Why gov’t agencies should monitor social media

Just read a great blog post:


I agree with all of it, so I’m sharing it here.

Why are you still here? Go read it!

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Jim Kovach

Listening is only part of the equation. Effective COLLABORATION on what the responses should be to what it is that they are Listening to, is a real challenge. Copy/Paste-to Email is the norm, which as we all know gets lost in the abyss forever. So, when the SAME issue comes up again, well- so much for an efficient Gov’t. Rather, the Feds need to approach “Social Media” in a thoughtful, holistic fashion and account for a fully developed social business strategy. One that accounts for more than just “listening”….

Joe Flood

@DDOTDC does a great job at responding to citizen requests in DC. Tell them about a pothole or traffic problem and they get back to you immediately. Not only are they super-responsive but it’s obvious that their Twitter account is handled by a real human. I’ve seen them respond with humor and compassion to citizen concerns – their responses are not handled by a committee or subject to a thousand levels of approval. That’s what we want out of government – that we’ve been heard and our concerns are being acted upon.

Ori Hoffer

At the DGI conference last week, the question came up on who should be doing the listening and responding. Most agencies have either the communications staff or technical staff doing it, but there was an argument to be made that it should be folks in the call centers/customer service department since they already have a significant knowledge base, and are used to answering questions.

Who does the listening/responding at your agency?

Jeffrey Levy

Ori: my hope/plan at EPA is to have comms folks on my team tweeting responses based on support by call center type people. We don’t actually have an 800 number, but we do have contractors who respond to questions that come in via our website. It’s their knowledge, plus our FAQ database, that I want to tap. But putting this in place will have to wait until we hire our new social media lead.

We need people who know how to speak informally and are allowed to speak at all on behalf of EPA. It seems to me that call center staff won’t have either of those, but again, since we don’t even have a call center, I might be mistaken.

Julie Chase

It would be interesting to see the PD on that job. In days of old, admins and receptionists would answer those questions, as they were usually “up front” seeing the customer first. (or in a call center) In it’s infinate wisdom our gov (when it likes to downsize), the GS4’s and 5’s, (most likely receptionists, call center folks and admins) are the first to go. I see where now it is falling on GS09’s and GS11 “techs” to answer questions using “social media”, (facebook or twitter). Our FB page is run by Marines and they do a great job. Our FB page is updated constantly about things going on in and around the installation (that don’t require some sort of secrecy). Inclement weather and the smoke from the fires is a good example. Employees were kept up to date with weather reports and any “official” announcements should the decision be made to leave the installation or if you are at home getting ready for work, just check the FB page and see if you need to bother. Now that we are “allowed” to view FB, it has been very beneficial getting the word out, faster than PAO can send an email.

Lauren Hersh

Good points,all. At a time when our state budget is on life support and outreach is limited to those we are statutorily mandated to reach, utilizing social media has provided both a huge cost savings and a more effective way of providing multiple audiences with important information and quickly addressing their questions and concerns. Because our state regulatory agency involves engaging multiple constituencies and stakeholders (approximately 85,000 professional licensees, future licensees at various locations in the pipeline and the academic community that serves them, as well as potentially millions of consumers) without social media I believe we would not be able to carry out our mission within these budget constraints. I would love to be able to access truly significant metrics to share with our Board. Other than TwitterStats and Facebook Insights, what am I missing by not having social media monitoring beyond what I am able to cobble together on my own?

Ori Hoffer

Robert – you are correct that it is difficult to chart an exact ROI for using social media. What is the value of a twitter retweet or a Facebook comment after all. Jeffrey Hayzlett spoke at the Digital Government Institute event last week and countered with “What’s your ROI – Return on Ignoring?” What harm will be done to your business/agency if you aren’t responding when people have problems or questions? What resources are you spending on publishing content that users aren’t interested in?

By listening to your constituents, you can get ahead of problems before they become institutionalized, restore trust in your agency, turn it into an information resource people seek out rather than complain about. Ask yourself, how frustrated are you when you go to a website and it doesn’t have a way to contact them via e-mail? For a growing number of people, that same disappointment comes when they can’t find you on Facebook.