You’re not alone if some of these social media tools are new to you. Undoubtedly, you are familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but you may not realize these tools can be used to improve your agency’s mission performance. Federal agencies use of digital platforms is far from standard. In fact, some employees are still prohibited from accessing social media sites on the job.
While it’s easy to write off social media as the playground of actors, athletes and the younger generation, savvy leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors are using this new technology to increase transparency, facilitate collaboration, share information and solve problems in ways unimaginable a few years ago.
My organization, the Partnership for Public Service, along with Booz Allen Hamilton examined some of our government’s most successful digital strategies at agencies including the State Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
In the new report, “#ConnectedGov: Engaging Stakeholders in the Digital Age,” we offer tips to help you and your team take the plunge into the world of social media.
· Keep an eye on the mission. Don’t simply jump at the chance to use social media because it’s cool. To be effective, it has to be tied directly to your program mission and goals, with a clear understanding of how it will be used to support outcomes. Be strategic, ask your team members if social media will advance your project, program or agency, and think carefully about the benefits and drawbacks. Failure to act strategically can jeopardize successes and even cause unintended consequences.
The National Forest Service got it right when they developed the “Smokey Bear” app for campers and hikers with step-by-step instructions for building and maintaining a campfire, as one of the largest dangers in forests is unintended fires. Another, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s app, informs passengers how long the wait is between getting off their plane and clearing customs, helping to reduce air travelers’ stress and anxiety.
· Understand agency policies. The General Services Administration (GSA) provides clear guidelines on how to use social media without stepping on landmines. Be sure to check out their Web site, which has an abundance of how-to and best-practice information on what agencies are doing and how to get started. In addition, GSA has 62 agreements with social-media providers for government engagement with the public, including the recently added Pinterest where users create pinboards to organize and share images to create compelling visual stories.