New IBM Report: A Manager’s Guide to Assessing the Impact of Government Social Media Interactions

IBM’s Center for the Business of Government has published a new report: “A Manager’s Guide to Assessing the Impact of Government Social Media Interactions“.IBM Center for the Business of Government: A Manager’s Guide to Assessing the Impact of Government Social Media Interactions

This new report addresses the key question of how government should measure the impact of its social media use.

Social media data – as part of the big data landscape – has important signaling function for government organizations. Public managers can quickly assess what citizens think about draft policies, understand the impact they will have on citizens or actively pull citizens ideas into the government innovation process. However, big data collection and analysis are for many government organizations still a barrier and it is important to understand how to make sense of the massive amount of data that is produced on social media every day.

This report guides public managers step-by-step through the process of slicing and dicing big data into small data sets that provide important mission-relevant insights to public managers.

First, I offer a survey of the social media measurement landscape showing what free tools are used and the type of insights they can quickly provide through constant monitoring and for reporting purposes. Then I review the White House’s digital services measurement framework which is part of the overall Digital Government Strategy. Next, I discuss the design steps for a social media strategy which will be basis for all social media efforts and should include the mission and goals which can then be operationalized and measured. Finally, I provide insights how the social media metrics can be aligned with the social media strategic goals and how these numbers and other qualitative insights can be reported to make a business case for the impact of social media interactions in government.

I interviewed social media managers in the federal government, observed their online discussions about social media metrics, and reviewed GSA’s best practices recommendations and practitioner videos to understand what the current measurement practices are. Based on these insights, I put together a comprehensive report that guides managers through the process of setting up a mission-driven social media strategy and policy as the basis for all future measurement activities, and provided insights on how they can build a business with insights derived from both quantitative and qualitative social media data.

 

Media coverage:

 

New Public Administration Review article: A Three-Stage Adoption Process for Social Media Use in Government

Together with my co-author Professor Stuart Bretschneider I wrote an article that was just published for early view in the Public Administration Review (PAR). In this article, we develop a model of social adoption in the public sector. Here is the abstract:

Social media applications are slowly diffusing across all levels of government. The organizational dynamics underlying adoption and use decisions follow a process similar to that for previous waves of new information and communication technologies. The authors suggest that the organizational diffusion of these types of new information and communication technologies, initially aimed at individual use and available through markets, including social media applications, follows a three-stage process. First, agencies experiment informally with social media outside of accepted technology use policies. Next, order evolves from the first chaotic stage as government organizations recognize the need to draft norms and regulations. Finally, organizational institutions evolve that clearly outline appropriate behavior, types of interactions, and new modes of communication that subsequently are formalized in social media strategies and policies. For each of the stages, the authors provide examples and a set of propositions to guide future research.

Full reference:

Mergel, I. and Bretschneider, S. I. (2013), A Three-Stage Adoption Process for Social Media Use in Government. Public Administration Review. doi: 10.1111/puar.12021

New article: Networks in Public Administration in PMR

CoverSheet PMR articleMy co-authors Jesse Lecy (GSU), Hans Peter Schmitz (SU) and I have published an article in Public Management Review:

Lecy, J., Mergel, I., Schmitz, H. P. (2013): Networks in Public Administration, published online DOI:10.1080/14719037.2012.743577, in: Public Management Review. [Link to pre-publication version on SSRN]

Here is the abstract:

Network-focused research in public administration has expanded rapidly over the past two decades. This rapid growth has created come confusion about terminology and approaches to research in the field. We organize the network literature in public administration using compact citation networks to identify coherent subdomains focused on (1) policy formation, (2) governance and (3) policy implementation. We trace how these domains differ in their approach to defining the role of networks, relationships and actors and to what extent the articles apply formal network analysis techniques. Based on a subsequent content analysis of the sample articles, we identify promising research avenues focused on the wider adoption of methods derived from social network analysis and the conditions under which networks actually deliver improved results.

Please email me in case you want to read the article!

New article “The social media innovation challenge in the public sector”, in: Information Polity

Albert Meijer, Frank Bannister and Marcel Thaens edited a special issue of “Information Polity” with the topic “ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade”. They put together a tremendous group of international e-Government researchers and today the special issue was posted online. The articles included in the special issue include:

  1. ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade, by Albert MeijerFrank Bannister and Marcel Thaens
  2. Forward to the past: Lessons for the future of e-government from the story so far, by Frank Bannister and Regina Connolly
  3. The Information Polity: Towards a two speed future? by John A. Taylor
  4. E-Government is dead: Long live Public Administration 2.0 by Miriam Lips
  5. Surveillance as X-ray by C. William R. Webster
  6. Towards a smart State? Inter-agency collaboration, information integration, and beyond by J. Ramon Gil-Garcia
  7. The social media innovation challenge in the public sector by Ines Mergel
  8. A good man but a bad wizard. About the limits and future of transparency of democratic governments by Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen
  9. The Do It Yourself State by Albert J. Meijer
  10. Five trends that matter: Challenges to 21st century electronic government by Hans Jochen Scholl
  11. Why does e-government looks as it does? looking beyond the explanatory emptiness of the e-government concept by Victor Bekkers
  12. Big questions of e-government research by Mete Yıldız

My own article focuses on the innovation challenges government agencies are facing when they are implementing social media:

Abstract: The use of social media applications has been widely accepted in the U.S. government. Many of the social media strategies and day-to-day tactics have also been adopted around the world as part of local Open Government Initiatives and the worldwide Open Government Partnership. Nevertheless, the acceptance and broader adoption of sophisticated tactics that go beyond information and education paradigm such as true engagement or networking strategies are still in its infancy. Rapid diffusion is challenged by informal bottom-up experimentation that meets institutional and organizational challenges hindering innovative tactics. Going forward governments and bureaucratic organizations are also facing the challenge to show the impact of their social media interactions. Each of these challenges is discussed in this article and extraordinary examples, that are not widely adopted yet, are provided to show how government organizations can potentially overcome these challenges.

Full reference: 

Mergel, I. (2012): The social media innovation challenge in the public sector, in: Information Polity,  Vol. 17, No. 3-4, pp. 281–292, DOI 10.3233/IP-2012-000281

Feel free to email me (ines_mergel (at) yahoo dot com) in case you can’t access a digital copy through your library!

New book published: “Social Media in the Public Sector”

I am excited to announce the release of my first sole-authored book: “Social media in the public sector“. It will be officially introduced to the public at the annual NASPAA conference in Austin, TX, on October 18, 2012.

The book is based on my research that started about three years ago. My initial interest started with the success of  Obama’s Internet strategy to reach audiences via social media who are unlikely to interact with politicians or government in general. As the open government initiative developed in the U.S. federal government, I started to interview public managers to understand how they are (re)organizing their standard operating procedures to use social media for regular governing operations in support of the mission of their organizations. The book provides insights into the strategic, managerial, and administrative aspects of social media adoption in the public sector.

The publisher’s book page includes resources for professors who would like to use the book in their e-government classes, including week-by-week Powerpoint slides and an article published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education that outlines my teaching approach and learning experiences.

The book went through a thorough double-blind peer-review process and I would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback.

Next month an accompanying field guide will be released.

Here is a link to the instructor resources on Jossey-Bass/Wiley’s website.

Blurb:

In today’s networked world, the public sector is tapping into new media applications to increase government organizations’ participation, transparency and collaboration. The book contains a review of the current state of the public administration literature and shows how Government 2.0 activities can potentially challenge or change the existing paradigms. It includes an overview of each of the tools used to increase participation, transparency and collaboration. The book also highlights case examples at the local, state, federal and international levels. The author offers recommendations for the implementation processes at the end of each chapter and includes suggested readings and references.

Endorsements

Comprehensive and compelling, Social Media in the Public Sector makes the case that to achieve Government 2.0, agencies must first adopt Web 2.0 social technologies. Ines Mergel explains both how and why in this contemporary study of traditional institutions adopting and adapting to new technologies.
Beth Simone Noveck, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer (2009-2011)

Ines Mergel moves beyond the hype with detailed, comprehensive research on social media technologies, use, management and policies in government. This book should be required reading for researchers and public managers alike.
Jane Fountain, Professor and Director, National Center for Digital Government, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Professor Mergel has produced a foundational work that combines the best kind of scholarship with shoe-leather reporting and anthropology that highlights the debates that government agencies are struggling to resolve and the fruits of their efforts as they embrace the social media revolution. Social Media in the Public Sector is a first and sets a high standard against which subsequent analysis will be measured.
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Dr. Mergel is an award-winning author who again wields her story skills in this book. She excels in explaining in concrete, practical terms how government managers can use social media to serve the public. Her book puts years of research into one handy guide. It’s practical. It’s readable. And it’s an essential read.
John M. Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government

JVWR: MuniGov 2.0, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life

Michelle Garder, Pam Broviak, Bill Greeves and I have just published a paper in the Journal of Virtual World Research. Here is the abstract and link to the pdf file:

The virtual world Second Life allows social interactions among avatars  – online representations of real-life people – and is slowly adopted in the public sector as a tool for innovative ways to interact with citizens, interorganizational collaboration, education and recruitment (Wyld 2008). Governments are setting up online embassies, voting simulations, interactive learning simulations and virtual conferences. While there are  very prominent and elaborate examples on the federal and state level of government, we have seen only a handful of applications on the local level. One of these local examples is  MuniGov2.0  – a collaboration of municipal government professionals who regularly  meet in Second Life. The goal of the group is  to  support each others geographically  distributed implementation attempts to incorporate new technologies in the public sector. Interviews with the founding members and core group show clear mission-specific needs  that Second Life collaboration can support, but that there are also technological and behavioral challenges involved using this highly interactive environment. The article will highlight the challenges, how they were met, lessons learned, future directions of the  project and ends with recommendations for the use of Second Life in local government.

Full reference:

Mergel, I., Gardner, M., Broviak, P., Greeves, B. (2011): MuniGov20, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life, in: Journal of Virtual World Research, Volume 4, Number 2: Goverment & Military.

Keywords: Virtual worlds, Second Life, online collaboration, local government, Gov 2.0, Web   2.0

 

 


							

New working paper: Tying the network together

David Lazer (Northeastern & Harvard University) and I have just posted a new working paper titled “Tying the network together – Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers“. It’s up on the Social Science Research Network for comments. We are in the process of making some substantial changes to it, but would love to hear your feedback!

Here is the abstract:

Networks are often see as emergent and self managed; and yet much of the research on networks examines how networks affect the effectiveness of systems and individuals. Is it possible to intervene in the configuration of a network to improve how it functions? Here we evaluate the impact of an intervention to change the array of relationships connecting a set of distributed public managers—State Health Officials (SHOs). SHOs were brought together for a one week executive educational program near the beginning of their tenures. This paper evaluates the question as to whether this program had long run effects on the ties among SHOs. Using a combination of survey and interview data, we find that there is a substantial effect on the probability of ties between individuals that attend the program together, relative to individuals who attend the program in different cohorts. Given recent findings that highlight the importance of interpersonal networks in the effectiveness of individual managers, this suggests a potential role for interventions to improve the efficiency of dispersed, public sector manager to manager networks.

Lazer, David and Mergel, Ines A., Tying the Network Together: Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers (July 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1881674

PA Times: Government 2.0 revisited – Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector

The ASPA PA Times Summer Issue just came out with a special issue on social media and Web 2.0. Here is the text I originally submitted to the editors. It is printed on p. 7 & 10:

Government 2.0 revisited – Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector

Government 2.0 – or the use of social media in the public sector – has become a hot topic. Agencies and departments on all levels of government are adding Facebook, Twitter or YouTube buttons to their otherwise static – infrequently updated – websites. It is still not clear how successful and useful social media is in the public sector and how agencies can design their own social media strategies.
The term Government 2.0 was coined by Eggers in 2005 as the way that “Unhyped and therefore unnoticed, technology is altering the behavior and mission of city halls, statehouses, schools, and federal agencies across America.”, and he goes on describing Government 2.0 as “A form of digital revolution that transforms government.” Only with the successful Internet campaign and use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter of the then presidential candidate Obama the term was picked up again and is now widely used to describe the use of new forms of technology such as free and open social networking services in government (sometimes called social media or new media).

President Obama’s so-called Open Government memo from January 21, 2009 called for a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government and directed “Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.“ Today, Government 2.0 is the “hyped” form of the use of social media in government and by its diverse stakeholders that transforms the way that government interacts with citizens in a participatory, transparent and collaborative way. The use of social media and the actual participation of all federal departments and agencies were reinforced by the Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orzag’s executive directive giving agencies a 60-day deadline to publish their open government plans and upload their first datasets to a dedicated website called data.gov. In April 2010, Cass Sunstein, Whitehouse advisor, published a memo that specified the use of social media in government advising the heads of the federal agencies and departments on how to handle content published and public feedback posted on social media sites under the Paperwork Reduction Act. While agencies were hesitant at the beginning, the GSA’s “Terms of Service Process for Free Social Media Products” with no-cost social media providers made it easier for agencies and departments to pick and chose the applications they found useful to promote a greater openness.
What we can now observe is a surge to use social networking services in government: almost every federal agency and department has at least one Facebook organizational page and at least one official Twitter account – many even have a dedicated social media site which aggregates all their different accounts (see for example cdc.gov/socialmedia). Although for many agencies it has become mainstream practice to use social media applications and “be where our audiences are”, it is clear that not every agency has the same goal or a dedicated social media strategy. Some start by setting up blogs, Facebook fanpages, several Twitter accounts, YouTube channels, etc., but the actual use and outreach proves to be very diverse.


“We have to be where the people are!”

From my interactions with new media directors in the federal agencies and departments, I differentiate between three different types of social media use to promote transparency, participation and collaboration:
The first strategy can be called “Push” strategy: The new medium is used as an extension of the existing (usually relatively static) Internet presence and is used as an additional communication channel “to get the message out”. This results in un-moderated Twitter updates that are mainly used to publish press releases or appearances of the secretaries, unmanned Facebook walls that are blocked for public comments and sparsely populated YouTube channels.
The second strategy can be called “Pull” strategy: Social media applications are used to bring audiences back to an organization’s website, where the news is aggregated (to avoid losing control of what happens with the information). Pull strategies are actively involving audiences using some degree of interaction that result in a few comments from on Facebook walls and a few retweets (reuses of messages by other Twitter users) or answers to comments on responses from Twitter followers. Examples include the CDC’s use of social media tools to alert and inform the public about peanut salmonella outbreak or its H1N1 flu campaign.
The third strategy – and at the same time the least observable – can be called “Networking” strategy. The use of social media tools is highly interactive with a lot of back and forward between the agency and its diverse constituencies. The new media directors usually have a sense of who is following them and who they want to reach. They are using Facebook, Twitter, etc, very strategically not only to control and direct messages to their audiences, but also to have their ears and eyes on the channels where the actual issues are being discussed that might be of relevance to their agency’s or department’s mission. Social media tools are not only used for mere publishing purposes and are not viewed as a time sink of the already overworked IT staff, but as a strategic information sharing and knowledge creation tool involving social media champions from different content areas.
One agency that stands out is GSA that used an informal social networking site called GovLoop.com to create a group and discuss their “Acquisition 2.0” strategy. The discussions of a diverse audience of government employees has led to the creation of the Better Buy wiki project (see betterbuy.fas.gsa.gov) that truly transforms the acquisition process of GSA multibillion dollar budget: Tenders are now “crowdsourced” – meaning that vendors and agencies are asked to submit their revisions to the final document before it is officially released for solicitation.

How to design your social media strategy

The question now is: What does a successful social media strategy look like? On the federal level very few departments and agencies have made their social media strategies or policies publicly available, but from interviews with the current new media directors I derived a few general observations:

• It is necessary to get people on board and don’t put the use and content creation on the shoulders of the one-person IT shop, instead understand the need to socialize your strategy and find champions who are interested in experimenting with new media and include them in early efforts.
• Social media does not replace the existing traditional channels of communication with government’s stakeholders, instead it provides a test bed for new ways of interactions with citizens and public.
• Design your social media strategy around the mission and the audiences you are trying to reach and not the necessity to be out there and part of the movement. Make a conscious decision what your expectations are and if you have the manpower to actually interact and network with your audiences.
• Reach has not yet proven its value and measurement of the outcome is difficult. The pure number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans does not indicate the actual impact. It is more important to understand who follows your Twitter or Facebook profile; what do your followers do with the content and who is in the network of each of these followers: Social networks have the ability to distribute information from friends to friends and their friends and can therefore reach many more than just the few directly following your updates.
• While a lot of rumors circulate about generational differences and that the main audience are young citizens, it has become clear that social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have the highest increase rates in the age group of +35 year olds. Moreover, the Facebook newsfeed has the potential to become an important information mechanism that aggregates traditional media sources with information spreading through the trusted friendship network people are paying attention to.

Over a year into the Government 2.0 movement it is clear that social media is here to stay and not a fleeting fad. Although there is a surge to jump on the bandwagon, deciding how the different social media channels fit into an agency’s mission is a crucial step that should involve top management but also all departments that might populate the social media channels with content.

Author bio:
Ines Mergel is Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Campbell Public Affairs Institute, Syracuse University. eMail: iamergel@maxwell.syr.edu

Saying goodbye to the presidential Blackberry?

There was an article in the NYT today that made me think about privacy and transparency in government: it seems as if President-elect Obama has to give up his email and Blackberry habits asap.  The NYT reports:

“The president’s e-mail can be subpoenaed by Congress and courts and may be subject to public records laws, so if a president doesn’t want his e-mail public, he shouldn’t e-mail, experts said. And there may be security issues about carrying around trackable cell phones.”

At the same time, he puts up his technology agenda and asks for a more transparent and connected government. Now, he wouldn’t even understand or know how the technology could help him to be connected and what the potential benefits are for society, for example in terms of community building, social support functionalities. Shouldn’t there be a new law to adjust the existing rules?

Obama’s agenda is back up… technology still one of the top issues

I just found out through Twitter that Obama’s agenda is back on change.gov. Technology is still among his top issues (phew…). Some of the important issues are:

  • Protect the Openness of the Internet
  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
  • Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy

And when it comes to government:

“Create a transparent and connected democracy”

  • Open Up Government to its Citizens: Use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens.
  • Bring Government into the 21st Century: Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.