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Federal Eye
Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 01/20/2012

‘Engagement fatigue’ in the federal government? | #FedBuzz

For better or for worse, social media has changed our lives. Some have argued that it fosters trust and speeds decision-making by giving preference to information recommended by our friends or colleagues.

But are we taking it too far? Are we arriving at a point where we suffer from engagement fatigue?

That’s the argument waged by a federal employee recently and it generated a range of responses.

Kevin Lanahan, a media specialist, sees social media as an outlet for efficient communication between citizens and government — and among public sector professionals — that might not otherwise exist.

“It is efficient for us because we can answer a question that previously would have been phoned or mailed in and provide an answer that the public can see. It reaches a different demographic than we reach with our magazine and news releases. We don’t have to spend as much time trying to drive people to our website; we go where they are and show up in their new feed.”

However, he also acknowledges that it’s more time-consuming than the agency first anticipated:

“I remember when my agency started its Facebook page. We were just going to use it as another outlet for our news releases and blogs. Hah! The public started asking questions, and now our FB page is more an extension of our ombudsman efforts than a news outlet, and it takes the equivalent of an FTE to monitor and reply to the beast.”

Others wonder if recent developments with the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act could change how social media operates in the future. (Recent protests over the bills, however, are causing some lawmakers to rethink their regulatory efforts.)

“Is Social Media at an end? No, but social media will change dramatically over the next 2-3 years. We will see heavy regulation and even taxes on usage. Facebook will start charging annual fees of under 10 dollars, at first, to pay for the taxes. Personal Information will be regulated much like HIPAA regulation,” predicted Christopher Hicks, an Account Representative for GreenLine Systems.

Overall, people and organizations can avoid engagement fatigue by focusing on strategic use of social media versus allowing it to be a free-for-all, online forum that distracts employees:

“Like in the Intelligence world, often times people do not value information that comes too cheaply, nor too easily,” said Deb Green, a program manager with the Federal government. “Social media delivers information (and noise passing as information, as others have pointed out...) and it may be picked up by elements that are interested in listening. But unless that garden is tended to, the weeds/noise can grow unwieldy and kill any fruitful harvest.”

Ultimately, Kevin Knutson, Assistant City Manager of Reno, NV, places the impetus on the individual, who always retains a level of control:

“I think part of the issue here is the need for the user to constantly adapt as new functionality is added. Not all features are going to turn out to be useful, so each user now has the added responsibility of customizing the experience using the privacy and feed tools that have also been added. Once people become aware of the tools and adept in using them, it will be less annoying.”

Are you feeling too much pressure to engage on digital platforms? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter using #FedBuzz.

Read more on PostPolitics.com and the Fed Page.

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