Blog post

CDC Provides a Great Example of What Social Media Is About

By Andrea Di Maio | April 20, 2010 | 4 Comments

social networks in government

In an article on Government Computer News Janice Nall, director of the Division of eHealth Marketing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Marketing, shares a few gems about how her organization has been using social media over the past year.

She says:

if people are getting information about sexually transmitted diseases in Second Life, talking about how to quit smoking on mobile phones and checking blogs that tell them which vaccinations to get their kids, that’s where the CDC has to be

This does not mean regurgitating of all an agency’s information verbatim, she said. Instead, agencies need be in the social space with salient points and bringing people back to mother ship — the agency Web site — for more information and detail.

Research suggests that people go to at least seven different sources for health information. They are not necessarily coming to the CDC for flu information. They are going to the WebMed site or to their physicians. So increasingly, CDC has to have its tentacles out to these other sources.

She is getting social media exactly right, and I’d wish that more government agencies were taking this route.

What the article does not say is whether she realizes that – in some cases – it may be difficult to bring people back to mother ship, as the conflict between truth (i.e. what government is supposed to provide) and trust (i.e. who people really listen to) will only intensify, as I stressed in a previous post.

At least CDC’s strategy puts them in a better position to identify patterns where trust may be shifting elsewhere early enough to take action: many other agencies worldwide, which just care about publishing data and creating their Facebook pages, will be taken by surprise.

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  • A.C. says:

    Nice to see that some govt institutions are going to where the action is. I just read your post on Truth vs. Trust, and I do believe that this is at the heart of social media struggle. I liken it to the challenge of reporting news: velocity vs. authenticity of information.

  • Graham Colclough says:

    Excellent example of how public sector needs to have a hub and spoke strategy to social media. Only the hub is where people perceive it to be.

  • Jed says:

    The CDC are lucky to have a fantastic mother ship, rich with clearly-written useful content.

    Most agencies are not so lucky, and they dive into the social Internet without a content strategy to back them up.

  • @Jed – Excellent point, which is why I often try to talk them out of creating a public social media presence (Facebook and the likes), although sometimes they do not like the message, being in “me-too” mode.