This morning I read quite a refreshing post looking at numbers about traffic and relevance of government web sites compared to others (search engines, social sites, retailers, sport, music) and finding out that they are not as popular as all the enthusiasts of e-government and now government 2.0 seem to believe.
I did a similar analysis for my presentation Government 2.0: It Is Not All That Glitters, which I will give at our Symposia in Orlando and Sydney and where I show some quite abysmal number of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter for large federal agencies and US states.
Why am I not surprised? Back in January 2001 I wrote a much criticized research note postulating that government portals were irrelevant, based on common sense and the fact that government organization were unlikely to be as compelling and attractive on the web than other commercial organizations. There is no reason why this should not be the same with web 2.0. Why should I be willing to follow my human services agency or my health department or even my city? After all, even for local news that are closer to where I live, there are plenty of news sites, search engines or even just a few clever hashtags on Twitter to find out what is relevant to me.
As the post says:
The tough news? Looking at numbers without context can lead to believing that you are more important than you really are. The good news? The fact that you are less important than you think doesn’t mean that you aren’t important at all.
It is important to put things into perspective. While I am pretty sure there will be plenty of comparisons and races to who has the best and the most presence on social media (see my post about future rankings and benchmarks), I am hopeful that government folks will ultimately recognize that web 2.0 is about peer to peer connections more than institutional presence, and they will be able to make a difference when they empower employees to join communities that care about issues, rather than try to replace those and create their own.