How to Convince Them You Need Social Media

Home Forums Citizen Engagement & Customer Service How to Convince Them You Need Social Media

This topic contains 27 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Allen Sheaprd Allen Sheaprd 6 years, 1 month ago.

  • Author
  • #83651
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    I am working on a proposal to create a social media team within my department. Anyone willing to share their proposal, or make suggestions on how to get budget folks to sanction the idea?

  • #83705
    Profile photo of Allen Sheaprd
    Allen Sheaprd

    Social Media – Taking it to the people; its not just X-Gens.

    My best suggestion is not only to propose a solution or vision but help empower others for Web 2.0 is not a soluiton looking for a problem. Web 2.0 opens government the way the phone did. Odd to think that most government offices did not have a phone at one point (yea think 1930). Most government offices did not have an email address or web site – many still do not. So why open Web 2.0 – its where people are going because it works.

    What is funny is my first computer was all text. 300 baud was fast. Then can modem – 2400 baud, This thing called HTML changed the world. Then 56K baud modems and Web 1.0 . Now we are back to text. Its called Twitter and TEXTing. While the message has not changed the means have. Hence even though government is doing many of the same servies how the message is put out has changed. Keep up or be left behind. Server the people or not serve them. Twitter or not twitter.

    Hope this helps.

  • #83703
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    Thanks Allen. I agree with what you’ve written, and will include similar arguments in my proposal. I guess what I’m really looking for is ways to convince them we need more staff to not only launch, but use the tools correctly and continuously.

  • #83701
    Profile photo of Lauren Modeen
    Lauren Modeen

    Jeffrey Levy is speaking on this topic next week:

  • #83699
    Profile photo of Brian Gryth
    Brian Gryth

    Jeff’s talk on the topic is extremely good. I highly recommend it. I think his slide deck for presentation I attend is on Jeff’s slide share page.

  • #83697
    Profile photo of Thomas Tong
    Thomas Tong

    Recently, one of my volunteers create a “Social Media” strategy. As an person that has come from the executive and business side, I found the plan limited and unconvincing. The plan presented three stages of growing a virtual presence leveraging Tweeter, Facebook/MySpace, and LinkedIn. The goal was to create an virtual army.

    As a person accountable for dollars and results, I found the plan did not connect to the business and operational goals of the initiative. (

    My advice:

    1) from the beginning, present the proposal in direct connection with mandated and administrative goals. make this connection as clear and direct as possible.
    2) articulate the business case of the proposal: expected hard and soft results directly related to social media activities
    3) build the accountability on existing roles – it will not happen without such a structure…or at least will not be sustainable
    4) effectively identify “natural energy” around connection…find the people in your organization that are nodes…connect people or share knowledge and enthusiasm
    5) develop the proposal in phases, and demonstrate value in pilots…each pilot focusing on specific outcomes around administrative and operational goals…that can be tracked and reported on
    6) leverage existing structures in your program area…such as marketing, clearinghouse services…and make them part of your plan…enroll the leaders of these structures to endorse the plan.
    7) co-present with a cross functional group…and let each group explain how they would benefit from a social media program.

    Hope my experience helps. I am willing to chat on the telephone if my sharing has any value. Be well, Thomas.

  • #83695
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    Great ideas Thomas. I like the idea of co-presenting with a cross functional group, especially since I work for a county government with a great deal of crossover. I may call on you as I get a little further into this. Thank you, Kim

  • #83693
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    Great. Thank you Lauren for the tip.

  • #83691
    Profile photo of Mark Van Alstyne
    Mark Van Alstyne

    Spot on, Thomas! Policy that enables the steps you outlined will make it stick.

  • #83689
    Profile photo of Adam Arthur
    Adam Arthur

    You may want to approach it from a scientific angle. There are proven social models available everywhere; but, you may want to focus on one that makes the most sense for government. I personally like knowledge-based collaboration and a Community of Practice. Both allow you to show precident as well as a format for creating knowledge products within interconnected groups.

    I would be happy to discuss this in detail with you, if you want.

  • #83687
    Profile photo of Gerry La Londe-Berg
    Gerry La Londe-Berg

    I posted one aspect of the discussion on my blog, Who Cares and So What, concerning putting information on the internet. It’s not directly social media because it concerns posting anything that can be public in an accessible place, but it’s one aspect of helping people understand why this approach serves the public.

    The whole transparency section is an amalgamation of things I gathered via GovLoop and other resources.

  • #83685
    Profile photo of Salina Washington
    Salina Washington

    I agree with the suggestions made, and I would like to add to Thomas Tong’s seventh point regarding co-presenting with cross-functional groups, the importance of gathering support from those departments that are actively participating in social networking. Seek out those departments and find out what strategies are working for them, lessons learned, how much time they are dedicating to maintenance, how they are measuring their success and what is needed to grow their online communities. This information may provide additional support for your strategy, or as what happened in my case, may even alter the direction of your overall strategy/proposal.

    As an example, on a more micro-level, we recently launched our new web portal, (DO), which features recreation, tourism and conservation opportunities from nine cross-functional departments. Our social network strategy included the creation of a (DO) Facebook fan page and a Twitter micro-blog, which would be shared and maintained by a representative from each department. We thought this would be a great way to give each department that did not have representation on these social networks an opportunity to get their feet wet, and for those that were already engaging, we thought it would give them a broader appeal. However, we were met with resistance from our anchor tenant, Parks & Recreation, as they had already built a fan base of nearly 1,500 on Facebook ( and were certain they would lose fans if they asked them to now start following Parks & Rec on the DO Facebook fan page.

    As the project manager and internet presence strategist, it was my job to get them to see the value of collaborating with other departments; however, after several meetings, I found myself supporting their position. Through our discussions, I learned how much time they had spent building their fan base and how dedicated they were to protecting and respecting those relationships. After all, they were the ones out there answering questions, clearing up incorrect information, adding photos, posting events, tracking statistics, and through trial and error, were learning what moved their fans.

    Long story short, our Parks & Rec social networking rep co-presented with our project team at our pre-launch stakeholder’s meeting in which we covered the five “Ws” of engaging in social networking. The information was well received by their peers and led us to modify our strategy.

    We have since launched the portal with a social network “index” page in which each department that is currently participating in social networking is listed individually in a tabular format which displays their most recent posts. This layout accomplishes two key things: 1) It allows each participating department to maintain their unique identities, and 2) It allows potential fans/followers an opportunity to easily toggle between networks and view the department’s most recent posts/blogs without having to leave our site.

    As a side note, first, I would like to add that providing examples of the types of comments (both positive and negative) being made on social networks, blogs and forums about our elected officials and programs & services has helped build support for our social network strategy. I have stressed that although we have no control over what people are saying about us, by not engaging, we are allowing others to shape our identity and spread incorrect information. As a second note, if you have not yet documented your social media guidelines, you may want to take a look at what the State of Utah has published online (…).

    I hope this information helps and I wish you luck!

  • #83683
    Profile photo of Dave Briggs
    Dave Briggs

    Get a spot on a meeting agenda, and make the most out of the time you have, by focusing on what you can achieve. Don’t go into detail about how to set up a blog, or how to tag a link in Delicious. Instead, focus your energy on whipping up some enthusiasm, and inspiring a bit of curiosity.

    Also, focus on what the benefits are for them, and for their organisation. Don’t make the mistake of putting all this stuff into a box marked ‘web’ or ‘communications’. Make it clear that this is less about marketing and a whole lot more about forging a new relationship between the organisation and citizens, or customers.

    In other words, before you even mention technology, make sure you have some idea of what the point of all this is. For local government, this is about opening councils to conversations between authorities and the people, businesses and organisations it serves. It’s about bringing together communications, customer service and service design into one iterative process, each one informing the other. It’s about local government choosing the right delivery method for each service it provides, whether doing it itself, getting a social enterprise involved or handing it over to the private sector. It’s about government at all levels taking a more forward thinking attitude to its information assets and making them available to those who can do useful things with them.

    The web, and social media, is just a means to an end, after all. Anyone who tells any organisation that they are golden if they just start a blog, or twitter account, is doing that organisation a massive disservice. At best the web, social or otherwise, is an enabler to a bigger change and one that benefits everyone.

    Because, of course, websites don’t change the world, people do.

  • #83681
    Profile photo of Marco Morales
    Marco Morales

    Social Media is not an Auxiliary Means of Communication

    Social Media enhances effective message dissemination by providing different platforms for interaction and networking with a wide variety of audiences. Integrating Social Media into how government does business is essential to remaining relevant and effective.

    Traditionally, government has engaged audiences through traditional media – newspaper, TV, radio or magazines. Getting coverage with these outlets involved dealing with journalists by pitching stories or responding to queries. Decision makers at these outlets wanted to appeal to large numbers of readers which limited the demand for more niche information (i.e., most of what government agencies do).

    Widespread use of the Internet and a buildup of applications and software make producing and publishing content on the Web easy and accessible. Government workers can easily participate in creating and disseminating content online.

    Social Media Makes Discovery and Filtering Easy

    Social Media evolved as a way to sort the information being produced. When traditional media churned out its standard mass communication products, the information was generically pre-labeled, i.e. Business Section, Local, Classifieds, Front Page. Now with Social Media, tags (labels), comments (opinions), ratings and sharing, all being done by Social Media users, have allowed audiences to pick-and-choose what information it gets and discover new information and topics.

    Traditional Media Uses the Internet, Too

    Traditional news outlets are not dead, but trying to find a way to recover from a double blow. The recession and the internet have all but crippled the Fourth Estates leverage on information. The New York Times, along with other newspapers, is busy trying to figure out how to get revenue – not get information out (newspaper ads equate to more revenue for publishing). This is a key time to use the power of democratized information sharing. Journalists and editors use Social Media to research and find sources for stories. With staff and budget cuts, using the internet to find the latest story is a starting point becoming more popular. Of course, sometimes credibility suffers as a result of original source.

    Example of Changing the Way Public Affairs Does Business

    Before Social Media became popular, Public Relations had a tried and true way to increase the chances of getting published. Pitching a release on Monday would leverage better odds of getting published than a release pitched on a Friday. After the evolution to the 24-hour news cycle and the power of Social Media to gain popularity, Monday releases are no longer the best way to get your information out. Releasing information on a Friday will give the weekend, when most internet users have free time, for it to gain momentum and get noticed by Traditional Media. This is just one way to effectively embrace what has evolved from the technology adaptation of Social Media users and media outlets.

    Just some thoughts …


  • #83679
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    Really good thoughts… some of which I will borrow when writing my proposal. Thank you Marco.

  • #83677
    Profile photo of Kim Stafford
    Kim Stafford

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience Salina.

    I love the idea of creating cross-functional Facebook and Twitter accounts… we already do this with our web homepage, so it should be an easy step. And I love the idea of including examples of positive and negative comments in my proposal. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, everyone is talking transparency, but its still a bit scary for some.

    The Utah guidelines are also helpful, since we are in the process of creating a social media policy as well.

  • #83675
    Profile photo of David Dejewski
    David Dejewski

    As one of “them” who needed convincing, I am impressed by results. If you can find on this site or similar sites, examples of how social media either helped you or someone else to solve a problem, or connect more effectively with people, you might consider using examples. Maybe grab some insightful quotes or suggestions that you would not otherwise have come up with on your own. Show the force multiplying effect of having 20,000 additional sets of eyes on your problem.

  • #83673
    Profile photo of Thomas Tong
    Thomas Tong

    Adam, I think you bring up an important point. If the business need is seen as knowledge sharing or the formation of knowledge assets around critical program activities, then a KM approach which incorporates Social Media could be a good strategy. As with Social Media, KM has had to go through several years of maturation before organizations understood how to position it directly with business value and results. Even if you do not leverage a known set of practices KM related…any mature set of practices that get people to be together is a natural foundation for Social Media.

  • #83671
    Profile photo of Thomas Tong
    Thomas Tong

    Salina, excellent sharing. I would love to learn more about your experiences. I am involved in a non-profit government initiative called I-Love-My-Country (, wherein social media can be very powerful if done correctly. I will read the State of Utah…

  • #83669
    Profile photo of Brian Kissel
    Brian Kissel

    If you want to see the benefit of social media, just read the case study on Facebook and Citysearch where providing activity stream-based social publishing led to 28 referral visits to Citysearch from every cross-referenced posting on Facebook, and a 300% increase in registrations at Citysearch.

    Making it easy for your website visitors to register and login with an existing account at Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, HotMail, Twitter, Windows LiveID then to post back their activities on your website to their friends on Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace can create lots of referral traffic and increased registration on your websites. This is all open standard or publicly documented API-level functionality. Alternatively, JanRain’s RPX provides this in a turn-key software as a service (SaaS) deployment model.

  • #83667
    Profile photo of Salina Washington
    Salina Washington

    Likewise Thomas. I recently attended a luncheon hosted by AFP titled “Social Networking for Fundraisers.”. If you are interested, I will send you some of my notes. I would like to hear more about your definition of social media being done correctly in the world of nonprofits.

  • #83665
    Profile photo of servio medina
    servio medina

    Thanks to Kim and others for this discussion. Replying for points of consideration, with a specific focus on the use of commercial social networking sites (e.g., FaceBook) in the workplace.

    The concerns I hear repeatedly in permitting access to/use of *commercial* social media sites are risks to
    (a) information systems (e.g., introduction of MALWARE),
    (b) information (e.g., leakage of sensitive information),
    (c) workplace productivity.

    These are the big three that I see senior leadership having concerns about, and would be particularly interested in any studies addressing the third.


  • #83663
    Profile photo of Paul Canning
    Paul Canning

    This is an excellent blog post by a friend of mine.

  • #83661
    Profile photo of Thomas Tong
    Thomas Tong

    Marco, I really enjoyed your sharing. Your perspective truly helps me with understanding how to better position Social Media in Government. Thank you. Thomas.

  • #83659
    Profile photo of Lisa Howdin
    Lisa Howdin

    I’m starting that process by providing a regular report to the executive on discussions and posts regarding our organisation. I am hoping by being able to demonstrate an increase in the number and quality of discussions, that we need to not only pay more attention to monitoring but also to respond to the debates. Ideally I’d like to have a widget on the intranet with the latest 10-15 posts/discussions – maybe something like this: just to keep it in people’s minds.

    That being said, I don’t think it is the ‘social media team’s’ responsibility to respond…I think that should be the line area so eventually I’d then like to have a link to the protocols for online media participation ( and perhaps something from the CEO or Board encouraging staff to participate!

  • #83657
    Profile photo of Claudia Boyles
    Claudia Boyles

    okay, so it has the “f” word in it, but it is powerful stuff.

  • #83655
    Profile photo of Tom Vannoy
    Tom Vannoy

    Great article in the Harvard Business Review (if you have access) this past month. Check it out if you can, it provides some good guidance. That guidance is also available here on GovLoop though. :)

  • #83653
    Profile photo of David Dejewski
    David Dejewski

    Lisa, Your post reminded me of a woman I ran into back in July. She’s an author and expert on the subject of measuring public relationships. I enjoyed her book and our conversations. Read my post on the subject and scroll through it for links to her Web sites, book and presentations.

    Her measurement techniques might be useful for your project. They helped me to get my head around measuring effectiveness in this space.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.