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Consumer Social Media in Government: Resistance Is Futile

By Andrea Di Maio | October 23, 2009 | 1 Comment

social networks in government

This week at Gartner Symposium in Orlando with countless conversations with government clients has confirmed my belief that agencies in all tiers of government and jurisdictions need to face the challenges and opportunities presented by social media, and they must do so earlier rather than later.

I met three categories of clients:

  • Have-nots.. They usually work in domains of activity that they do not feel are conducive to the use of social media, especially agencies that have little or no citizen-facing role, such as internal service providers, auditors or regulators.
  • Communicators. They work for citizen-facing agencies and look at social media as an alternative or complementary delivery channel to reach out to citizens. they are concerned with how to articulate an effective Facebook page for heir agency, or with using Twitter to provide feeds to citizens rather than implementing RSS feeds on their own web site. Employees are allowed on social media only as administrators of the official pages or feeds.
  • Savvies. They appreciate that there is no real boundary between the personal and professional use of social media. They have it all covered, with all the policies, security controls and monitoring activities that are needed to let employees safely use social media in the workplace.

I am happy to report that, discussing with clients in all groups, I was able to ask them questions they could not answer and are likely to reflect upon in the coming weeks. Here are three samples, one per group:

  • For have-nots: What about gathering and analyzing information that people create, accumulate, tag, rate on social media and that may be relevant or even critical to your mission?
  • For communicators: What makes you think that people would care at all about the face of your agency on Facebook? .
  • For savvies: Are you sure that social media fair use policies cover also the use from personal devices and off working hours?

Reality is that understanding and leveraging social media is a long journey toward a destination that nobody has figured out yet. Banning use, pretending that this change won’t affect us or our agencies or assuming that we can drive and control that impact, is futile.

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1 Comment

  • Lisa Thorell says:

    I like your groups: Have-nots, Communicators and the Savvies. Great analysis. From my own experience, I’d add: Sniffers and Stonewalls. The sniffers sense that a revolution is up, are curious and either morph into savvies or Have-nots (eg. the 40% of so who don’t make it through the twitter experience), depending on their endurance and willingness to be patient to reap the rewards, beyond the initially bewildered stages. The Stonewalls have little patience and a great deal of impatience, particularly for learning new tools. Stonewalls simply feel uncomfortable in mixing their personal and professional lives.