Justifying Social Media to the Big Wigs

More and more, I’m being contacted by one of my colleagues who is looking to “sell their client on Web 2.0.”  These requests more often than not, come from people who don’t know a blog from a wiki and are worded roughly along the lines of “my client asked me to come up with some recommendations for getting into Web 2.0 – can you send me the slides that you use to get them on-board with it?”


First, realize that there are no “magic bullet” slides that I can give you – there are numerous resources available, from CommonCraft’s excellent “in plain English” series of videos to the numerous 101-style sites out there.  Depending on the client, any one of them might meet your needs.  However, no matter how fantastic your material is, you’re not going to get far with any senior leader unless you have an understanding of these tools yourself.  You might as well be explaining quantum physics to your client.

In addition to directing them to the above resources and offering to meet with their client directly, I’m also going to start pointing them to this post by Jason Falls.

I won’t stop preaching that social media isn’t about the tools. It is a method of communications, a channel not unlike or more or less important than public relations, customer relationship management, advertising, corporate communications and the like. But I am going to start people out on a slightly different path from now on. I’m going to show them how the tools can make a difference in their day.

Jason’s first point above is one that I’ve been harping on with my colleagues since I started our social media practice.  His second point got me me thinking about what I’m going to write about now – in what ways can the government use social media to make a difference in their day, TODAY?  What are those things that they can do with very little effort where they can start see the value in social media?

  • Use social bookmarking to overhaul your media clipping process.  I worked with one team who had been investing a considerable amount of time in scanning the media for coverage related to their client, copying and pasting those articles into an MS Word document, formatting them consistently, uploading that one file to a shared drive, and then emailing their team with the location of the latest media coverage.  I walked them through how to use both RSS feeds and del.icio.us, and showed them how they could use simply tag their relevant media coverage using whatever tags and descriptions made sense to them.  They could then create an RSS feed for those tags that is placed onto their internal Intranet site.  Whenever an article is tagged with say, “November Media,” the link along with the description of the article is now automatically fed to their site.  This simple change in process has made their media clipping process that much more efficient – no more manual scanning of hundreds of websites, no more copying and pasting, no more formatting, and no more manual uploading.
  • Use an open source microblogging service like Yammer or QikCom.  If your organization already uses Instant Messaging, microblogging offers the potential to turn those one-on-one conversations into group collaboration.  Think of it like an IM platform where every IM you send is open to everyone else in the network.  You may say that your IM application offers the ability to create a chatroom – the difference here is that messages are open to everyone, not just the people you choose.  By using a platform instead of a channel, you can take advantage of the knowledge that exists in your organization without needing to have that personal connection with everyone.
  • Add RSS feeds to your website.  Creating RSS feeds are simple, and they’re easily added to an Internet or Intranet site.  This is a cheap and relatively simple way to allow your users to choose how they wish to consume the content on your site.
  • Set up searches on Twitter and Friendfeed for your organization’s name.  As Robert Scoble says, the news is in the noise.  Doing this will allow you to identify, track, and hopefully respond to, potential issues before they become full-scale problems.
  • Use Skype or ooVoo for free video conferencing.  Skype is probably the most popular Internet telephone tool – it allows you to make and receive regular and video calls over your broadband connection.  All you need is a webcam and a microphone.  ooVoo is a little bit more than that – as Jason said, “it’s a video conferencing tool that allows you to call people over the Internet, but also see them, share files with them and even conference in up to five others to have a group chat session.”  Show your client one of these tools – you don’t think they’d be interested in something like this?
  • Add a “Comment here” function to your Intranet site.  Similar to RSS feeds, this should be a fairly simple add for your IT staff too.  You don’t have to change what content you put on your Intranet – just place a “Comment on this article” button at the bottom of your Intranet content.  This supplements, not replaces, the traditional “Contact the Director” email button.  Your users will now be able to send in their questions and comments via email, but they’ll also be able to post their thoughts directly to the article.  This is a great “learn to walk before run” tactic.

There are many more ways in which government leaders can use social media right now to make a difference in their day – these are just a few easy examples where I’ve seen it work successfully.  We’re not talking about enterprise-wide IT systems here, these are relatively simple changes that you can make today and start realizing the benefits of using open platforms as opposed to closed channels.

What other easy ways can government start using social media and realizing benefits today?

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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