Tag Archives: blog

The “Getting Started with Government 2.0” Guide

April 2, 2010

92 Comments

In the last few months, I’ve received an increasing number of “hey Steve, how would you recommend someone get started in social media or Government 2.0?” emails, and I’ve gotten tired of sending out the same emails time and time again. I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while, but even I was little overwhelmed at the resources available! So, here’s my attempt at creating a post (with comments) that will hopefully become a helpful resource for those interested in learning more about social media and the Government.

*I realize that there will be GREAT resources out there that I miss in this post – PLEASE add them below as a comment so that others may benefit!!!

The Fundamentals

  1. Government 2.0 is about more than just social media. I define it as “the strategic use of technology to transform our government into a platform that is participatory, collaborative, and transparent” but that’s just one definition – there are a LOT more.  However, to make this post manageable for you guys, I’ll be focusing primarily on the social media and communications side of Government 2.0 here.
  2. Read the Twenty Theses for Government 2.0 – if you’re interested in this world, read these basic tenets of how social media and the government works
  3. You’re not going to learn this stuff via books and blogs alone – you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and actually use these tools to interact with the people you’re trying to reach.
  4. Don’t apply mass media (press releases, TV, radio, etc.) rules and processes to this. Good fundamentals in interpersonal communication will serve you well.  There are no audiences or eyeballs any more – you’re going to be dealing with real people here.

    Gov 2.0 milestones from 2009

  5. Getting “good” at this is going to take time. I can’t give you a checklist of things to do and magically, you’re going to be good at it when you’re done. While I wish it were that easy, just keeping up with all of the changes that are taking place in the government is hard enough. The environment has changed so much even in the last year. That’s why all these steps will get only get you started – it will be up to you to keep the progress up!

The Starter Videos

Baby Steps

  • Do a Google search on your name. Find out what’s available online about you already – this is your first impression to most people.  Do you have a popular name and the results are flooded with data that’s not about you? Doesn’t matter – I don’t know that that’s not you.  You NEED to be aware of what’s out there about you and what can be associated with you.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your name/organization so that you’re notified whenever someone writes a blog post, news article, etc. about you or your organization.
  • Read Chris Brogan’s “If I Started Today” and his “Social Media Starter Pack” posts
  • Do some internal research.  Search your organization’s Intranet to see who in your organization is already doing something with social media or Government 2.0.  Find out who the experts are within and introduce yourself to them.  Have a meeting with them and find out what they recommend/where you might be able to help. I know this is all new to you, but chances are, someone has already started doing something with social media internally.
  • Do some external research.  Google your organization’s name and “social media” or “Government 2.0” or “open government.”  Find out what, if anything, is being said externally.  Maybe you’ll find out additional names of people you can reach out to or maybe you’ll find nothing – either way, it’s better to have done your research first.
  • Find your organization’s social media policy/guidelines and memorize them. Print them out and stick them to your wall.  If your organization doesn’t have any social media guidelines, find your external communications policy and see if it’s covered in there. If not, then go and talk with your public affairs/external communications team and have a conversation about this.

Setting the Stage

The government – federal, state, and local – isn’t some late adopter in social media. In many cases, they’re leading the way. Before you start thinking that just because you work in an office that still only has Internet Explorer 6, and any social media knowledge is just going to blow everyone away, take a look through some of these influential  documents on what the government is doing in this area.

Books

If you’re a book reader, go out and get the following:

Daily Reading

Become Part of the Online Community

  • Get on LinkedIn. Here’s a good primer on how to get started there. LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented social networking site there is. It’s low risk, and it will give you a starting point for your online activities.
  • Join GovLoop, the “Facebook for Government” with more than 25,000 members, and read through their Getting Started Guide. Try to visit at least once a day.

    Join GovLoop if you haven't already

  • Join Twitter (watch Twitter in Plain English). No, it’s not just a site where you’re going to hear what people ate for lunch. This is where you’re going to get a chance to meet and interact with some of the top social media and Gov 2.0 minds in real-time.  Once you create your account, start by following these people/lists:

Protecting Your Privacy

  • As you’re signing up for these social networking services, and you start “getting out there,” don’t forget that there are privacy implications to everything you post online. While the following resources will help educate you on the privacy policies and best practices of social media, I always tell people not to post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss/mom seeing. I don’t care what check boxes you select or what privacy setting you use – if it’s online, consider it public.  Facebook doesn’t have a setting to prevent “right click, save as” or from hitting the PrintScreen button and grabbing a screenshot. 

Newsletters

  • Subscribe to the Daily Scoop from FedScoop
  • Subscribe to the SmartBrief on Social Media – fantastic daily email newsletter on the top social media stories of the day (disclosure: I’m on their Advisory Board)
  • Subscribe to KD Paine’s Measurement Standard newsletter for the latest news, tips, and strategies for measuring and evaluating social media
  • If you’re a member of GovLoop, you’ll also receive the GovLoop Weekly, a newsletter highlighting the best of GovLoop each week

Bookmark These Government 2.0 Resources

Social Media is About Connecting Offline Too

Becoming comfortable and effective with social media doesn’t mean just mean sitting in front of your computer either.

GovLoop profiles a new member every week, and GovFresh has highlighted several members of the Gov 2.0 community as Gov 2.0 heroes. If you get a chance, introduce yourself to these people as I can virtually guarantee you that someone has already experienced whatever challenge you’re facing and can probably help you overcome it.

Congratulations if you made it this far!  At this point, you will be pretty overwhelmed – that’s ok!  Back when I got started with social media at my company, it took me around six months to go from “hmmm, this is interesting” to “let’s actually do something with this as an organization!” Spend some time reading, learning, playing, meeting, and talking with people until you are comfortable with the concepts and tools of social media and the government.

The Sunlight Foundation's interpretation of a logo for open government

Taking a Strategic View

Once you’re comfortable with the principles and tools of social media, now you can start applying them to your organization. Start by reviewing this handy social media strategy worksheet from AIDS.gov, as well as this super list of social media case studies from organizations around the world. From the public sector, check out all of the case studies that were highlighted at last year’s Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo.

Your next step will likely be step 3 in my “Bringing Social Media to Your Organization Playbook.”  By this point, you should be pretty saturated in the world of social media, (and have hopefully dropped me a tweet or two), so I’ll end this massive post here as you should be well on your way to adding yourself to my lists of resources above.  Just keep in mind that you may soon find yourself following the evolution of the social media evangelist – be aware of the stages that you may very well find yourself in, and start identifying ways to mitigate the challenges that they may present.

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Keeping Gov 2.0 Fresh

January 21, 2010

8 Comments

Have you heard of GovFresh? It, along with Federal Computer Week, GovLoop, Fedscoop, and the many Gov 2.0 leaders on Twitter, are my primary sources of all things Gov 2.0. GovFresh was created last year by Luke Fretwell with the goal of inspiring government-citizen collaboration and build a more engaged democracy and is a great source for all things Gov 2.0. One of the things that I really like about GovFresh is the diversity of features – from highlighting Gov 2.0 at the local level to your Gov 2.0 Heroes series to videos, books, and a whole host of RSS feeds, Luke has created a platform that offers value to anyone involved in Gov 2.0, whether you’re working with Vivek Kundra on data.gov, or trying to get the mayor of a tiny town in Kansas to blog, GovFresh will probably have something that’s highly relevant to what you’re doing.

I wanted to sit down with Luke and get his take on what GovFresh means to him and where we’re likely to see it going in the future.

Like Steve Ressler, founder of GovLoop, you’re based outside of the DC metro area as well. How’d you get involved in the Government 2.0 community from 3,000 miles away? Was there a specific moment that you can point to where GovFresh got started?

I grew up, lived and worked in the Washington, DC, area, so I’m familiar with the culture and mechanics of the Beltway and government. I studied political science and international relations at George Mason University and was editor-in-chief of Broadside, the student newspaper. I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area right right before the dot-com bust to pursue start-up opportunities. Web design, development, strategy and social media are as much in my blood as C-SPAN, NewsHour and WAMU. When the idea for GovFresh came to me, it was a DC-meets-SF perfect storm.
The first iteration of GovFresh transpired over 3 days. After seeing how government was beginning to use social media, it dawned on me that I could create my own set of aggregated feeds and effectively build my own news site. I thought about how best to execute it quickly. The next day I picked the name and designed a simple interface, most of it while riding BART home from an event. I met with a friend that Friday who helped me set up the site and it launched that afternoon.

What are you trying to accomplish with GovFresh?
I want GovFresh to inspire new ideas and encourage public servants to be more innovative and embrace a sense of openness. I want developers to see the opportunities for them to be part of a new way of governing. I want citizens to see that their government can be more collaborative and forthcoming, especially if they’re willing to let it make mistakes from time to time. The concept of government is faceless, distant and tedious to most people. I hope we can help change that.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, I’d like to see GovFresh evolve into a sustainable business, through sponsorships, partnerships, advertising, consulting, events or all of the above. Building a thriving business that matters and adds honest social value is the real American Dream.

What are the biggest challenges to running GovFresh?  You have a day job too, right?  How do you fit it all in?

The biggest challenge of any privately-funded start-up venture is finding the right balance. I do Web, marketing and social media consulting (http://lukefretwell.com), but put a lot of effort into GovFresh. I’m very family with the start-up environment. There are moments where you think you’re working on something great and, 5 minutes later, you’re ready to give it all up. It takes a great deal of energy. Also, I can appreciate the financial challenges of original content media. I don’t think people realize the effort it takes or the support it needs.

From a content perspective, the biggest challenge is living so far from Washington, DC, where much of the open gov & Gov 2.0 chatter is centralized. The challenge isn’t in finding content, but more in connecting with people you’ve never met face-to-face, which is still integral in getting the word out about what you’re doing. Even with the Web 2.0 crowd, there’s still very much a 1.0 mindset when it comes to letting outsiders in. The latter is changing. More people are learning about GovFresh and get behind what we’re doing. When I get a random email that says “I’m GovFresh, too!” or “I’m a big fan of GovFresh” and want to help, it re-enforces you’re doing something right.

What do you see as the primary value that GovFresh delivers?
I ask everyone this, because it’s important for me to understand the value to better build on its success. Most people will say, “I know this is cliche, but you bring a fresh perspective to government.” Even though we’re not a social network, I get lot of feedback on the sense of community it brings to the open gov, Gov 2.0 world and the way government is covered. GovFresh also offers public servants and citizens a place to share their ideas in an open way. One great example is what Gov 2.0 prodigy Dustin Haisler is doing at Manor.Govfresh.com, where he’s sharing the City of Manor’s innovation processes. Idealistically speaking, I hope the value is that it inspires public servants to push for a fresh approach to doing their jobs. For citizens, I hope it makes them want to engage in a more creative, collaborative way with their government.

You just launched MilFresh – where do you see that site going, and why launch it as a separate site rather than just as a part of GovFresh?
MilFresh is ‘GovFresh for the military’ and focuses on Gov 2.0 in the military, or ‘Military 2.0.’ I think the dynamics and culture of social media and the military are different than government. They’re different communities. It just felt appropriate to separate the brands and content. There’s still a lot to learn around what’s happening with Mil 2.0, but MilFresh has forced me to be more disciplined in the way I follow it.

It’s January 1, 2011 – in an ideal world, where is GovFresh?  Where do you see it going over the next year?
We’re working with more people on guest-blogging and creating serial content, whether it’s from in-the-trenches public servants to government solution providers to citizens with great ideas. I enjoy the GovFreshTV interviews and we’ll expand on that. We’re in the process of creating an event series focused on local open government/Gov 2.0 initiatives too. Frankly, though, much of the direction has been inspired by others. If you asked me six months ago to outline where GovFresh would be today and how it would transpire, I would have been completely off the mark. By January 2011, I hope government and citizens realize there’s a place for them to engage on a new way of working together, and I hope GovFresh plays a big role in that.

What’s the one thing that you’d like the people of the Gov 2.0 community to know about GovFresh?
You can get involved. Whether you guest-blog, send an idea, connect us with someone doing great work or become a business partner, GovFresh is just as much yours as it is mine.  Just send me an email at luke (at) govfresh (dot) com.

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I Started a Blog But No One Cared

January 8, 2010

90 Comments

 

Image Courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog

As many of you know, here at Booz Allen, we’ve got an internal suite of social media tools available on our Intranet – hello.bah.com. While it’s garnered a lot of publicity, won awards, and really changed the way we think about virtual collaboration here, I get asked this question and others like it (e.g., why isn’t anyone asking questions? How do I get people to read the blog? Why isn’t anyone editing the wiki pages?) at least once a week.

These aren’t trivial questions – people take the time to create a blog post or add content to a wiki because of the promise of emergent collaboration. They hear stories about people getting entire white papers written by people they don’t even know because it was posted to an open wiki; they see blog posts with dozens of comments that lead to new initiatives; they read forum threads dozens of pages long with input from people across the organization and they want to realize those benefits too. Against everything they’ve learned over the years, they post some content to this open and transparent platform with the hopes that people will flock to it, adding comments, having discussions, linking to additional resources, and interacting with their information. When that collaboration and interaction doesn’t happen, they quickly get turned off and will either A) assume they did something wrong and not go back or B) believe that they’ve been sold a lot of snake oil and this social media stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As you might imagine, neither of these conclusions bode well for the long-term health of a virtual community behind the firewall. So, what do I tell these folks when they ask me why no one is reading their forum posts, commenting on their blogs, or editing their wiki pages?  I start by sending them these eight bullets -

  • Write interesting content. You’d be surprised at some of the mind-numbingly boring stuff government consultants blog about. Realistically, out of the 20,000+ people at the firm, how many of them are really going to be interested in your jargon and acronym-filled blog post about the latest developments in IT Service Management? Write something that more than the 20 people on your team will be interested in if you’re looking to get greater engagement.
  • Email is still king. Despite all its successes to date, hello.bah.com isn’t a daily, in the workflow destination for most of our staff. They see the potential of it, and use it occasionally, but visiting the hello homepage to check out the latest blog posts and wiki changes isn’t exactly at the top of mind for most people yet. Post your blog entry, wiki content, forum thread, etc. and then send out an email with a link to it.
  • Cross-promote. Include the link to your content in your team newsletters, meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures, briefings, Yammer messages, and any other communications vehicles you use. Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post. When our senior VP started blogging internally, we sent out a mass email with each post that included a link to the post, a short blurb on what it was about, and directions for how to subscribe for future posts. We did this for the first five posts or so until people were aware that the blog was out there.
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t just post and then whine about people not commenting on your content. Ask yourself if you’ve gone out and commented on anyone else’s blogs. No? Then why are you surprised that no one is commenting on yours. Go find other posts and wiki pages related to your topic and engage there. Include links back to your content as “additional information you might find useful.”
  • Give people an action. Why are you posting in the first place? Do you want to get people’s opinions on some new initiative? Do you want cross-team collaboration on a white paper? Are you asking your team if they have questions about the new reorganization? Be clear about what you want from your readers.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell me what benefit I get from taking time out of my day to click over to your blog/wiki page/forum and read it. Will I get an opportunity to influence future policy? Will this be the new location where all of our meeting agendas and minutes will be kept? Is creating my profile required for my performance assessment? Will I get to get answers directly from a VP instead of some anonymous email address? Don’t just tell me that it’s there and to click the link because that’s not enough. Entice me. Whet my appetite for what I’m going to get for my time.
  • Do some internal “pitching.” I’ve had colleagues reach out to me and ask me if I’d blog about their programs on my blog. People have asked me to go out to Yammer and link back to their wiki pages. I’ve received internal emails from people pitching me on their project and asking me to “get my team to engage with their content.” This isn’t because I’m some subject matter expert, it’s because I happen to have a popular internal blog and my readers and friends tend to read what I write and click over to things I link to. Find people like me and make them aware of your content and ask them to get involved. No one wants to be the first person to respond – they want to see that other people have read it and commented on it too.  Aren’t you more likely to read a blog post that has 20 comments than one that has none?
  • Lastly, be a community manager.  When the comments on our VP’s blog all started to skew toward the “thanks for posting – great job” variety, the value of those comments went way down (our VPs don’t need any more self-esteem:).  That’s when I started to post some more contradictory/controversial comments and posts.  I wanted to model the behavior that people could/should take when participating in that online community. Other people needed to see how to interact in this new environment.
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An Interview with Blogger Bob From TSA’s Evolution of Security Blog

March 10, 2009

46 Comments

When I first started “Social Media Strategery” six months ago, one of my inspirations was the TSA’s “Evolution of Security” blog.  Along with Intellipedia, which showed me that IT security fears could be overcome, the Evolution of Security blog showed me that something even more important – that our government could be open and transparent with the public, even in the face of heavy criticism.  Let’s be honest here – the TSA isn’t on anyone’s list of most beloved government agencies – who enjoys going through security at the airport?   Yet, they have a very open blog that’s advertised on the official TSA website and in airports around the country.  I was beyond intrigued – I was also excited and curious.  How did they do what I had been told would never be done?   Why did they do it?  How are they managing  it?  I immediately began thinking of ways to bring this open, authentic conversation to my other government clients, knowing that maybe this Government 2.0 thing was possible after all.

Because sometimes all it takes is one blog, one wiki, or one presentation to inspire someone else, I wanted to interview one of TSA’s bloggers, Blogger Bob, to find out what made TSA take a risk like this in the first place, how it’s been working out for them, and what we can look forward to in the future.  Maybe someone else will get inspired by what they read here and realize that Government 2.0 is happening right now, and that they can make a real difference.

My questions are underlined and bolded below – Blogger Bob’s responses are found just below each question.

When and why did you decide that the TSA should do an external blog?
“That’s an easy one. Our former administrator, Kip Hawley, requested a blog. From that point, it was about 6 months later that we launched our blog. From what I’ve heard and read, one of the largest hurdles to clear is getting leadership to buy off on Web 2.0, but in our case, the Grand Poobah wanted it. That made things much easier. Kip wanted an outlet where he could make TSA a little more transparent. Lynn (Blog Team Member) was a major part of getting the blog off the ground as well. She and others wanted a way to interact with passengers and talk about airport security, knowing there’s not really much time for conversation at the checkpoint. This was also an excellent opportunity to debunk myths and let passengers know about new ideas and procedures.”

What was the biggest challenge you faced in taking it from a good idea to actually creating the blog?  Was there any type of key event that became the turning point in making it happen?  If so, what was it?
“We had to work with IT Security and Legal to make sure we wouldn’t start any fires. Legal also played a major part in crafting our comment policy.  Finding folks who are committed to moderating is a bit of a challenge, but they’re out there.”

How did you determine whether to host the blog on a .gov or a .com server?  How did you resolve the various reporting/privacy requirements of hosting comments on a .gov server?
“All “official” government systems must be hosted on .gov domains per FISMA (law). This gives the public confidence that they are interacting with the government and not a “phishing” (fake) government Web site. When we stood-up our TSA blog in January 2008, there was no guidance on what the reporting/privacy requirements were for government blogs. Therefore we coordinated a policy and Terms of Use between the Office of Chief Counsel and other TSA offices. After a brief period of internal deliberation, we felt that we put sufficient safeguards in place to launch and maintain a government blog that was consistent with the spirit of established guidance. Thanks to Neil Bonner for that answer.”

Have you encountered any situations where something you’ve said on the blog turned out to be inaccurate after the fact?  How did you deal with that?
“I once said I was eating Froot Loops when I was actually eating “Frosted O’s.” You’re the first person I’ve admitted this to. Seriously though, there have been a couple of times where clarification was needed. The simplest way for us to deal with that was to just provide an update in the original post and then announce it in our comment section that we made the update.”

According to the Delete-o-Meter, you’ve only had to delete about 1,000 comments.  That seems like a very low % when compared to the number of total comments.  Do you/have you receive(d) any pushback from your superiors for negative comments that are posted?
Not at all. When Kip started the TSA blog, honesty is what he was after. He wanted it, warts and all. We sometimes get pushback from our officers in the field though. At times it can seem as if we’ve tied ourselves to the whipping post and created a demoralization machine. But that’s not true at all. When you look at the bigger picture, we’ve got about 3,000 readers a week and a small percentage of those readers are commenting. We fully expected to get hammered when we launched the blog. We didn’t expect a bunch of super fans waving foam fingers reading “TSA is #1″ to follow our blog.”

What would you say is the biggest success story that has resulted from the blog (indirectly or directly)?
“I think the biggest success story is the blog itself. It has succeeded when many thought it would never last. We’ve been blogging for over a year now and we’re still kicking. I think the blog has allowed us to show that we’re human and not a bunch of soulless govbots. The blog has allowed us to become much more transparent and even those who would rather see TSA fail have commended us for allowing a forum for them to vent. It hasn’t come easy though. Transparency is a tricky thing when you’re working for the government. There are just certain things you can’t talk about. And when we tell our readers we can’t talk about something, it’s kind of like telling an angry person to relax. They just get angrier. But that’s the reality when you’re blogging for the Govt. But all in all, we’ve been able to make policy changes (Black Diamond & Electronics in Bags) and better train our work force. (MacBook Air)   There are also the many changes you don’t see. We’ve got officers and leadership from airports around the world paying attention to the blog. It has to have some impact on the way we do business. There is even one case in Seattle where the Federal Security Director has his leadership discuss the blog at daily meetings.”

How did you identify the bloggers for the “Evolution of Security” blog?  Do they go through any sort of training before they can start blogging?
“Lynn went to Google and just started searching for TSA employees that were blogging. Of course, my name came up in the search and Lynn knew me from my work on the TSA Advisory Council. I didn’t receive any training since I was already familiar with blogging and had been with TSA for 6 years. On the other hand, Paul was hired directly out of college. Blogging was no problem for him, but he had to wrap his brain around TSA. We suggested some reading and sent Paul out to the field to observe. We’ve also involved Paul in other Public Affairs tasks such as writing press releases and public affairs guidance. This type of work is an excellent way for Paul to dig in and learn about all things TSA. We’re getting ready to bring a few officers onto the blog and we’ll have to provide some basic training and guidance. Nothing too complicated…just expectations, blog etiquette and vetting procedures.”

How much, if any, outreach do you do on other blogs/social networks?  Are you actively commenting on other TSA-related blogs?
“I do random outreach. Using my Google Reader, I check for all things TSA related daily. If I see something that needs a response, I’ll go in and make a comment. Some people are weirded out that I (The Government) found them and others are pleasantly surprised. I am also spending a lot of time on Twitter lately seeking out TSA questions and providing answers. Some folks have figured out that they can ask me a question @tsablogteam. It will be interesting to see how our use of Twitter evolves.”

What other blogs do you enjoy reading and why?
“When I’m off the clock, I enjoy reading mostly music related blogs. The days of reading store-bought magazines and listening to the radio to seek out new music are over. Now you can listen to mp3’s of the artist while reading a review or interview. I enjoy The Futurist, Stereogum, Aquarium Drunkard, Soul Sides and Gorilla vs. Bear, to name a few.”

Where do you see the “Evolution of Security” blog going in 2009? Any new features/changes coming?
“Yes! We are going to be switching from Blogger to WordPress. We are also going to be posting more vlogs and podcasts. Also, I am currently talking with four of our officers in the field about joining the blog team. It will be exciting to get some more folks on board that have their boots on the ground out in the field.”

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