future of government about modernizing systems and making it look much more like the 2.0 world that we live in today. For example, Booker’s Twitter feed is one of his greatest assets.  “Via Twitter I’m able to help people in Newark and able to take action more so than anyone else.” The people of Newark consistently tweet at him and let him know about issues going on in the city. Cory then moves into action to fix what needs to be fixed.

But with all the issues that Booker has to face, how does he even find the time to tweet? “I live a lonely and boring life. But seriously, I was a Blackberry addict. Twitter is a tool that lets me communicate with thousands of people daily and I value that connection. It values me to know that I can have all of those consumer impressions, and that matters.”

Mayor Booker takes his role within the social media sphere very seriously. “One of my biggest rules is to never delete a tweet,” he said, admitting that not everything he does is perfect, but he’d rather take ownership than hide behind Twitter.

Along with his duties as mayor, he’s added founder of a startup to his resume. His venture, Waywire, a video content platform that allows users to create, share and discuss. It’s quickly becoming a popular site, boasting nearly 35 hours of video content per day.

Booker says the YouTube competitor allows users to search and locate videos with more speed and optimization. “Waywire allows you to create a video identity that over people can view and learn more about you.

As the one-on-one conversation came to a close, he brought the message home, speaking of about his hometown and his responsibility to affect change in his own backyard.

“I’ve gotta bring resources to my city and I contribute that to the brand change that’s been able to happen over social media.”–Mary Pryor and Mike Street

Follow BlackEnterprise.com’s coverage of 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) at blackenterprise.com/technology.

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