Category Archives: Social networking services

IBM Report: Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally

Mergel_IBM_SocialIntranet_GraphicIBM The Center for the Business of Government has published my new practitioner report titled “The Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally”.

The report highlights four different social networking sites (think: Government’s own internal Facebook) that are designed to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities among public servants. The insights are based on qualitative interviews I conducted with public managers who were in charge of designing the social Intranet sites and a review of the existing press coverage and academic literature on enterprise social technologies.

I included four different cases at different maturity stages and with different audiences and purposes:

  1. The Department of State’s Corridor site
  2. The intelligence community’s iSpace
  3. NASA’s SpaceBook, and
  4. The Government of Canada’s GCconnex site.

The full report is available via IBM’s report page here.

Here are a few media articles that covered the report:

Please let me know if you have any questions!

 

Advertisements

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:

Book announcement: Social media in the public sector

Jossey-Bass/Wiley will be publishing my first book titled “Social Media in the Public Sector: A Guide to Participation, Collaboration, and Transparency in the Networked World” this fall. The book is available for preorder on Amazon.com or directly on the publisher’s website:

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.

A compendium field guide for practitioners will be published a month later. I co-authored the field guide with Bill Greeves and it is also available for preorder on Amazon.com.

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.

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 IBM report: Working the Network – A Manager’s Guide for Using #Twitter in Government

Here is the executive summary of the report:

Twitter—a microblogging service that allows for short updates of 140 characters—has grown to over 540 million registered accounts as of early 2012.News organizations, corporations, and the U.S. government have adopted this new practice as an innovative form of interaction with their stakeholders. Many government agencies maintain at least one Twitter account, and even multiple accounts, based on their operational needs and their diverse audiences .It can be unclear to government Twitter users what the best strategies are for interacting with the public on Twitter, and how an agency can use Twitter in a meaningful way to support its organizational mission.

Twitter updates are seen as public conversations and are increasing not only transparency and potentially accountability, but can also—when used appropriately—lead to increased inclu­sion of public opinion in policy formulation through information aggregation processes. Twitter can be used effectively to involve a large number of citizens and create conversations with an engaged, networked public. The outcome of these conversations can be new insights and even innovations in the public sector including suggestions on how to make government more effec­tive, or rapidly accelerating emergency responses that help to improve public safety.

This report is based on insights gained from discussions with social media directors in U.S. federal government agencies and observations of their daily Twitter tactics. Part I provides an overview of current strategies for using Twitter to interact with citizens. Four main strategies are identified:

• Push

• Pull

• Networking

• Customer service

In addition, hands-on best practices are presented for both public managers and social media administrators.

Twitter is still a relatively new tool. The platform frequently changes and features are added or moved, so government organizations need to be flexible and react to the changes. Suggestions on how to overcome both the technological and behavioral challenges are provided, and examples of best practices show how agencies have overcome these hurdles.

It will be important for the future use of social media in the public sector to show how invest­ments in content curating and online interactions affect a government organization. Current measurement techniques are provided to help social media managers create a business case for the effective use of social media.

Facebook is taking over the world…

Take a look at the graphics by Vincenzo Cosenza published on the TechCrunch blog:

Social networking services and their worldwide adoption in 2009 and Facebook’s explosion by 2011:

(Images embedded from http://www.vincos.it/ via Techcrunch blog)

Social media network panel at #pmrc2011

On June 2-4, 2011, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University has hosted the biannual Public Management Research Conference. You can find full papers on the conference program page.

I was part of Panel 20 “Social Media Networks” together with Professors Jane Fountain (UMass Amherst) and David Landsbergen (Ohio State). Jane presented here theoretical framework on how technology can introduce change into government organizations: “Layering in Public Management: Stability and Change in Digitally Mediated Institutions“. It provided a great framework for the following papers (kudos to the program committee).

I presented my study with the title “A Mandate for Change”: Diffusion of Social Media Technologies Among Federal Departments and Agencies“. In this paper, I present first findings of my interviews with Social Media Directors from the Executive branch of the U.S. federal government. The aim in this paper is to understand how and why social media directors make the decision to adopt social media practices. The Open Government and Transparency memo provided the motivation for this question: The memo states explicitly that government has to become more participatory, transparent and collaborative – and to harness new technologies to accomplish this goal. The memo itself is a very broad mandate and in the first two years public managers had very little formal guidance to understand what best practices are, how to organize day-to-day practices, how to fit the use of social media into the existing mission and standard operating procedures when communicating information. Given this lack of formal guidance, I found that public managers are looking at their informal network and use what I call their passive attention network. They are looking at other agencies and departments and emulate practices from other agencies. Based on this finding, I was also able to tease out three different adoption pathways for the use of social media applications: 1) Representation and broadcasting (push); 2) Engagement (pull); and 3) Networking and mingling.

Open questions, that I will address in other papers will include: a) Measuring impact of social media activities; b) Organizational change for the use of social media practices; c) Necessary organizational capabilities for the use of social media applications. I have also collected data from social media directors in the non-profit sector and the corporate sector, so that I will be able to write a comparative study on the use of social media applications.

The last panelist, Professor David Landsbergen (Ohio State), presented a research and teaching project in which he analyzed social media policies of nine cities. What I observed – and received proof for with David’s presentation – was that while the federal government has now access to guidance, such as HowTo.gov or the Federal Web Managers Forum, local government officials are struggling immensely with the use of social media applications. There is no guidance, it is unclear to what extent the use of social media makes sense, what the right tools are for what kind of activities, etc.

We will keep the conversation going and are submitting another panel proposal to the upcoming ASPA 2012 conference in Las Vegas.

My “Government 2.0 Revisited” article wins 2010 H. George Frederickson Best Article Award

My “Gov 2.0 Revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector” article won the PA Times’ 2010 H. George Frederickson Best Article Award.

Here is what I submitted as the acceptance note for the January/February 2011 PA Times issue:

“I am very honored to accept the PA TIMES Best Article Award for 2010, and would like to thank the award committee for their hard work in reviewing what were undoubtedly a large group of high quality submissions.

Government 2.0 is not only a hot topic at the moment, it is an important one. I believe that the use of social media applications is at a tipping point, moving from early innovators toward broader acceptance among government professionals. These technologies often challenge the way that public employees conduct their work, but as the use of Government 2.0 grows we will observe more changes in the way information is organized and distributed, as well as in the way information is co-created by citizens and absorbed by government.

In this early stage of Government 2.0, the use of social media in the public sector is often labeled as the “Wild West of e-Government.” However, we are beginning to move into a convergence phase–where the reality of government operations merges with the new reality of social networking services: both will have to adapt to these new challenges. What is missing is clear guidance on best practices and acceptable strategies for effectively using social media applications to support the missions and practices of government organizations. The interviews I conducted with current social media directors for this PA TIMES article highlight not only challenges and hurdles, but also the positive impacts so social media can have in the public sector. Government is already part of the public conversations that are happening on social networking sites; therefore, public managers need to understand where and how these conversations evolve–and become a part of them.

I believe that both researchers and government practitioners have a lot of interesting ground to cover in the next few years. And, I for one, am excited to be a part of that. Thank you again for recognizing the importance of this fascinating and growing area of public administration practice and research.”

Article reference:
Mergel, I. (2010): Government 2.0 Revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector, in: PA Times, American Society for Public Administration, Vol. 33, No. 3, p. 7 & 10.

My other related publications on Government 2.0 topics:

Mergel, I. Web 2.0 in the Public Sector, with Schweik, C., in: Public Service, and Web 2.0 Technologies: Future Trends in Social Media (under review)

Mergel, I.: Measuring the effectiveness of social media tools in the public sector, in: Public Service, and Web 2.0 Technologies: Future Trends in Social Media (under review)

Mergel, I. (accepted for publication): Government networks, in: Encyclopedia of Social Networking, Editors: Barnett, George, Golson, J. Geoffrey, Sage Publications.

Mergel, I. (2010): The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government, in: O’Leary, R., Kim, S. and Van Slyke, D. M. (Editors): The Future of Public Administration, Public Management and Public Service Around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective, Georgetown University Press, pp. 177-187.

Mergel, I., Gardner, M., Broviak, P., Greeves, B.: MuniGov20, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life, in: Journal of Virtual World Research, Special Issue: Virtual Worlds and Government (accepted for publication in 2011)

Bretschneider, S. I., Mergel, I. (2010): Technology and Public Management Information Systems: Where have we been and where are we going, in: Menzel, D.C., White, H. J.: The State of Public Administration: Issues, Problems and Challenges, M.E. Sharpe Inc., New York, pp. 187-203.

Analysis of social media policies & strategies in the public sector

I reviewed social media policies and strategies of public sector organizations that are freely available on the web or were distributed during the last two years on Twitter (see hashtag #gov20). Especially after GSA has published the Terms of Service Agreements with most major SNS, I have observed a major uptake in formal written statements outlining why, how and for what purposes agencies and departments are using new media. I included local, state and federal level public sector organizations in my analysis.

Even though it seems as if a legal framework was created by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, I observe a wide range of different documents and statements as a result.

A handful of documents is labeled “Handbooks” (such as the Navy Command Social Media Handbook), Toolkit, Social Media Computing Guidelines, or Business Uses of Social Networking Services. These types of documents usually describe best practices and recommendation on how to use different tools such as Twitter or Facebook. They are usually very lengthy, true handbook-style documents.

In addition, 1-page policy-style memos come in the form of directives, “rules of engagement”, use policies or even “Social Media Law”.

Only one organization actually wrote a social media strategy document that looked at how the new channels fit into the existing communication strategy and how they can support the mission or public service delivery.

I have extracted the major themes that the public sector organization I analyzed covered and will post my preferred content of a social media policy/strategy document in the next post.