Oct 25 2012

In Federal Social Media, Content Remains King

Agencies should consider these tactics as they develop their digital plans.

The White House’s Digital Government Strategy states that “technology is fundamentally transforming how we conduct our business and live our daily lives.” Technological change is rapid and compelling, but content remains the foundation of this strategy, and focusing on the customer is key to developing that content. As Bill Gates once suggested, content is king.

All cabinet-level agencies now use social media to tell their story and get public feedback. To do so, they need people who have substantive knowledge of the agency mission and are dedicated to monitoring sites, developing fresh content and editing carefully to keep that content concise. They must also be familiar with federal guidelines for social media and the web.  

But social media staffs are not isolated in their agencies. They have a resource in the Federal Web Managers Council, which has members from many agencies focused on social media, who reach out to others in government.  

The council is also an advisory group for the White House digital government initiative and has a Mobile Gov Community of Practice, so every web manager in government can reach out to others facing the same challenges. 

Agency managers working to develop social media efforts should consider the following:

Establish a social media policy.  

Write down what you aim to accomplish with social media, and tailor key content to meet those goals. In terms of guidelines for staff, be clear about what is and is not appropriate to say.

Ensure fast clearances for content and responses.  

Tweets and other social media comments or stories require quick turnarounds. Nothing is more “real time” than Twitter. Senior leadership commitment to social media can be very helpful in getting responses and contributions to content creation.

Train staff in editing and use of plain language.  

Quality information is key. With short timeframes and text, it is more important than ever to be clear and concise to support the agency’s mission. The Plain Language Act of 2010 is particularly compelling for tweets; every word has to be understandable and to the point.

Touch base with agency records officers. 

When new content is being created for social media outlets, it’s important to capture it in a records system. Following the government’s digital strategy to create content once and then distribute it via various means would make this effort easier.   

Coordinate with agency IT officers. 

Working together with IT can ensure the privacy and security of this two-way flow of information. “Privacy and security” is also a platform of the Digital Strategy, to ensure “the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services.”

Prepare to measure success.  

Finding appropriate metrics and guidance is difficult, but help is on the way. Under the Digital Strategy, the Digital Services Innovation Center has been assigned the task of identifying tools and creating guidance for measuring performance for digital services. In the meantime, develop guidance for best practices and follow them. Check out ForeSee Research’s study that identified social media best practices of the cabinet-level agencies. Following such best practices will provide a foundation for success.