Tag Archives: 101

Stop the Posturing About Government 2.0 and Do It Already

December 14, 2008

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Stand Out and Do Something!

Stand Out and Do Something!

It’s about time.  It’s time to stop talking about theories of Government 2.0.  Time to stop predicting how the Obama administration is going to use social media.  Time to stop whining about all of the challenges involved with bringing social media to the government.  Time to stop the boundless optimism about the potential that you’re seeing.   Time to stop patting ourselves on the back.  Time to step out of the echo chamber of the social media blogosphere.   It’s time to start doing.

I think most of my readers would agree with me that social media is here to stay.  The technology can and will change, but the authenticity and relationships that the technology enables isn’t going anywhere.  Our government has no choice but to start moving more and more toward social media.  We’re already seeing it with Intellipedia, with change.gov, with the TSA’s blog – within virtually every government organization, social media is at least being discussed.  My company has clients across the federal government, and I could get a meeting with pretty much any of them just by saying that I lead our social media practice and I’d like to discuss how their organization could take advantage of social media.  The point is that there’s demand for social media expertise in the public sector.  Everyone is curious, everyone wants to know what all the buzz is about, and everyone is looking for the right answers.

Our time is now.  It’s time to start doing.  If you work for the federal government or for a government contractor, there are opportunities galore for you.  If you’re sitting in your cubicle reading this, just counting the minutes till you can leave for the day, this is your chance.  Social media and the government is your opportunity to stand out and do something to effect real change in our government.

Don’t tell me it’s too hard or that your boss doesn’t know YouTube from an iPod.  Those are excuses, not reasons.  If YouTube is blocked where you work, get it unblocked.  Write a white paper justifying why it shouldn’t be blocked.  Meet with your boss about it.  Meet with your boss’s boss about it.  Start a blog where you talk about it.  Volunteer to give a brown bag presentation to your office.  Just DO something!  Take the initiative and work on changing how your organization works – don’t just sit there sulking, saying, “I wish we could do social media here, but we can’t even get on Facebook so there’s no use.”  Bringing social media to your organization isn’t something that happens from 9-5.  It happens from 5-9, after everyone else has gone home.

I know it’s not easy.  In fact, it’s going to be REALLY hard.  Hard, but definitely not impossible.  You’re going to face a lot of opposition.  You’re going to encounter a lot of nay-sayers.  You’re going to have to work a lot of hours.  You’re going to have to endure a lot of rejection.  Hell, you’ll probably get reprimanded or even fired.

More than likely though, you’ll become recognized.  You’ll be noticeable.  You’ll be in demand.  Most importantly, you’ll make a difference.

Social media and government started not with some policy or memo from the senior leadership, but from regular people sitting in a cubicle who saw an opportunity and decided to do something about it.  They didn’t see a policy prohibiting blogging and say, “oh well, I guess that ends that.”  No, they pulled together briefings on why blogging was needed.  They found examples of others who were doing it.  They told anyone who would listen about the power of blogging.  They got meetings with his bosses.  They eventually changed the policy.

It’s time for you to be that guy and to step up, take the initiative and not let red tape and bureaucracy stop you.   Don’t accept no as an answer and don’t let a couple unenlightened colleagues stop your drive to effect change.   Stand out from the crowd and actually do something about it.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Likes Pics

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Justifying Social Media to the Big Wigs

December 1, 2008

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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?”

Ugh.

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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Learn to Walk Before You Run

November 2, 2008

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Image courtesy of Flickr user karen.j.ybanez

“Why aren’t people using it?”

That’s the question I was recently asked by a colleague working on a project where they had just deployed an internal wiki.  They identified a need to bring people people together in a collaborative environment.  They knew they didn’t have the capability in-house.  They researched the latest collaborative software.  They read an article on Intellipedia.  They said, “that’s what we want!”  They installed a wiki.  They created links to user guides.  They issued memos to their users telling them that this collaborative tool that they’ve all been clamoring for is now available.  Then they waited.  And they waited…

They soon discovered that their users weren’t actually, you know, using the wiki.  They were baffled – they had given their users the capability that they were asking for; they gave them directions for how to use it; they even had their leadership send out messages to the user telling them to use this tool.

“Why aren’t people using it?”

What they didn’t take into account was the fact that a majority of their users were of the Silent or Baby Boomer generation, they were academic researchers who were rewarded for individual published works, and they were very aware of copyright and intellectual property rights.  The problem wasn’t that the users didn’t know how to use the wiki; the problem was that the users didn’t know how to collaborate.  Everything in their nature told them that individual contribution was of the utmost importance.  Everything they’ve ever learned was about protecting and publishing their intellectual property.  Asking this group of users to go from this to using a wiki was a gigantic step that they weren’t ready to take.

Before rolling out ANY type of social media application, whether it’s blogs, or a wiki, or microblogging, make sure that you do an assessment of your user culture first.  Are they rewarded or punished for collaborating?  What collaborative tools, if any, do they already use?  Is risk-taking rewarded?  How do leaders react when their strategy is questioned?  How is the organization more hierarchical or flat?  These questions need to be asked before rolling out any type of social media application.  The answers to these types of questions will help inform what tools will help you achieve your goals.  You have to figure out what your end goal is and then determine the tools and processes will help you get there.  Not every user base is ready to just jump right in and use a wiki.  They need to first learn how to walk.

That’s why I love a tool like Yammer.  Yammer is a microblogging application similar to Twitter, only it’s focused on businesses.  Think of it like an IM platform where every IM you send is open to everyone else in the network.  Instant Messaging has become so ubiquitous that almost everybody is, at a minimum, familiar with the tool and how it’s used.  Moving this basic concept to an open platform is a much smaller step for most people than collaboratively editing a document on a wiki.  Sending a message using Yammer is a combination of sending IMs and sending questions to email distribution lists.  It’s a much more manageable concept, especially for organizations who aren’t prone to collaboration.  Whether your organization ends up using something like Yammer for the long term isn’t all that important at this point – the most important thing is that people are learning how and when to collaborate with others.

If your goal is to create a truly collaborative environment across your organization, remember that a community like Intellipedia just doesn’t grow overnight.  It takes years to move that many users down that road.  Start small and start with something that’s familiar to your user community.  Teach them to walk down the road of collaboration before you expect them to run.

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