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GSA Course on Social Media: One Size Does Not Fit All

by Andrea Di Maio  |  January 24, 2012  |  2 Comments

The US General Services Administration offers a 12-week course for government professionals to master social media. The program looks quite comprehensive, with a good mixture of theory and practice.

Weeks 1–2: Communities Off Line and On: Why do we form social networks? What forms do social networks take? How do we manage social networks to increase the possibility of positive outcomes?

Weeks 3–4: Information as Online Currency: What is information? How does it function online? How can it be managed in an age where every possible viewpoint is expressed and reinforced online? Can we ever achieve consensus?

Weeks 5–6: From Information to Action: How do we encourage participation through social media?

Weeks 7–12: The Capacities and Limits of Social Media: What can be achieved through social media—with regard to collaboration, transparency, and citizen participation—and what are the limitations and even perils that social media must confront?

Most likely, by the end of this course, attendees will have a fair understanding of potential and challenges of social media. I just wonder whether they will be given the right perspective and the course will be courageous enough to explore the employee-centric view of social media, according to which social media succeed in delivering business value if they deliver personal value to each and every individual who is supposed to be engaged.

One reason for caution is the target audience, which is supposed to be composed by government professionals who

    • Aspire to positions with a heavy social media component;
    • Are given responsibility for an office’s social media strategy, activities, or training,
    • Are new to social media and want a deep and thorough understanding of the tools; and/or

These are profoundly different audiences, which will use social media in very different ways. According to the common wisdom, the former two categories overlap. People who are excited about social media do see its use in communications and citizen engagement. But the most important category is the last one, i.e. everybody else: people who have no aspiration to make a career out of social media, but may find value in using it as personal working tools to become more effective and efficient at what they do (assuming their primary role is not communication).

It would be best to run separate courses, because the first two categories should look at the corporate use of social media, while the latter would focus on employee-centricity, BYO (bring your own) device and/or community. Of course there is some common ground for the basics, but 12 weeks are a too long a time not to make a clear distinction between different audiences.

So, while the initiative deserves much praise, let’s hope that its execution does not fall pray of the conventional corporate-centric approach.

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Category: social-networks-in-government  web-20-in-government  

Tags: government-20  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on GSA Course on Social Media: One Size Does Not Fit All

  1. Max Claps says:

    a slightly different angle to look at the employee-centricity that you correctly stress

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