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!!!
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Social Media and the Federal Government: Perceived and Real Barriers and Potential Solutions – written in 2008 but should give you an idea of how far we’ve come since then. Many of the points are still valid.
- Transparency and Open Government Memo – issued the day after President Obama took office
- Open Government Directive – issued on Dec. 8, 2009, this directive directs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration set forth in the President’s Memorandum
The Open Government Directive set the wheels in motion for a lot Government 2.0 initiatives
- GSA Terms of Service Agreements with social media providers – GSA has signed agreements with Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blist, Slideshare, AddThis and blip.tv, and is in discussions with many other providers that offer free social media services
- Department of Defense (DoD) Official Policy on Social Media – this policy states that the default level of access should be open so that all of DoD can use social media.
- OMB’s Guidance on Using Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government – highlights the policy and legal issues related to implementing the Open Government Directive
- The White House’s Open Gov Dashboard – Quick look at how the individual agencies are faring in implementing the Open Government Directive
- The Federal Government’s Open Gov Tracker – Government agencies are soliciting the public’s ideas on how to make them more transparent, participatory, collaborative and innovative.
- The White House’s Open Government Innovations Gallery – take a look at some of the best examples of open government done well
If you’re a book reader, go out and get the following:
- Get started with Google Reader – this will become your hub where you will be able to subscribe to the latest news, tips, tricks, advice, and trends anywhere on the Internet
- Subscribe to the following social media blogs (just a starting point – click around on their blogs to see who they’re reading too):
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.
- 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.
Taking a Strategic View
The Sunlight Foundation's interpretation of a logo for open government
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.