Social Media: Are You Meeting Basic Expectations?

There is no question that social media is changing the way that we engage as citizens and as individuals. We are constantly going online to ask questions of each other, to type away to live chat support, to reference web pages, read reviews, watch DIY videos and learn as much information as we can in as short an amount of time as possible so that we can be the most effective citizens we can be.

Which means that social media savvy is required on both sides of the screen; for those of us sharing information and for those of us obtaining information, we all need to know how people interact online and how the conversation evolves. This article suggests that despite their youth and lack of workplace experience, that 20-year-olds are actually more adept at jumping in at the deep end of the social pool than their seasoned counterparts (who, of course, do bring other things to the table), because this is the reality that they’ve been raised with.

But it’s still early in the game and we’re still looking for solutions that will help us navigate these depths. For example, just recently the General Services Administration introduced the Social Media Registry so that citizens know if they are engaging with an official government account. There are many reasons why this would be a useful tool, but the two explicitly stated reasons from the GSA were:

  • It forms a comprehensive map of official government social media accounts
  • It allows all federal agencies to officially register their accounts centrally

We need this tool, because we’re still in the early stages of social and crowd engagement and we’re not sure just yet what it’s going to look like in the future. But we do know that at this point there are some pretty high expectations that we begin with. For the social media world, this is the baseline that we’re starting from:

  • Communication is happening on multiple platforms. There are Twitter accounts, Facebook feedback comment threads, websites with archives, crowdsourcing initiatives, and hard copies that can be ordered, etc. People will look for you in multiple places and assume that they will find you.
  • The connection is constant. People are reading their news, sharing their thoughts, emailing, dialoguing, and diatribing from the moment they wake up through their morning commute on the bus, Facebooking through their lunch hour, canvassing for other opinions throughout dinner, while in front of the TV and until they finally fall asleep at night. Which means that the conversation continues for you as well. All the time.
  • We are building our network all the time. Online and offline. Meeting someone at a conference means that you’re soon going to be connected to them on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter or staying tethered to them in some way. And they’ll be looking for you, as well.
  • And now – register with the GSA. An online identity is a mutable thing that can be easily mistaken (or manipulated) – registering makes that problem a little less daunting. Currently the GSA verifies most social accounts including (Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, IdeaScale, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, among many others).

This is where their expectations start which means that social engagement already requires quite an intense commitment (often at least a dedicated role if not a team of people to manage it). Is it a commitment that you’re making?

How else will the Social Media Registry help? What else will we come to expect from social media as its role becomes more ubiquitous?

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David Dejewski

Jessica – nice job. This did get me thinking, but maybe in a oblique way.

First, I chuckled as I read the words “…to help the public know which accounts they can trust to provide factual government information.” on the registration page. I wonder how many people believe that the government provides (or is the only orgnaization that provides) factual government information. “Trust” and “government” are two words that are growing further apart in many people’s minds.

A simple comparison of many “official” government sites will show that the government presents a pretty confusing picture to the public. Maybe a registry will help citizens and government alike to see those irregularities and ask some good questions. That in turn, may help to improve what’s posted.

Next, The only access to the registry that I can find available to the public is a single “Verify” URL prompt. That tells me that unless I know the URL I’m interested in researching, I can’t find out what’s in the registry. It seems to me a registry like this would be more helpful to the public if it were made public and easily accessible. It is after all public information, right? That way, citizens could browse by topic they’re interested in and click on the “official” social media outlet they’d like to access.

Jessica Day

Good points, David. There is a general distrust of “factual” information when it comes to the public and their government. An unfortunate, but real, trend. I suppose that they can definitely count on the GSA to at least give them the official information.

And yes, I wonder if the full registry will be available (and navigable) for the public as the registry evolves. If not, it doesn’t really provide a “a comprehensive map of official government social media accounts” to anyone but the government. As you said. Even a comment on their blog announcing the program goes unanswered: “

Where is the list of sites already registered?.” Still, I suppose we can’t yet know what the future of the registry will be. Hopefully, this information will be shared.