On January 30 Mark Drapeu, Director of Public Sector Social engagement at Microsoft, published a post about Government Social Media: Five Questions for 2011. His questions and his answers were very much aligned with the rather cynical view I personally take about government 2.0 (see here, here and here for a recent taste of that)
- Who are the public faces of government agencies online? about the struggle that agencies have in finding a balance between officials speaking on behalf of the agency or on their behalf, although in a professional capacity
- Why is government social media organized around agencies and not topics? about taking too much into account the government organizational structures when creating social media presence
- What is the relationship between social media for government and things citizens care about? about the difficulty that governments have in organizing their engagement channels in ways that are compelling for citizens
- Is government prepared to interact with Citizen 2.0? about the ability of governments to scale up their dialogue with citizens on social media
- Where are the open government entrepreneurs? about the questionable value of open data
His questions have triggered an interesting discussion on Twitter and on Govloop, with people like Alex Howard and Andrew Krzmarzick pointing out how he would seems excessively critical. Having been there (Alex has been hitting me with a stick a few times when I sounded way too negative), I sympathize with Mark’s approach, which is to expose problems and shortcomings for people to react. On the other hand, I do understand people like Alex and Andrew who are afraid that too much negativity could put off the vast majority of people in government who are not gov 2.0 experts or enthusiast and would probably keep looking at it as a nice-to-have or, even worse, a too-risky-too-have, should commentaries like Mark’s and mine become the norm.
As usual, the right approach is in the middle. I think that both Mark and I are true supporters of Gov 2.0 and want to see it succeed but try to flag Alec, Andrew and others that the current success stories need to be expressed in terms that government people can understand and relate to their everyday’s business.
A good start would be to show more and more cases where government employees have been driving (rather than being driven by) social media in order to do their job better.Incidentally, I am just writing a research note about engagement not being an end but a means.