Why Social Media is a Natural for Government by Breanna Jacobs

Can government and social media exist? In a lot of ways the initial answers comes back with a resounding “yes.” Ironically, despite the fact that most government levels tend to be the epitome of bureaucracy and don’t trust their personnel to be independent, much less on the Internet, where government agencies have taken flights they’ve done with gusto.

Government Agencies Breathe Information

There is no shortage of content material in a normal government agency. Information and data tend to be the bread and butter of most agencies, either in form of reports or databases. From these two categories plenty of opinion, politics, conjecture and public sentiment can be generated. As a result, many in government agency management tend to be skittish about letting staff operate too freely with managed communication and messaging to the public. However, where a given agency can get past the initial fear of someone saying the wrong thing, social media tools have become extremely helpful in conveying valuable information to the public as well as updating stakeholders and constituents on what the agency is up to.

The Military Does Social Media

For anyone who has been involved in government contracting, it’s a ponderous process filled with paperwork, filings and the formal bid process. However, social media has allowed a number of federal agencies to network those vendors they already know have capacity and skill to handle projects early on, making sure that bids are received from such companies. The U.S. Department of Defense is one such player, using a Twitter account to give subscribing vendors a heads up on new military contracts long before they are formally posted to the Federal Register. This provides the key player plenty of time to prepare bids and information before the time window for bids is launched. The military benefits by receiving bids from capable contractors who are ready to do the job and have a proven capability to meet government needs.

Social Media Allows Greater Public Interaction

Prior to the Internet, when people wanted to interact with a government agency it was either face-to-face in public meetings, by representative, or by letter. Today, social media allows government program staff and the public to interact on a far greater level, allowing government agencies the ability to gauge public reaction far faster to program direction changes. This benefit then helps agencies understand their stakeholders better, determine reactions to policy decisions faster, and potentially avoid embarrassing mistakes with public sentiment. Now, a government agency can simply post a Facebook update on an idea or new program and by the level of commentary know if it’s a good idea to continue or if the approach is better left on the back shelf. This fact is not lost on the White House and other political offices.

Social Media Boosts Government Education

Having a venue that allows for a constant stream of changing content is Shangri-La for many government offices. Too often thousands of reports sit buried in folders or libraries, never seeing the light of day. However, with social media, agencies can now “re-publish” their reports and receive interaction as well as viral dissemination of the publicized data. It’s a bit like re-issuing an old vinyl record for some of the program staff involved; they get to see their hard work take flight again with a new crowd of readers. For readers, they get to see a regular flow of new information about what government is doing with taxpayer dollars. Right or wrong, that’s far more education now available regarding government than ten or twenty years ago.

Image Credits: [Iterasi]