I don’t believe we’ll stop babbling about social media, whether it should used or not, etc for several more years. Part of the reason stems from the existing culture within most organizations not so much to its validity as a tool, but more so to how it can actually improve the daily business of government. Those of us familiar with the social media and government space know that there are countless examples of such use. However, those examples are not so widely as known to existing culture in most organizations. Perhaps it’s our own fault for not communicating and sharing examples as much outside of the social media adopters within our organizations. Or perhaps it’s because non-social adopters (assuming this is the larger population segment) still haven’t considered it a vital tool.
The web has been seen as the same thing for many organizations. I’m sure you’re aware that there are organizations that are just now coming to grip with accepting that the web is a primary business asset and not just a delivery mechanism to push out news. But I believe government has learned from it’s past mistakes with waiting to consider a tool as a business asset…and now we’re moving forward with thinking that many things should, or could, become a business asset. But it will still take some time for that to sink into the minds of entire organizational cultures.
I recall my father-in-law telling me a story about how when people in his government office first received computers for word-processing and sending emails, many people used them as stands to hold their sticky notes! It wasn’t until people started to understand the benefits and sending emails themselves, and doing other word-processing functions, did others in the organization begin to use them. In a sense, they weren’t mandated to use them…but they were forced to because others were doing it and communication wasn’t happening as effectively because not everyone was onboard. Now, you couldn’t imagine living without email.
I think social media will take that same route. Until we’re all using social tools, embedding them in our business…we won’t see that perspective that it’s “just the way things are” and “we can’t live without it.”