May 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm #131224
Read today that the WH dedicated staff specifically to responding to social media stuff.
Is this a good or a bad move? If good, can/should agencies copy?
I can see both sides:
Good: get in front of the story and tell your side + show the public you care what they think
Bad: could seem paranoid and a bit “Big Brotherish” + does responding directly lend social media attacks credence + how do you know when a blog/post should be taken seriously?
What do you all think?
May 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm #131244
I think it’s important as an organization to have some sort of a policy in place that informs decisions about when/whether to respond on social media. Here is the gold-star example, IMO, from DOD: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/photos/uncategorized/2009/01/06/air_force_blog_char.jpg
May 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm #131242
I subscribed to the tweets. They are indeed rapid response. That seems useful.
Wonder what the strategy is behind the username – jesseclee44. Full disclosure is made in the bio, but still the username seems like a personal account.
The image with the first tweet is funny – from the Terminator – though a bit ominous considering that it’s an official account. Not sure everyone will find it amusing.
May 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm #131240
This is the first I’ve heard of this but I think it is a great idea!
May 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm #131238
I am ambivalent about it.
The trouble with it is that, if centralized, it imposes the burden of having a very large “machinery” to prioritize what needs to be responded to and maintain some degree of coherence and consistency in how all of that “incoming” is responded to. At a time when so many are kvetching about government being “too big”, increasing the staff complement to deal with chitter-chatter (and all that staff will need managers and editors too) seems wasteful. Based on what I’ve seen happen with simply the addition of being able to e-mail the office of the head of government, there is also a very great risk of a chilling effect as the senior management of that machinery strive to make sure there is consistency in outgoing messages, and that it is appropriately adapted to all sub-communities.
At the same time, I see so many members of the public getting it wrong. And as I am fond of repeating: when transparency gets up and leaves the table, fear, loathing and paranoid conspiracy theories are more than happy to take its seat. So there is some merit in individual public servants trying to rectify misunderstanding when they spot it. Where I get cautious is when it turns into some sort of organized army, rather than individual public servants resonding to misunderstandings about their agency’s actions.
It wold be nice if agencies could maintain web pages with explanations and rationales, phrased in “regular guy” language, and let their employees know what’s posted on a regular basis. Then, all that would need to happen is that any employee who stumbles on a misunderstanding when they see it on some social media site or forum, can simply link to the agency message, instead of having to figure out how they’re going to defend their agency’s activities.
The qualifier is that whatever the agencies post has to be authentic, not bafflegab intended to deflect. It has to be sincere and convey that “This is what we are doing because we feel it is the best course of action, though not necessarily the most expedient/cheapest/pleasing/etc, for the following reasons…”.
May 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm #131236
I have a lot of the same concerns. It’s a very, very, very fine line between information and propaganda. Especially as we head towards an election season.
I wonder if any academics, analysts, nonprofits, etc. are studying the impact of federal social media on public discourse. As a govie, I am watching these issues unfold with fascination. Because it seems like people are acting without full consideration of the impact and consequences (good and bad).
During this time when we lack clear answers, is critically important to keep thinking about this, asking questions, discussing issues. There are some excellent forums now for doing so – not just GovLoop but also the Federal Social Media Subcouncil, Federal Web Content Managers Council, etc. It is the equivalent of continuing education for real life.
These forums can help us tackle tough things we really need guidance on. For example, when bloggers or tweeters say unkind or accusatory things, how should agency respond? I recall that the Air Force posted a nice infograph on that. It should be kept somewhere for others to refer to.
More broadly, I really feel like communicators need some sort of academic training regarding mass communication theory, the theory and practical responsibilities of a career public servant and how these are affected by social media.
Last thought…echoing the wondering about where the conversation about transparency has gone. Seems like a dead issue now. Why?
(Note – as always, all opinions my own.)
May 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm #131234
If you find the topic interesting, then I recommend reading an absolutely delightful paper written a few years ago for a Canadian commission of inquiry by one of our elder statement of public admin and government that I’m proud to call a friend: http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/206/301/pco-bcp/commissions/oliphant/2010-07-20/english/documents/pdf/reportthomas-en.pdf
The paper concerns the manner in which incoming and outgoing communications are managed at “the center” (in this case, the Prime Minister’s office), but the principles are the same as regards the WH. Much of the data comes from the 2003-2006 period, but the trend is evident. It’ll get ya thinking.
Perhaps equally informative was the defensive manner in which critics responded to the paper: http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/206/301/pco-bcp/commissions/oliphant/2010-07-20/english/research/policysubmissions.php.htm
June 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm #131232
Picking up on this conversation from a few weeks ago, one of our question box submissions was on how agencies manage the approval of social media posts in a timely manner. Any other thoughts on the matter?
June 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm #131230
Just as people are assigned to read the newspapers and public affairs people officially respond to editorials, I’d say, “yes,” it fits right in; however, with the percentage that is junk and inflammatory to get a response from the government only to make more out of it, I’d say, “no,” unless it comes from a credible source. Better yet is for an agency to its their own forum they can control what is acceptable coming in, and going out. It may sound like propaganda but it is no different than the radio talk show host screening calls that come in. Television does even more vetting. I’m not saying don’t accept or answer the hard questions. m Just make sure it’s not, “When did you stop beating your wife…”
Getting in front of the story means you weren’t proactive in the first place and gives the impression you’re trying to spin or politicize. Best case: break the story yourself in all honesty and frankness. Can’t tell the whole story. Tell them you can’t. Worst case: try to smooth it over, make it sound less “bad” than it is.
June 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm #131228
I have been an advocate of this for some time. I do customer service. The questions may be complicated, but at the heart of them, they are very similar. Once you begin answering these questions generically, you answer other questions before they can even come in. Protocols that are real and perceived as necessary to the readers are acceptable to all. Realize that only mentioning only the positive outcomes without acknowledging the negatives don’t work either. But if all this ingrained in the response the inquiries become fewer as confidence in credibility to the answers grow. Naturally, I don’t have a crystal ball, but that is what I have seen in my world of working highly-emotionally charged questions from a relatively uneducated group, and relaying information and possible answers to alleviate concern or alarm.
June 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm #131226
Hi Stephanie –
You can use tools like Actiance (I do work for them) to create a moderated work flow in which messages can be posted, be approved by a moderator, then push to that specific social network. I’ll send you a private message w/ more details.
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