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Five Big Questions About Government Social Media In 2011

Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) –

The Federal government has made a good deal of progress toward being more transparent, collaborative, and participatory during the two years since President Obama took office. However, despite great strides, government practitioners’ use of social media is not very sophisticated, does not take advantage of the latest tactics and tools, and does not necessarily improve the dialogue around big issues citizens really care about – the economy, jobs, national security, health, and the environment. Meanwhile, the Government 2.0 / Open Government movement’s strategic thought leaders in many ways remain focused on internal foci like what certain words mean, or what Data.gov should look like. Here, I ask five “big questions” about government social media use to put technology, government, social engagement, citizens, and business together in a larger perspective

Who are the public faces of government agencies online?

When you think of tech companies in Washington, DC interacting with the government, you can often think of a specific person who is the official or unofficial “face” of the company – both online and offline. They have some digital savvy in one way or another (they write, they tweet, there are online videos of their interviews, etc.) For Microsoft in DC, people often think of me or Lewis Shepherd (Microsoft Research’s liasion to government). Google has the father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, appear at functions and give talks. Facebook has Adam Conner. Twitter now has Adam Sharp.

And this is of course not limited to technology companies, nor to Washington, DC. Comcast had until recently Frank Eliason. Ford has Scott Monty. Back in the day, Microsoft had Robert Scoble in Redmond, WA. There are variations on this theme, but certainly many private sector brands are moving toward something like this (see: iJustine loves Junior Mints), on purpose or accidentally, and in many cases the benefits of authentic audience engagement outweigh the downside of it.

But it is much, much more difficult to think of who these people are for government agencies. Blogger Bob of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was an early example of a public-facing employee using social media in government to communicate with average citizens, and he was a good exemplar for others to follow. He participated online, and also made appearances in person at technology conferences and such. He did interviews about his job with bloggers. By Federal government standards, he was a social media rockstar.

But that was in 2008. Bob still works at TSA in much the same capacity as far as I can tell, buthis public profile/reputation/brand has not risen much since (think: Rick Sanchez), and the TSA Blog has not really changed much. But this is not to pick on the TSA. No one has really risen – in any agency – to join or surpass Bob as a “face” of the government, mostly online and somewhat offline. Who’s the face of the Department of Education? Of the FBI? Of the EPA? It is hard to name anybody, even in wonky circles.

These agencies have people who are perfectly capable of fulfilling this mission. Where are they? Do they not have the time, the tools, the ambition, the freedom? It is not clear from where I sit. Robert Scoble didn’t ask Bill Gates for permission; he just started blogging about what was happening at Microsoft using the tools he had available. And for a while, particularly in some circles, he was probably the most recognizable face of the company besides the CEO. And it probably helped humanize the brand at that time.

And TSA (among others) could sure use some positive word of mouth these days. During the body scanning fiasco, maybe they were doing something helpful online… but I didn’t see it. I didn’t see their “face” on TV, on the radio, I didn’t see retweets of their conversations, I didn’t see videos. So, maybe there are some examples out there, but if the ultimate goal is to change public opinion, or brand image, or push novel information, it doesn’t seem like it really happened.

If the government does social media but no one cares, did it really happen? If you’re in the government and interested in social media, ask: could a citizen with an interest in your agency’s work name a single employee from the agency? If not, your agency has failed at social media usage on some level. It is no longer useful to merely have stood up a Twitter account and a YouTube channel, published a moderate amount of medium-quality content, and checked off the social media box on an annual scorecard. People want to talk to people about interesting and useful things… everything else is noise.

Why is government social media organized around agencies and not topics?

Virtually all government social media channels and online sites, from Twitter accounts to YouTube channels to mobile apps to data sets to contest websites, are organized around agencies and not topics. There are too many of these to mention at any length, but the Facebook “fan page” of the Department of Labor can serve as an example. There are a modest number of fans, relatively low levels of engagement, and content which is close to 100% by and about the Department of Labor. It’s hard to find a title or description of a recent post that does not explicitly say “U.S. Department of Labor” in it. Am I being unfair here? The Air Force has one of the better Federal government Facebook pages, but it’s to a large extent just like the Labor Department one, just at a larger scale.

But why? Content creation and curation need not only be only about the organization making it. In fact, some of the best private sector engagements, from mainstream TV commercials to social media promotions, often do exactly the opposite – mislead the audience, draw one into a narrative, and then “reveal” who the messaging is from. Everyone knows the game… we just want to be tricked into playing it a bit. So why does the Labor Department page have to be about the Labor Department, the Air Force page about the Air Force? Why can’t the content be broadened to include information from a variety of sources about all aspects of jobs and the economy, or airplanes and national security? And why are they still in organizational silos – Could the Air Force not collaborate with the Navy and Army (all three of them own planes, even!)?

No one less than President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, pointed out the juxtaposition of how agencies see issues, and how vexing such disorganization and bureaucracy can be for the average citizen:

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” he quipped. “And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

Salmon is a great topic for a punchline, and this joke was memorable and resonated. But this is a serious issue that affects issues citizens actually care about: the economy, healthcare and medicine, environment among them. How many different government organizations have jurisdiction over parts of “the economy”? That’s an article in itself.

The point here is that in order to deliver a meaningful and consistent narrative to citizens who care about issues and not agencies, the branding needs to resonate. Who has the best Facebook “fan page” about salmon? Maybe the government should. If the point of open government is to better connect information with citizens, and the government can’t put that together with people working on this at Interior, Commerce, etc., what good is it all?

More seriously, why aren’t there giant social media efforts around national security, the economy, healthcare, etc. where two or more relevant government agencies pool money and talent and content creation/curation such that those channels are simply the very best information available for citizens on the Web? Is that not a valid goal? (If not, what is the “big goal”, to be a little bit better than before? I think that’s a low standard.)

We can find exceptions as answers to all these questions; for example, the EPA has set up a Facebook page called Water Is Worth It. It’s a start. But the larger point is that most agencies are not even experimenting in this general direction. The exceptions to the rule prove the rule.

What is the relationship between social media for government and things citizens care about?

An outside observer could be forgiven for not understanding what Government 2.0 (not strictly, but widely thought of as Web 2.0 + Government) is, given that the gurus leading the discussion about it spend so much time defining and debating it themselves. Alex Howard’s latest piece for GovFresh, “Building the Narrative of Gov 2.0 One Story at a Time,” is an exemplar of this. It is a perfectly fine blog post to read if you are interested in the nuances of Government 2.0 vs. Open Government vs. WeGovernment, or in what the Gov 2.0 movement looks like in Australia or Brazil, or if you know who Beth Novek is and what she does. And people do care about these things, and they are important and influential people.

Nevertheless, the people who are “Government 2.0 wonks” are a fairly narrow slice of the citizenry. While people like myself, Alex, and others can write super-wonky stuff for an inside-the-Beltway and Government 2.0 Club audience, what I have seen less of is “translation” of the wonky stuff in a medium and format with a person(s) that really resonates with a wider set of people and teaches them what’s happening but mainly focuses on the audience and their needs and desires. Citizens don’t care about how FEMA is organized, or about a website made in Drupal, or about XML formatted documents.

Thus, beyond saying things along the lines of, “open government is better for citizens because it’s more transparent,” what is not so obvious is how social media in government and related issues like Gov 2.0, open government, etc. truly and directly relates to big issues that citizens – average citizens, not elite wonks with advanced degrees living in Washington DC and Manhattan – really care about. According to a Pew Research survey in early 2011, Americans’ top priorities for President Obama are: improving the economy, creating more jobs, and keeping the nation safe from terrorist attacks.

In a recent Twitter exchange, long time Gov 2.0 participants Andrew Wilson and Alex Howard has a little back-and-forth which sums this up well. Alex tweeted his aforementioned “Building the Narrative of Gov 2.0 One Story at a Time piece, and Andrew replied that he “would argue that we REALLY need narratives that resonate w/ groups beyond those familiar with #gov20 – how this is relevant to EVERYBODY” (emphasis his).

I tend to agree with Andrew. While perhaps in this specific case it is Alex’s job as a journalist to cover the more wonky aspects of and interview the experts in Gov 2.0 (and he is not the only one… just the only one doing it on the Sunday I wrote this article), it is hard to point to how this ties back to average citizens and what they care about (economy, jobs, national security). Ultimately, that is how social media in government, Gov 2.0, open government, and related topics will provide value. Or they will fade away as an elite fad.

Is governmment prepared to interact with Citizen 2.0?

Putting aside some of the issues noted above (i.e., is government social media “good enough”?), there is the additional question of whether government is able to deal with increasingly technically-sophisticated citizenry at all. Certainly the private sector has trouble keeping up, and while they are making progress, they have thei proverbial hands a lot less tied than the government does. Consumer software is more and more powerful and accessible, and that leads to all kinds of possibilities, both good and bad, for engaging with audiences using technology.

In politics, campaigning is increasingly always-on-the-record, as outlined in this recent NY Times article anout Tim Pawlenty’s relatively under-the-radar campaign for President that is moving into a faster gear. I have previously written about the parallel of always-on-the-record government in 2009 piece. What Would Always On the Record Government Look Like?

By [always-on-the-record government] I meant that the combination of (1) the proliferation of tech-savvy citizens with mobile camera/video devices, (2) the prevalence of wi-fi or other Web connections, (3) the massive number of people using social networks like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, and (4) the great interest that people have right now in a number of controversial issues like our current wars, health care, and climate change that people could and probably would start documenting everything that government officials do and say, where they go, who they meet with, for how long, what their staffers eat for lunch and with whom, and so on.

And you don’t need to be a professional journalist to do this, or even to do it well. An entire site along the lines of Gawker.com could be started around this, in fact. GovernmentGawker.com, anyone?

So what if 1% of U.S. citizens started doing this? Roughly there are 300 million people in the U.S., say half of them are adults, so we have 1% of 150 million as 1.5 million. Now, if everyone just did this at the state, local, or federal level one day a year, and generated one “amateur journalism piece” from that day, that’s about 4,100 videos/blog posts/tweet sets generated PER DAY. That’s a lot of government on-the-record.

Perhaps the notion that 1.5 million Americans will become consistent amateur journalists of government is unrealistic, but that’s not the point. The big question here is whether government is scaled up and prepared to deal with citizens as individual human beings at a massive scale, even if it’s just something relatively simple, like reading, analyzing, and understanding Twitter sentiment. I don’t think they are. Government social media (witness the Facebook pages mentioned above) is still mainly “push” and is largely impersonal, whereas companies are increasingly building sophisticated websites with backends using software like CRM (customer relationship management) to keep track of people, to automatically/mechanically understand the conversation around their brands, to direct employee workflows, etc.

Again, there are exceptions. The current Speaker of the House, John Boehner, launched the America Speaking Out website last year when Republicans were looking to gain a majority in the House of Representatives. It takes advantage of channels like Facebook and Twitter, but in itself is not completely reliant on them. America Speaking Out is not an experiment in social media, and it’s not a channel. It is a solution to a problem the Republicans had at the time: opening a channel with Americans to hear their ideas about the future, analyze them, and then use them. And there is a backend on the site which the owners can use to crunch the numbers, keep track of users, and so forth. This is a good example of how to scale up Government 2.0 conversations with citizens. But again, the exception proves the rule.

Where are the open government entrepreneurs?

Open government is often touted as being valuable. But to whom and how quickly? It is very difficult to find companies who have built legitimate, profitable business models around the rising level of free government data. Many people are enthusiastic about the topic, but few have taken the risk to go into business around it. As I wrote in September in an article called “What is the vision for open government entrepreneurship?”

The classic example of terrific public use of open government data isn’t very sexy, but you nevertheless probably take advantage of it nearly every day. Does the word Accuweather mean anything to you? The data that Accuweather and similar organizations use very often comes from the Federal government’s National Weather Service, operated by NOAA. The private sector weather market is worth roughly $1.5 billion – and it’s built on open government data stores.

Not every open government entrepreneur will turn their company into Accuweather, and that’s fine. But if you’re an entrepreneur, isn’t a long-lasting, successful, well-known company and trusted brand precisely what you strive for as a goal? And yet, it’s rare to hear a discussion among entrepreneurs who have that kind of vision in the government space. Everyone seems to be a consultant of some kind. There’s nothing wrong with consulting the government on open data, or social media, or whatever. But where are the MBA’s and VC’s?

To be sure, there are again some examples who are exceptions to this rule, and I mention them in my earlier article (PASSUR and BrightScope). But companies like this are hard to find, and not necessarily connected to the primary discussions, events, and social networks where open government gurus work and talk. Open government entrepreneurs should probably look more like “regular” entrepreneurs. From the same article, I take this to mean,

What’s a “regular entrepreneur” though? Let me know what you think, but I’ll take a stab at this – people who have started companies before, who read Entrepreneur and Inc. and have a business plan, who perhaps even have an MBA or another advanced degree and some hardcore corporate experience. Maybe they’re not Millenials and “digital kids” swimming in THE FACEBOOK but rather Gen Xers with a decade of real-world training under their belts – not just in programming, but in finance, government, education, and other activities.

Seems to me that if a resource is valuable, then the consumers of that resource will want it, and indeed, compete for access to it. This is a basic law of ecology. So, in the open government space, is the data being provided (“opened up”) valuable? Are consumers rushing to it? Are entrepreneurs competing to monetize it or otherwise use it in meaningful ways? And if not, why not?

Dr. Mark Drapeau is the Director of U.S. Public Sector Social Engagement for Microsoft and the Editor of SECTOR: PUBLIC. You can follow him on Twitter at @cheeky_geeky. He last wrote about large-scale scientific research and cloud computing in December.

Photos of iJustine/Junior Mints, salmon, and cameras all used under Creative Commons.

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Sebastian James

A possible answer to #2 is that we, for good or bad, use social media as a de-facto RSS feed. I think there will always be a place for that use in social media. The Gov 2.0 question is how do we add the use of topics in our social media as well?

Is Gov’t prepared for Citizen 2.0? At this point, not really. Transparency is easier said than accomplished. But as with other things, Citizen 2.0 will be put upon us. The good governments will roll with the change.

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Stephen Peteritas

Point 3 is really dead on… I’ve seen organizations push and push people to social media media channel and then when the show up in numbers they are completely unprepared to handle them.

Also GovernmentGawker would be amazing as long as the actual government had nothing to do with it. No way it could maintain the edgy Gawker brand and still fit gov regulations at the same time.

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Profile Photo Jeff Ribeira

Nice. Those are indeed 5 very big questions, all of which could use some serious pondering. I particularly like this thought, “If the government does social media but no one cares, did it really happen?” Awesome! Like you said, there are exceptions, but it seems many government agencies really could benefit from having a better defined “face” who is savvy and skilled in the realm of social media. How this is not seen as more of a necessity in today’s tech-happy world is beyond me.

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Mark D. Drapeau

@Jeff Thanks! I do believe that a lot of social media efforts in government and other places are simply check-the-box stuff that has little to no impact. A lot of it is also very impersonal.

@Stephen Thanks! Yeah, the idea is that GovernmentGawker.com would be private-sector.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Mark – I think it’s really easy to pile on to the general public sentiment that “government doesn’t get it” vs. celebrating pockets of progress. So I have to say that I strongly disagree with the post overall and this specific statement:

“…government practitioners’ use of social media is not very sophisticated, does not take advantage of the latest tactics and tools, and does not necessarily improve the dialogue around big issues citizens really care about…”

Every day on GovLoop we highlight examples of government striving to take steps, whether it’s through our Projects of the Week or the GovLaunch series, toward improving engagement with citizens and collaboration with each other.

In many ways, Alex Howard and others (myself included) are trying to tell that story in a positive light to a broader audience, seeking to bust the negative perception of public servants and reveal legitimate efforts to achieve a more participatory, collaborative and transparent government.

So my challenge to you is: stop pointing out what’s wrong and start providing examples of bright spots. Establish some criteria for what you believe serves as a leading practice, then promote it. Uncover a new project that we haven’t heard about from all the typical government sources of news and reveal the road map that helped the agency to get “there.” Tell the stories of the people that made it happen – make them heroes…vs. villains. Make our government colleagues look competent…because I’ve lost count of the number of people in the Gov 2.0 / Open Gov space – practitioners and thinkers/speakers – who are doing great things…and they deserve to have their hard work appreciated.

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Alexander B. Howard

Since you’ve posted this in multiple outlets, Mark, I’ll voice the same feedback I expressed elsewhere. You’ve applied your considerable analytical skills to the growing government social media landscape. There’s much to consider what you’ve written, with respect to the strategies brought to bear, and the stories of civic entrepreneurs working in the open government space will be fascinating to tell in 2011.

It may be that correspondents like me are covering an “elite fad” — though I suspect not, given the scope of the topic that you captured here. Whether government can adapt to a disrupted media landscape the new realities of information consumption is of great interest to many. Whether is can be smarter, leaner and more effective is a great interest to all.

One aspect of that role is chronicling how the major tech players are positioning themselves to be the means by which political leaders campaign or host conversations about governance. Ideascale, UserVoice, ChallengePost or similar ideation platforms might be considered in that context. Ultimately, the outcomes do matter, but as a close observer of how tech policy issues resonate with people, the details about which companies are involved do matter a bit.

For instance, Google, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, Salesforce.com and yes, Microsoft, are all players in this new government social media ecosystem, along with a set of civic entrepreneurs working to be part of that conversation.

In that context, it’s worth observing that you didn’t mention that your singular exception to the question of whether government social media is capable of scaling up or not to meet the needs of “citizen 2.0″ — America Speaks out — was the first major deployment of Microsoft’s Town Hall solution in the federal government. In some ways, this post serves as a neat positioning of that deployment as the answer to the problems you raise.

That platform, which is open source, customizable and did, in fact, scale well, was used adroitly by the GOP majority leader (now Speaker of the House) in hosting a conversation about Congressional priorities.

I’m glad that you acknowledged that “perhaps in this specific case it is Alex’s job as a journalist to cover the more wonky aspects of and interview the experts in Gov 2.0,” as it validates much of my work in that regard. It’s unfortunate, however, going to Andrew’s point, that you didn’t refer to the larger body of that work which has nothing to do with definitions and everything to do with what people in and out of government are doing.

Then again, it’s also part of my job to explain how the broader trends affecting technology, government and civic society relate to average citizens. Sometimes, that will mean explaining what people are using certain terms and jargon. Since readers here might leave with the impression that I didn’t provide examples of what’s happening in in that post or am not striving to do so every day, here are a few other elements of the piece you reference. If I’m going to be described as a “strategic thought leader,” here’s a snapshot of the ideas I’m actually sharing readers, as opposed to the elements of a post and anecdotal interaction that you chose to build that aspect of your post around.

For instance, missing in the account above is that not only did my “back and forth” with Andrew include an acknowledgement of the need to create more of such narratives (in another tweet, I agreed with him about the need to explain how innovation or initiatives make a difference to citizens) but that within the very piece you cited here were three stories about government 2.0 that matter to citizens, with issues that literally come home to everyone:

1) The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched a public complaints database at SaferProducts.gov. You could think of it as a Yelp for government, or simply as a place where consumers could go to see what was safe. Add that to the mobile recalls application that people can already use to see whether a product has been recalled.
http://gov20.govfresh.com/cpsc…/

2) New traceability rules for food safety, resulting from a new law that the President signed earlier this month. These rules will give consumers new insight into where food is from and whether it’s been recalled. It’s also a great story about data which featured a California-based company that’s making stickers to help with implementation.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/

3) How citizens will be involved in the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
DC has a new startup agency. That hasn’t happened in a long time. The CFPB plans to use technology in a number of unprecedented ways for fraud detection, including crowdsourcing consumer complaints and trends analysis. Given how much financial fraud affected people two years ago – and how much of the anger that the public holds for the bailouts of banks remains – whether this agency gets up and running, and is effective, will matter to many.
http://gov20.govfresh.com/leve…/

Last week, I published two other pieces about technology and citizens that have nothing to do with definitions and everything to do with impact. Perhaps they serve as exemplars of another kind of post about government and social media.

One was about how government was using next-generation technology that pulled in social media in Australia and mapped the instances using geospatial tools so that first responders could help citizens faster, more efficiently and more effectively. It’s an excellent example of how an enterprise software provider (ESRI) partnered with an open source platform (Ushahidi) to help government workers use social media to help people.
http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/

The other piece spoke to me on a deeper level, in large part because I was trained as an emergency medical technician and have physicians in my family. The average citizen will never need to know what Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0 means. Tens of thousands, however, will have heart attacks every year. With a new geolocation mobile application that connects citizen first responders to heart attack victims, connected citizens trained in CPR now have a new tool to help them save lives.
http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/

I bring these examples up here because you referenced my post about building a narrative about Gov 2.0, asserting that it “is hard to point to how this ties back to average citizens and what they care about (economy, jobs, national security).” Given that food safety, product recalls and financial fraud do matter to many, that seems unreasonable.

Similarly, given that getting help in a disastrous flood or help from a trained first responder in an emergency are also likely priorities, perhaps the relationship between social media, government and the things people cared about has become more important than ever.

Like Andrew, I see a number of sophisticated uses of social media by government, although at least one of them is in an area that doesn’t get a lot of attention: open source intelligence. While I disagree with Andrew that I’m trying to tell that story in a positive light – my gig is to spread the knowledge of innovators, with constructive critique of mistakes or missed opportunities, not to celebrate every day awesomeness in government as Govloopers do – I do think his challenge to you is worth considering.

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Mark D. Drapeau

Andy, thanks for the comments. There are good achievements, and there are places where those stories are told, and awards are given. I think you’re mischaracterizing my article – I am not so much criticizing the past or the current, but more talking about the future – what’s next? What’s the next big strategic step/phase in Gov 2.0 projects and progress? There’s a place for that writing too. If I choose to write those kinds of stories, I will.

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Mark D. Drapeau

Where’s the vision, @Andy? What will Gov 2.0 look like in 2016? Now you’re just being difficult. This is a 3,000 -word roadmap. I think practitioners should take these concepts, ideas, and questions to heart, figure out how some or all of them relate to where they sit, and think about when and how to execute on some of them.

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Alexander B. Howard

Mark, it feels like you’re being somewhat disingenuous when you say that you’re not criticizing the past or present. Much of these 3,000 words are a sharp critique of what you think isn’t being done well, whether it’s organizing government social media use by topic, focusing on the issues that matter to citizens or (quite directly, respect to my own work) misrepresenting what what people are focused upon. You might want to frame this piece as being about the future but it’s very much grounded in the present.

You assert that “it is hard” to point to how the wonky aspects of Gov 2.0 “tie back to average citizens and what they care about” – I disagree. Most people don’t care about how a satellite gets into orbit, the release of community health data or the standards of an API for product recalls. They care quite a bit, however, about whether their GPS receiver enables them to get to a job interview, if a search engine can show them ER waiting room times and quality statistics, or if a cradle for their baby is safe. Wonky policy to working for better outcomes for citizens.

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Mark D. Drapeau

Alex: Big yawn. Yes, some of it is definitely critical. BUt this isn’t an article where I go step by step through every data set, website, TWitter account, etc. and pick it apart to death. There is some negativity, but the overall article is about asking big questions to help people think about what’s next, not to knock everyone down. Judging from tweets, comments, and other info, many people found it inspirational. You didn’t. Thanks for sharing.

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Alexander B. Howard

A “big yawn” about potential improvements to healthcare, transit or safety for babies? Shame. Good thing I’m not commenting to excite you.

With respect to your judgment of the community response, I generally don’t find it inspirational when someone syndicates a misrepresentation of my work around various corners of the Internet. I suspect that will not surprise you or others.

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Mark S. Patrick

Thought provoking. Thank you. Two comments:

First, lately I’ve felt that the change we need in government should be focused around delighting our internal stakeholders with the long term idea that this will delight our ultimate stakeholder/customer, the citizen. I like what Denning has written about that recently in The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management. To the extent that social/business media can be leveraged to that end — creating government stakeholder delight — I believe we’ll be moving in a positive direction. Combine this with the idea of disciplined collaboration appearing in Morten Hansen’s book, and the principles put forth in The Power of Alignment (an older but still relevant book) and I think the ground will become fertile for the blossoming of many new government rock stars — gov 2.0 and otherwise. Weak use of gov 2.0 tools is only a symptom of the need for larger, more significant changes. If those occur, I would expect a natural evolution in gov 2.0.

Second, a comment on the preceding comments… I find it just as unsavory (and tiring) to watch a public argument between intelligent people as I do an uncivil exchange between politicians or pundits playing to a particular end of the political spectrum. Taking the high road of good spirited debate may occasionally be more boring, but I find it less distracting from the ideas being put forth. Most peopl

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Mark D. Drapeau

Really great example of someone taking the next step for their niche audience based on my post here, using these big questions, and then turning it into a next steps, from Keith at ChamberChamps.com (http://chamberchamps.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=7:chambers-and-social-media&Itemid=96&tmpl=component&print=1) This is the stuff I love to see in tweets and blogs and it’s why I write what I write.

A recent article written by Dr. Mark Drapeau, Director of U.S. Public Sector Social Engagement at Microsoft, and appearing at Briansolis.com highlighted some of the progresses and pitfalls the government has experienced as it attempts to interact in the social web-world.

How does this apply to your chamber? There are plenty of reasons why your chamber should start using and interacting with members of the community through social media, but Dr. Drapeau provides four important points to consider as your team decides to move forward with the venture. I’ve modified the points to make them more chamber relevant (and a lot less wordy).

1. Decide who the “face” of the online presence will be. People love people. Authentic audience participation and engagement depends on developing a relationship that is both give and t

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Greg Licamele

This is the exact model we’re moving toward in Fairfax County on some issues. I’m leading the efforts for a countywide environment Facebook page and Twitter account rather than seven different departments creating their own presence. Our public will then have a fragmented view of all environmental activities. We’re also doing the same social media presence for disabilities; rather than three or four departments creating their own thing, there will be one presence. I’m really excited by this because it’s breaks down the silos.

As for the Feds I’ve long thought something like health.gov would be more useful than umpteen agency health pages that then don’t connect or reference each other. same goes for other high level topics. The challenge is territory. I’m eager to see how the president plans to reorganize government and who will win the ensuing turf battles.

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Christina Morrison

You make a great point with question #2 – “Why is government social media organized around agencies and not topics?” – if agencies really want to connect with their citizens and engage them, people are probably much more likely to become a fan of a “Teleworking” Facebook page , like FedsTelwork on Facebook, than to seek out the department who might have relevant information on the topic. The SaferProducts.gov site Alex links to below seems like it could be a good example – I hope that site is successful.

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William Blumberg

Thank you for your blog. Being new to the site, this was a great start. Especially Alex Howard’s “Building the narrative of Gov 2.0, one story at a time.”

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