Special issue “The Public Manager” on ‘Government Embraces New Social Media Tools’

The Public Manager

“The Public Manager” has just published its Winter 2012 edition. The whole issue focuses on how government embraces new social media tools.

Contributors are among others:

  • Andrew Krzmarzick, who talks about how government embraces social media as new communication tools;
  • Scott Horvath (USGS), who presents an overview of the past, present and future of social media at USGS;
  • Joseph Porcelli, who provides insights into how FEMA drove 23,000 people to join its online community
  • and many more.

I contributed an article on how to design a social media strategy to fulfill government’s mission.

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: “Social media in the public sector field guide”

Today, my co-author Bill Greeves and I received our first copies of the “Social media in the public sector field guide” we wrote for all newcomers to the productive and professional use of social media in government. We started to work on this project in 2011 to capture the legal, procedural, and contextual challenges that are waiting for those brave innovators in government who are willing to venture out and make new technologies and the accompanying behavioral changes work. The book includes several case studies written by our colleagues in government who have been innovators for a long time and are providing their insights into the use of social media in their own agencies. They include: Bill Schrier, Dustin Haisler, Steve Ressler, Pam Broviak, Kristy Fifelski, Chris Moore, and Stephanie Slater.

In 2012, my co-author Bill Greeves, CIO Wake County, NC, was named the most social CIO in the U.S. by the Public CIO magazine. Congratulations, Bill!

Here is the blurb and the endorsements we received:

This hands-on practical guide (and companion to the Social Media in the Public Sector) offers a ready-to-use reference to help readers move smoothly through the development and deployment of effective new media strategies and policies within their own organizations. The book is filled with illustrative examples, screenshots, diagrams and graphics. Written to be engaging and accessible, the guide has minimal technical jargon, acronyms or “govspeak”. The guidebook includes case studies in the words of those who have implemented new media strategies and an accompanying community-driven website with links to the authors’ blogs and practitioner social networks.

Endorsements

“As the poet LL Cool J once said, there is a difference between doing it and doing it well. Same is true with the use of social media in government – there can be a stark divide between agencies dabbling in it and those agencies executing well. 10,000 fans/followers vs. 100. 15 comments and RTs vs. an empty ghost town. Driving real mission results vs. being a gimmick. If you ask most senior leaders in government, they understand they need to be in social media but they don’t know how to do it well. Instead they leave it to an intern and end up with an unsuccessful program. Every day on GovLoop.com, our network of 60,000 government leaders, people share best practices and ask questions of social media in government. I’ve often been asked by members of a good reference book to get going for their federal, state, or local government social media programs. I never had an answer – now I do: This field guide is the go-to resource to ensure your social media programs deliver real mission results. Ines and Bill are experts in the field – a blend of research and real-world experience to get you to where you need to go.” — Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop.com

“In the local government sector there seem to be three schools of thought regarding social media: “I’ve got a Facebook page – let’s jump right in!” – “Not happening on my watch!” and “Who cares?” this field guide is perfect for any of the above, as it provides practical applications and rationale for why local government needs to connect with people where they are – which is on the internet. Our association of nearly 500 innovative local governments knows that Bill Greeves and Ines Mergel are the perfect authors for this must have tutorial. Bill collaborates with us as a top notch trainer and both of these authors know the topic very well.” – Karen Thoreson, President & Chief Operating Officer, Alliance for Innovation

“Bill Greeves and Ines Mergel are expert users of Facebook, Second Life, Twitter and other social media to help local governments better interact with real people. In this book they distill that knowledge into a practical guide for government officials and employees. Twitter and Facebook and Blogs, Oh My! In this bewildering new field of social media, Bill Greeves and Ines Mergel expertly provide practical advice for governments to harness the power of these new online services.” — Bill Schrier, Deputy Director, Center for Digital Government, eRepublic.com; Former CTO (CIO) City of Seattle

“This is simply a must-read book for anyone interested or involved with social media in the public sector. The authors take a refreshing and original approach supported by excellent examples regarding the evolving role social media is playing and can play in government. Having worked and known both Bill and Ines, I cannot think of two better-experienced authors to help guide us through the new realities of social media in government.” – Dr. Alan R. Shark, Executive Director, Public Technology Institute and Assistant Professor Rutgers University School of Public Affairs & Administration

Available online at Amazon or Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

11 Tips for crafting your social media policy

Social media applications have become an (almost) accepted standard to explore new ways of communication between government and its stakeholders. However, government agencies willing to jump onto the bandwagon had to jump over many hurdles to make social media work for them. As early as December 2008, the powerhouse behind what is now known as HowTo.gov — Bev Godwin, Sheila Campbell, Jeffrey Levy, and Joyce Bounds — have published a manuscript describing the hurdles and perceived barriers for new forms of online engagement. Among them are:
  • Employee access to online tools
  • Terms of service
  • Advertising
  • Procurement
  • Privacy
  • Persistent cookies
  • Surveys
  • Access for people with disabilities
  • Administrative requirements for rulemaking
Many of these barriers prevented the rapid and risk-free adoption of social media technologies. Some of the perceived barriers were solved in the meantime. As an example, GSA signed model Terms of Service agreements with many social media providers.
A few agencies were willing to jump into the cold water early on and started to experiment with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and so on, until GAO released a report directing government organizations to create social media policies for managing and protecting information they access and disseminate using social media applications. As a result most federal government agencies now have internal social media guidelines in place (for an overview, visit my blog, which includes pdf documents of publicly available social media policies).
Some guidelines only provide a general context for the use of third party platforms others describe in very detailed fashion including daily schedules, accepted tools, directions for tactics, campaigns, etc. The Army social media handbook is already published in its third iteration. It not only includes guidance for the internal use of government-run social media accounts, but extends suggestions beyond the boundaries of organization to include family members who could potentially reveal sensitive information and thereby harm the Army’s missions.
Based on my conversations with social media directors in the U.S. federal government and an analysis of the available social media guidelines, I came up with the following elements for the design of social media guidelines in the public sector:
  1. Social media use should support the organizational mission and overall communication strategy.
  2. Government agencies need to decide what they regard as appropriate content and what online products they are willing to share with their stakeholders via social media.
  3. The workload and decision responsibilities need to be assigned and distributed among a social media ringmaster, content creators and curators, account administrators, and content providers with expert knowledge about issues.
  4. Before agencies can select the right tools it is important to understand who the (potentially diverse) audience is.
  5. Access to social media content needs to be made available through alternative mechanisms to avoid exclusiveness.
  6. I am a big fan of “hierarchy in the network” and always tell government officials who ask me for advice to clarify what their online netiquette includes, such as a comment policy or appropriate online conduct. EPA provides great guidance using this flow chart.
  7. After all these issues are clarified and answered as part of a social media guideline, the tool question can be tackled: Where do an agency’s stakeholders prefer to receive their information? On Facebook? Twitter? Via a newsletter? The answer should not be: We need to be on Facebook, because everyone else is.
  8. After the tools are selected, guidance on how and who sets up and administers the accounts needs to be designed.
  9. Daily routines need to be established. For different social media tactics see more in my PA Times article “Government 2.0 revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector.”
  10. One of the most challenging tasks it to measure and interpret the successful use of social media tools on behalf of government. Many agencies use quantitative measures, such as counts of the increasing number of followers or likes. Others use anecdotes highlighting responses from their audience. Other more sophisticated approaches include the use of dashboard solutions by third party providers.
  11. Lastly, a social media strategy needs to include a section on training. Providing the resources, including opportunities to discuss tactics and strategies with peers, is however not only important for those employees who will be managing social media accounts, but also for top managers to understand the culture and changing social interactions with the public, as well as their evolving expectations.
Read more in my IBM Center for the Business of Government special report “A manager’s guide for designing social media strategy.”

Twitter transparency report released

Twitter released its first Transparency Report highlighting the number of times they received:

The report shows that the U.S. government has asked Twitter 679 times to reveal user information since January 2012, followed by Japan with 98 and Canada and the United Kingdom with 11 requests each. All other countries listed in the report asked <10 times to reveal user information. In response to government requests to remove tweeted content, Twitter removed content 0% of the time.

Following Google’s transparency report, Twitter submits all requests to @ChillingEffects in order to keep the tweets flowing and ultimately protect freedom of expression online:

Facebook’s new roles for pages

Facebook has introduced new roles for pages (see graphic). The manager of a page can assign the following roles:

  • Content Creator
  • Moderator
  • Advertiser
  • Insight Analyst

What is unclear to me is that the manager of the page does not have the same rights as the other roles and is not able to create content, edits the page, add apps, respond to and delete comments, send message, create ads, or view insights. It’s probably a typo or formatting issue of the table and does not reflect the actual functions those different roles can perform. Moreover, why shouldn’t manager know exactly what the impact of the site is? This is where top management needs to be informed: Help people understand that the organization’s social media efforts are making an impact and in case they don’t, initiate changes in the organizational social media tactics.

Especially for local government agencies defining 5-6 different roles might not be necessary. In my experience, even in larger federal agencies, there is usually only a small group of people who are responsible for updating the organizational page.

New Pew study on Twitter use statistics in 2012

Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new study on the use of Twitter in 2012.

Here is the summary directly from their website:

As of February 2012, some 15% of online adults use Twitter, and 8% do so on a typical day. Overall Twitter adoption remains steady, as the 15% of online adults who use Twitter is similar to the 13% of such adults who did so in May 2011. At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011 and has quadrupled since late 2010—at that point just 2% of online adults used Twitter on a typical day. The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter.

What is surprising to me is that Twitter is far from being a mainstream social networking service. 15% of online adults use Twitter and only 8% on a daily basis. In comparison, 65% of online adults use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. It shows that Twitter is still a niche service and I can report that most of my students – current and future government leaders – have a very difficult time to get on Twitter, to be part of the conversation, or to find valuable information.

Another surprising fact from the Pew studies is that there does not seem to be an increase in the use of Twitter over the years: A 2010 study reported the same number – 8% of online adults were using Twitter two years ago. This is the same number as in 2012. Interesting!