Good Enough for Government Work: Social Media and the Public Sector

December 9, 2011 | by Rosemary Sallee | Posted in Social Media, Web Trends

What comes to mind when you hear the words “social media?” Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Have you heard of Govloop? Govwin? What does social media mean for the public sector in the age of Facebook and Twitter?

Though the government is traditionally security-conscious, a recent study by Market Connections shows that government employees and contractors are already on the social media bandwagon. Among government users, 94% use social media at home, and a whopping 74% use it at work.

Why do government contractors use social media? Like workers in other industries, they recognize the benefits of social media for educating the public and fostering collaboration. Government agencies, like businesses, also see the utility of social media in marketing and promotion, building thought leadership, and doing research that informs decision-making. Government agencies cite education and information-gathering as social media’s most important function; government contractors are more likely to rank marketing and promotion higher on their list of social media priorities.

There are social media outlets specific to government and contracting communities. The big names include:

Govloop: Participants include nearly 50,000 members from federal, state, and local government. GovLoop's mission is to “connect government to improve government.” The community is a great resource for all people in and around government, whether they are looking to connect with peers, collaborate on projects or discover career-building opportunities.

Govwin: This site offers tips and techniques at winning government business, including market intelligence, consulting, sales management tools, teaming solutions, and educational and networking opportunities. Participants include small businesses, new entrants to the public sector, and large government contractors. Inspired by the success of NASA’s internal SpaceBook, many argue that this government-conceived social media outlet is too little, too late.

Mainstream social media outlets like Twitter and blogs continue to be important for government, and government agencies and organizations have received kudos for using these tools for the public good. Examples include blogging to better communicate about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and tweeting to report storm progress during the last hurricane season. On a more global level, commentators have expounded on social media’s role in influencing politics during the recent Arab Spring movements. These recent efforts show that these outlets and technologies have enormous potential to help government do its job, communicating with the public when the news is not good, and also doing the more “promotional” work of telling a story of government leadership, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Tags: government


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