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GSA Launches Pilot 12-Week Social Media Training

This post has been updated to highlight the role of GSA’s Web Manager University.

Starting February 7, I’ll be leading a 12-week social media in government course that aims to help new and aspiring social media practitioners understand the strategy and tools that will help the succeed in their roles. The class is being offered through the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Web Manager University.

Each session will last one and half hours and will be divided into three parts: a class discussion of an assigned reading, a presentation by a guest lecturer, and hands-on training on some type of social media tool or practice.

GovLoop will be providing the technical backbone and I fully expect that much of what is discussed in class will be presented in blog posts for the larger community to discuss.


The readings cover four topics: communities; information; moving from information to action; and the capacities and limitations of social media within government.

To help understand how and why communities form, and the impact that our communities have on us, the class will chapters from Bowling Alone and Connected.

The books The Shallows and True Enough will focus attention on how information is traded online, and how more information does not always elevate (or alleviate) debate.

To show how social media practitioners can move from online to offline action, the class will be discussing portions of Cognitive Surplus and Reality is Broken.

Finally, I’ve selected five books that together outline the capacities and show the contours of the limitations of social media within government.

Guest Lecturers

The guest lecturers come from many backgrounds: government, private-sector, academe, and nonprofit. Confirmed guests include:

Lovisa Williams, Social Media Sub-Council Co-chair, State Department Social Media SME. Addressing the first class, Ms. Williams will talk about her role in spearheading social media activities at the State Department and using online tools to for community management.

Ines Mergel, Professor, Social Media, Maxwell School. Professor Mergel teaches social media at Syracuse’s Maxwell School. She has written extensively on Twitter and Wiki use in government and has a book forthcoming on social media in the public sector.

Marci Harris, CEO, PopVox. Working on Capitol Hill, Ms. Harris quickly realized a key problem with the public sector: government officials and agencies receive far more communications from their constituents than they can possibly process. She started a company, PopVox, to help citizens participate in their own governance.

Nicole Lazzaro, CEO, XEO Designs. Ms. Lazzaro is serious about fun, and works hard at gaming. At a [email protected] event, she detailed how the same incentive structures present in successful games can be instructive when designing public policy.


Each class session, we’ll examine and use at least one social media tool. A non-comprehensive list includes:

  • Social Networks, like Facebook, GovLoop
  • Information Networks, like Twitter, Quora
  • Blogging Platforms, like Tumblr and WordPress
  • Wiki Platforms, like DokuWiki or MediaWiki
  • Ideation Platforms, like IdeasWalk, Bubble Ideas, Web Storm, IdeaScale

There are only 20 seats available for the pilot session,so register today.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Alex Moll

Hi, Gadi – I’m pumped to participate in this training. Thanks for designing it in a comprehensive way, including a solid rigor of readings, guest lectures, and hands-on training. It will surely answer some emerging questions for me about social media. More importantly, though, there’s a lot to learned from other agencies and some of the nooks and crannies of social media knowledge. Thanks again for all the hard work and thought put into this course!

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

I’m glad you’ve signed up, Alex! Please do tweet, blog, and email your friends about the class. As a pilot program, this class will serve as a testing ground for future courses, and the more interest there is in it, the more likely there will be future courses!

Martha Garvey

Sorry not to able to attend (work in New York + being a contractor = no go). Would love especially to hear the discussion around “Bowling Alone” and “Reality is Broken.”

John Janek

This is cool – glad to see State represented. We’ve got some great ambassadors who have really leveraged social media in new and creative ways to expand the scope and impact of our foreign policy abroad. I’ve sent this link to some friends internally too, we’ve got a lot of folks, especially at the mid-levels, who need precisely this sort of “boost” into the modern era. Good luck with the training, Gadi – look forward to seeing another blog post with an after-action!

Joe Flood

Good luck! It’d be great to see govt do more with social media. There’s so much trapped knowledge within agencies that social media could help get out. For example, there are a lot of interesting scientists who could share their expertise with the public by blogging.