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Looking Back at My 2009 Social Media Resolutions

On New Year’s Eve 2008, I made seven social media resolutions that I wanted to try to keep during 2009.  I had to be in total control of whether each would happen or do not happen, they had to be realistic, and they were somehow related to the work I do with social media and communications. Today, one year and 2 days later, I wanted to revisit those resolutions and explore what I accomplished, what I didn’t, and why.

My first resolution was the always ever-popular “blog more often.” Looking back at the frequency of my posts, I averaged about one post per week. While this is less than I’d ideally like to blog, I found that while there are a ton of topics I’d like to blog about, I tend to blog only when I feel like I have something to say that offers some some value to you. While I didn’t necessarily blog more often, I think I did something more important, and made my posts of higher quality. Grade: B

My second social media resolution was to “focus on things other than social media.” I wanted to do a better job of taking some time to go spend time with my family, go to the gym, and do things outside of work. Unfortunately, as social media and the concept of Gov 2.0 gained more momentum internally and with our clients, it seemed that there was always more and more work to be done. Day-to-day, I found myself busier than ever, but this year was the first where I actually took some vacation time and went on a trip. I took some time off and went to Hawaii in May and then to Paris in December. I need to do a better job of balancing work and life every day, not just on vacations.  Grade: C

My third resolution was to “re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto.” This one was easy – this was one of the first resolutions that I tackled, and it resulted in one of my favorite and most popular posts of 2009, “Twenty Theses for Government 2.0, Cluetrain Style.” The best part of this resolution was that it helped me simplify things. There’s sometimes a tendency to overthink this social media stuff and we forget our fundamentals. Re-reading the Cluetrain Manifesto and my resulting post provided a good foundation from which to start.  Grade: A

My fourth resolution – to “spend an hour each day reading about social media” wasn’t as successful. I was rarely able to carve out an hour a day to read and comment on other blogs, discussion forums, online communities and books. I know the importance of participating in these discussions and growing my knowledge base, but it was difficult to keep this elevated on the priority list when I’m also balancing client work, performance assessments, proposals and white papers, internal governance roles, etc. We all face these competing priorities, but we also have to make community participation and professional growth a priority as well. In 2010, I hope that I’m able to turn this into reality. Grade: C-

Accomplishing my fifth resolution – “turn more of my virtual connections into real ones” – was my most fulfilling. Whether through the Gov 2.0 Camp, the Gov 2.0 Summit, or any other number of Gov 2.0 and social media events I attended over the last year, I had the opportunity to meet a huge number of people in real-life. I can’t possibly list them all here, but I can’t tell you how much more important friends and people are than followers or subscribers. Grade: A

My sixth resolution was an utter failure – “use email less internally.” Not only did I not use email less, I think I actually used it more often. Despite the availability of tools like hello.bah.com, Yammer, and instant messenger, email remains the least common denominator. From intern to Vice President, it’s the one tool that everyone has the access, the knowledge, and the experience to use. Until we can show demonstrable value of social media to everyone in the organization and make it as easy to use and accessible as email, it will continue to be difficult to wean people off of it. In 2010, I resolve to do more to incorporate social media into the things that I can directly control – the day-to-day workflow of me and my team. Grade: F

My final resolution of 2009 was to “proactively reach out to more senior leaders to teach them about social media.” Happily, this resolution was accomplished in spades this year. Whether through our reverse mentoring program spearheaded by Shala Byers or the numerous internal briefings that my team and I conducted, social media and Gov 2.0 has gone beyond “hmmm…that’s interesting” to full-scale “this is critically important to our business and we need to learn more.”  While we haven’t achieved broad adoption yet, we’ve certainly achieved broad interest to learn more.  Grade: B

Overall, I’d give myself a B- in realizing my 2009 resolutions. Not too bad, and to be honest, probably better than I thought I’d do! My biggest regret it that Iwasn’t able to cut down on my use of email more – I’m going to try to do more this year to incorporate social media into my routine processes and walk the walk a little better.

What about you? How’d you do in achieving your new year’s resolutions from last year?

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Do You Know Where Santa is Tonight?

Santa

Santa Claus at Peterson Air Force Base

Christmas Eve is a day that holds a special place in many kids’ hearts – for some, it’s the presents, or the family and friends, or the music, or even the food – but for me, it’s always been about Santa Claus.  The almost magical feeling that overcame my cousins and I when we were little kids and we’d go to bed swearing that there was no way we’d ever fall asleep because we were so excited for Christmas morning. Setting out the milk and cookies for Santa, listening for the sounds of the reindeer on the roof of my grandparents house (we always stayed at my grandparents’ house Christmas Eve night) waking me up – it was all kind of surreal for me.  That’s a feeling that I’ll always hold close to my heart during the holiday season and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids too someday.

That’s also why this time of year is one of my favorite times to be a Booz Allen consultant too.  That’s because, for the last few years, we’ve had the privilege to have one of the most important jobs in the world – helping the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) track Santa Claus as he delivers presents to kids across the globe. For more than 50 years, NORAD has used the media and a special phone number to provide children worldwide with updates on Santa Claus’ location as he travels the globe on Christmas Eve.

It all started back in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, however, kids ended up calling NORAD’s Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”  The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, realizing that kids were relying on him for quite possibly the most important information of the year, regularly checked the radar for Santa as he made his way around the world delivering presents.  All of the children who called were given updates on his location…and a 50 year old tradition was born.

Since then, NORAD has continued to track Santa’s annual flight, responding to children who call asking to find out where he is, what they’re getting for Christmas (sorry – the NORAD radars can’t tell if he has coal or presents in his sleigh), and when he’s coming to their house. NORAD, much like Santa himself, has also started to make better use of technology too.  In addition to being able to follow Santa using real-time Google Maps data, you can also join the more than 250,000 people who are friends with Santa on Facebook, get NORAD’s latest updates on Santa’s travels by following them Twitter, see where Santa has already been by looking at the photos of Santa on Flickr, and watch videos of his many visits around the world on YouTube.

This year, help make Christmas Eve become a magical time for your kids too and show them the NORAD Tracks Santa website.  Where’s Santa at now?

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Gov 2.0 Isn’t Achieved via Instruction Manual

Over the last few weeks, I had an opportunity to speak with some of our nation’s finest, both domestic and abroad.  On December 3, I spoke to the members of the All Services Social Media Council and then on December 9, I spoke at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Public Affairs Conference. From D.C. to Germany, these members of our military never failed to impress me with their dedication to their mission and their love of their country.

Not surprisingly, they also held a common interest in social media – what it means to them, what it means to their organizations, and how (and if) they might be able to use these tools. Everyone was looking for some sort of guidance that would answer these questions. Should they create a Facebook page? Should their Twitter page be a personal account or an organizational account? What blogging platform should they use and how often should they blog?

Coincidentally, the new Open Government Directive, thought by many to be THE document that will answer some of these questions and provide government agencies with the direction they’re craving, was released last week.  The Department of Defense is supposed to be releasing their social media policy in the next month or so.  Other agencies are following suit and issuing their own policies and guidelines.

However, these documents, no matter how many deadlines, milestones, and tactics are included in them, aren’t going to provide a manual for achieving the vision of Government 2.0. Open government isn’t something that’s going to be accomplished via a laundry list of actions that can be checkmarked away.  There isn’t going to be a point when your organization flips the final switch and says, “Ta-da!! Now we’re Government 2.0!!”

Sorry – it’s just not that simple.  Despite the benefits the Open Government Directive will bring, it’s just a start. Government 2.0 isn’t going to happen because you’ve gone through and checked all the boxes from the Open Government Directive.  You can make your datasets available.  You can publish all the open government plans you want.  You can establish working group upon working group.  All of those tactics are great first steps, but think longer term.  Think beyond the 120 day deadline in the Open Government Directive and try to imagine what your agency looks like in this new world of open government.

How will you instill this culture of collaboration, transparency, and participation internally, among your employees so that this is standard operating procedure?  Will openness and transparency be encouraged in new hire training?  Will there be some sort of punishment for those who continue to hoard information and close it off?  Will employees be rewarded for being more transparent?

Achieving Government 2.0 is going to require some serious change management that goes beyond any one Directive and hits at the heart of the organization’s people, processes, and technology.  This is going to be an ongoing process change and we’re still at the start of it.

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Open Government Directive – Key Benefits and Challenges

Brooklyn Bridge - Courtesy of Flickr user Tattooed JJ

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tattooed JJ

I used to be a journalist, and it was an incredible experience. However, I eventually got tired of being on the outside. I could call attention to government issues as an “objective” observer, but I wanted to affect positive change. My ultimate goal was to help bridge the gaps between government organizations and the people they serve.

The Open Government Directive instructs our nation’s leaders to start building those bridges. The Directive takes the principles of openness, transparency, and collaboration and empowers agencies to start using them in their ongoing operations. Several Government 2.0 leaders have outlined the details of the Directive, so I want to spend some time talking about the key benefits and challenges.

Benefits

  • Investment in Our Democratic Infrastructure – Wikipedia defines infrastructure as “the basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” With an estimated 308 million Americans covering 3.79 million square miles, interactive technologies are the only way to ensure that “We the People” can continue to participate in the formation of a “more perfect Union.”
  • Emphasis on Collaboration – The megacommunity concept is the idea that the challenges we face – “such as global competitiveness, health and environmental risks, and inadequate infrastructure” – can no longer be solved by individual organizations or agencies alone. It describes the intersection of businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations and how they can converge to address universal problems. The same tools that allow us to communicate within our organizations and with one another online can be used to bring together these organizations around common goals. Channeling the collective knowledge and power of a megacommunity can have a substantial and lasting impact on our nation’s most complex problems.
  • No More Excuses – How many of you have worked with a leader or client that has emphasized the unique challenges of your organization—promoting “social media” to some degree, but reluctant to share meaningful information or invite audience participation? I’m guessing this applies to at least four out of five people reading this blog, and my advice to you is that every organization is unique. Whether or not this Directive applies to your organization, use it as motivation to address those challenges and find ways to truly embrace the principles of open government.

Challenges

  • Lack of Public Understanding – The rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship are changing, and we need to be educated—at every level—on how and why to engage through open government channels. The loudest voices are usually the outliers (a group I fondly refer to as “the crazies”), and I would anticipate that the outliers will be the early adopters in open government. However, we cannot let a few loud voices thwart our progress, or even worse, deter individuals with more common opinions from participating online. From the beginning, we need to consider how to promote awareness of open government activities and provide a compelling call to action that’s broad enough to reach a representative public.
  • Inadequate Mission Alignment – Inevitably, some agencies will go through the motions of developing Open Government Plans and building Web sites without identifying how the basic principles can advance their missions. Failure to align open government activities to an organization’s mission, goals, and objectives could prevent the agency from realizing the true value open government. The ensuing lack of responsiveness could also result in decreased public trust. The Directive instructs each agency to incorporate the principles of President Obama’s Transparency and Open Government Memorandum into its core mission objectives, but I would argue that the principles should be integrated into strategies and processes rather than the ultimate objective.
  • Poor Construction – The first bridges were made of fallen trees and other materials that could be easily dragged across streams to create a path. They served their purpose for hunters and gatherers, but they could not support a significant traffic increase. I think many of our current open government efforts are similar to these bridges. If we want to integrate transparency, participation, and collaboration into ongoing government activities, we will need to evolve our strategy and technology to support increases in conversation. Proper construction will take expertise, time, and resources.

What are your predictions for the Open Government Directive? Do you think agencies will meet the deadlines, and if so, do you think they will embody the principles of open government? I look forward to your thoughts.

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