Social Media and Gov: Are We Still in Love?

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Mitch Netzer 5 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #175344

    It’s 2013.

    Some would cite 2009 as the year when greater social media adoption was introduced to government as a viable partner for increased transparency and engagement with citizens and collaboration with each other. You could almost pin the date of their meeting and really hitting it off to the Open Government memorandum in January 2009. It was as if they were given permission to date.

    So that means we’ve had 4-5 years for the social media relationship in government to blossom (even more if you look back to use of blogs, wikis and YouTube – hat tip to @digiphile for the friendly admonishment) – and it has to a large degree. But not all social media connections have been created equal.

    In some instances, leadership was on board and drove beautiful, innovative agency-wide initiatives (Retro love song: “I’m so into you.”).

    In other situations, there was tepid approval that led to equally lukewarm results (song: “We are never ever getting back together”).

    It’s also quite likely that some leaders resisted completely and just plain ol’ refused to go along (song: “Whatya want from me?”).

    What’s the state of the social media relationship in your agency?
    Are you still in the honeymoon phase or have you fallen out of love?

    Shoot me an email if you want to reply anonymously ([email protected]).

    P.S. Our friends at the Partnership for Public Service are hosting a free event next Wednesday, January 9, in which they’ll release the results of a study regarding social media and Federal leaders. You can register for that report release event here.

  • #175374

    Mitch Netzer

    Working with the cities and smaller local governments; I tend to see that the one’s who haven’t started utilizing social media as a communication tool are simply too scared of the possible ramifications of it (e.g. public records requests as the major factor). Time-and-time again I hear them say that until there are real, clear example and rules/laws around that specific topic, they don’t feel “safe” in using these platforms.

    I will say that many I meet understand and see social media’s usefulness, but as of now the benefits do not out-weigh the fear of the possible consequences.

    Hope that makes sense!

  • #175372

    Agreed, Mitchell. I was talking with some communications folks in the state legislatures a couple months ago and they were citing the same hurdle.

  • #175370

    I see our group as struggling with it. We are in a program that thrives on human connection and it is part of our mission (National Park Service, Yosemite). I get frustrated going to our website and seeing very outdated information. Guess the public doesn’t know it is outdated, so it is my own issue.

    I push for more involvement all the time even though it has nothing to do with my job. I think it should be part of our job descriptions, data and communication (social media). Given the time frame for classification of position descriptions, we will never be able to keep up with technology. We have been lucky hiring a few people who use social media in their private lives and can carry that over into the workplace.

    I think I agree with Mitchell that many are afraid of ramifications. Also, with all the budget cuts, it means more work, which most of us have already had to pick up additional duties as people leave for whatever reasons.

  • #175368

    Wow – the NPS seems like it has a unique opportunity to use social media in creative ways – especially Yosemite! I met some folks at Haleakala in Hawaii doing some cool things.

    You could promote check-ins, photo / videosharing, etc.

    In terms of more work, a lot of the time it can be as simple as re-purposing other marketing activities to save time and editing iterations. I know that’s ideal world, but it can get an agency in the game.

    To your point about people using it in their personal lives and leveraging that for the agency, USGS invited their employees to serve as agency ambassadors on their Facebook page. Cool concept.

  • #175366

    I work in the Resources Management & Science Division. Lots of scientists and so many of our staff are out in the field which presents so many opportunities for great stories that could be shared. I just see a need for management to encourage this. If it is an endangered species or archeological site that can’t be disclosed, they don’t have to tell people where it is, just tell them what they found or saw. These are not necessarily tech people which was why I said that it should probably be part of the position description.

    Your ideas for check-ins, photos etc are great. I suggested citizen science to collect more information but it didn’t fly. Have people on hikes/camping turning in data to a secured site where we can review it and then follow up if it seems like good data. They can give us GPS coordinates, pictures, but other people can’t pick up the info to use it. I still think it is a good idea.

  • #175364

    Chris Stinson

    I think too many government groups have tried to “Build” social media, like companies build marketing plans. The best social government sites are natural extensions of the people who work for the agency, not manufactured interest campaigns built on press releases and talking points. Conversations work best, when all parties enter without a calculated agenda.

    It also seems that many of the better sites are smaller in audience scope, rather then being “all things government” (My State Travel Page versus My State Government Page).

  • #175362

    Melanie Cooper

    So that means we’ve had 4-5 years for the social media relationship in government to blossom (even more if you look back to use of blogs, wikis and YouTube

    In terms of technology, 4-5 years might seem like a long time but in terms of local government, effective social media is only beginning to get off the ground. It has been a watch-wait-see what happens approach and now that social media appears to be here to stay, local governments are beginning to formulate policies, procedures, and resources to manage and utilize it.

    I would say social media at the local level is only now getting off the ground in earnest.

  • #175360

    Melanie – Do you have any examples / models of local governments that are doing it well from your perspective?

  • #175358

    I agree, Chris….though I would advocate for integration of social media activities into the overall marketing/ public affairs plan.

    I also concur on targeted vs. general pages. Got examples you like?

  • #175356

    Don’t give up! Send examples of other agencies that are doing it well and reaping ROI to key stakeholders!

  • #175354

    Melanie Cooper

    I am probably not the best person to ask since I spend most of my time immersed in my own local government and figuring out ways to implement social media within their parameters but a few cities I have noticed who seem to be doing it well are:

    Arlington, TX

    Evanston, IL

    Our city’s focus has been to use social media more as a way to push content to citizens through services they already use such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Email, Blogger, etc. The idea is that all City communication should originate from the website and from there can be pushed to social media services so that residents get the same, consistent information regardless of which service they utilize. Social media took off a bit haphazardly at first and is now being reigned in a bit so it can be rolled out in a more uniform fashion. That is why I said that it is my feeling social media is only getting off the ground in earnest – the first four or five years have been somewhat experimental.

  • #175352

    Thanks, Melanie. We are working on a guide to social media for agencies and I hope it will be a useful resource for you. Planning to drop in mid- to late-March.

  • #175350

    Melanie Cooper

    Thanks! Will do.

  • #175348

    Chris Stinson

    Good blogs:

    On a US Federal level:

    From the Great White North:

    Who thought a scottish economy blog would be very wordy and interesting?

    Newcastle (UK) City Council Voice

    For Facebook, a good interaction is:!/pages/Oakland-Pet-Adoption-Center/94445739450?fref=ts

    But, many government Facebook sites, look like a endless one way announcement/message board with no human interactions (My guess is programmed posts) – no pictures, impersonal text.

    Off topic amd not a government blog, a former coroner has a bit to say (although not much lately)

    (sorry for any typos – my old fingers don’t do well on modern technology)

  • #175346

    Chris Stinson

    Bad cutting and pasting

    the second blog link is from Virginia, not Canada

    The Canadian blog is

    This one does a nice job with guest posts.

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