Social Media for Government


The Social Media for Government Conference sponsored by The Advanced Learning Institute was held on September 14—17, 2009, in Chicago Illinois, to give insights and examples on how to benefit from social media approaches. During a 2-day general session, more than 90 individuals heard presentations from 12 organizations representing non-profit coalitions, academic institutions and local, state, and federal governments.

Social Media Strategies & Uses

Millions of Americans—some almost exclusively—are going online to receive news, services & information.

• Government must communicate in a transparent way; the less people know, the more they make up.
• Social media can be used to engage, inform and influence audiences about topics central to our interests.
• An organization’s web strategy today must involve participation in several websites because citizens are also involved in several social networking sites. Going where the people are, is more effective than asking them to come to us.
• A social media effort is an established program conducted just like traditional communications efforts, will full management support for a plan. Commit to consistent publishing, make social media duties a part of the employee performance evaluation process and establish partnerships between IT, public affairs and other program areas.
• Key for engagement is senior management buy-in and willingness to take risks.

It’s important to know how to use the tools; to have a goal and know what you are trying to do; prepare, pick your starting point, pay attention, and participate.

• Establish a social media framework by asking:
1. do you expect interaction or are just trying to broadcast one-way messages;
2. do you want to facilitate a discussion on important topics or simply drive users to your own website;
3. do you view your web effort as example of an information clearinghouse cluttered with documents, or as a media outlet rich in multimedia presentations;
4. are you interested in establishing communities of interest wherein people from all locations can safely connect to share problems and solutions, and best practices on common issues.
5. are you able to humanize the organization by adding personality to your social media presence;
6. can you and your co-workers explain what you’re doing while staying on-message with consistent communications.
• Use third-party platforms to get the word out, but users must be able to come back to a government website (for the credible, original content).
• Inexperienced people should establish and get comfortable with personal accounts on social media sites before establishing organizational sites.
• Tell your story with compelling content that makes sense to people, that they can use immediately, and empowers them to make change. If you do something valuable, people will want to talk about it.
• Manage time effectively by adopting a two-tier approach:
1. Primary Accounts. Twitter is helpful for promoting events, announcing new campaigns, providing helpful tips, offering a service, sharing opinions on controversy, and breaking news. Look at tweets as a lure that will reach people in seconds. Facebook offers more sophisticated services and applications.
2. Secondary Accounts. YouTube, Flickr and social networking sites such as delicious, digg or StumbleUpon are particularly beneficial for consistent branding and viral marketing.
3. Tips: post discussion starters (monthly), reach out to one new person weekly, give little teasers for events, listen to feedback and learn what consumers are interested in, and start twitter hashtags.
• Build momentum for your presence by identifying and empowering supporters early-on. Leverage these relationships by understanding that supporters will tell their stories within their networks.
• Be prepared to start receiving complaints, suggestions and communications; learn from what you’ve done and adjust. Use the negative to improve processes and procedures.
• Maximize the distribution of all content by co-branding offline products with online content (& vice versa). Offline drives online = online drives offline (they each drive the other).
• Combat Entertainment Debt by separating lengthy publications into segments and posting these pieces to the web as periodic episodes.
• Although measuring success is difficult, use whatever mean available—URL shorteners, 3rd party analytics, and numbers of members, fans, friends, followers or re-tweets—to analyze your social media efforts.

Conference Registration Completed on July 14, 2009

I recently finalized arrangements to attend this conference in Chicago, Illinois, on September 15 & 16, 2009, and expect to learn a great deal about social media strategy. Too, I will be asked to share any relevant information with colleagues after returning to work; yet, I hope to provide more frequent updates on MyPage at Govloop.

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Jim Lootens-White

Hey Bill, anyone else from the FS coming to this conference? I’m in Chicago and thought about attending.

Bill Williams

I am not aware of other FS employees scheduled to attend, but I suspect strong interest in this general topic. A co-worker in California originally asked if anyone here would attend; as a result, and after some further investigation, we decided someone should go. Perhaps others are attending the conference that is occurring in the D.C. area right now. If so, it would be helpful ultimately to “compare notes” for the purpose of refining an agency strategy.