Immigration in the Age of #Social: Engaging at Home and Abroad

Good Morning GovLoop!!

This next in the series of blog posts by Deloitte’s Immigration Community of Interest (iCOIN) makes the case for why going social would make immigration and citizen services more effective. A key point is the need for Federal agencies going social to interact with citizens, immigrants, and visitors: not just broadcast to them. My experience on Twitter (@milouness) and other social platforms is that the more you treat them as conversations the more benefit you gain. (And the more fun you have!!) Just as I said last week that contemporary government needs to be less formal, I also think Federal agencies need to believe that interactions with them can be more fun. Now that IS a tall order!!

Immigration in the Age of #Social:
Engaging with Citizens at Home and Potential Immigrants and Visitors from abroad

@tiffany_wan @abedsali @NickFlorek

Social media offers an opportunity for government to engage with its citizens and stakeholders by embracing the new way in which communities interact with each other. The Arab Spring Revolutions and the Occupy Wall Street protests demonstrated the potential that social media has to connect a country’s citizens.[1] The U.S. government already uses social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to engage with citizens. Continuing to do so and expanding its social media footprint could enable the U.S. government to strengthen the nation’s democracy, encourage deliberation among the diverse groups of people who make up our nation, and further government agencies’ abilities to carry out their respective missions.

Within the U.S. government, agencies that handle immigration and immigration issues, such as the USCIS and the Department of State, could particularly benefit from embracing social media tools. The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project’s Global Digital Communication survey conducted from March to May 2011 showed that online social networks are “widely popular” as 15 of 21 countries surveyed showed that at least 25% of those polled use social networking sites.[2] As a result, social media is potentially one of the most effective ways for these agencies to reach the very people who are interested in both visiting and immigrating to this country. Our nation has been built on the hard work and perseverance of immigrants from around the world who have come to build a better life for themselves. Creating a transparent and effective immigration system is an important step in continuing this tradition and social media can be a useful tool that can assist in this goal.

Research has shown that using Web 2.0 tools, including social media, can assist government in building trust among the people using government services. The ForeSee Results ACSI E-Government Satisfaction Index, which assesses citizens’ satisfaction with government websites, concludes that high satisfaction in a government website results in greater trust and participation in government.[3] This suggests that when government is transparent and openly engages with stakeholders, stakeholders feel encouraged to engage back with government. Citizens who are satisfied with a government agency’s online experience are 49% more likely to engage with that agency and provide opinions and ideas back to the government.[4] Social media may easily facilitate this interaction between a government and its stakeholders because it allows for a two-way dialogue. When used to its full potential, social media can provide a channel for stakeholders to provide direct feedback to the government. This in turn can allow agencies to better assess the perceptions that stakeholders have of them and gain specific knowledge to better shape policies for all.

When engaging citizens and potential immigrants through social media, immigration agencies could focus on increasing the ease of locating the agency’s social network site. In examining the Web pages of immigration agencies, both domestically and abroad, the Web pages that more clearly route a visitor to their social media pages are those that display the icons of the social media sites on their home page, as opposed to burying links to social media tools among other website links. The use of the social networks’ universally recognizable icon rather than spelling out the social network’s name allows for even those who do not speak English to find and access the agency’s social network page from the agency’s Web page.

Additionally, a look at diverse governments agencies’ use of social media, suggests effective approaches to social media use include interactive content and two-way dialogue, not just the distribution of news or information. For example, a government crowdsourcing campaign hosted on a social engagement platform solicited federal employees for cost-cutting ideas and received over 19,000 ideas in 2011.[5] The most followed federal agency on one of the largest social network sites in 2012 was an agency, whose feed included regular replies to followers who messaged the agency and cross-references to other relevant social network accounts. Similarly, the federal agency with by far the most social media followers (with 1.85 million “Likes” in 2012) features active duty military members who post regularly and encourage discussion, thus creating a two-way dialogue on their page to engage interested parties.[6]

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