Why Government Needs Social Media NOW

Recently there has been some talk on a few other DC-based social media consultant blogs about the rise of "Government 2.0" and whether the so-called experts in the space really deserve that title. Yet for all this attention on expertise in social media (justified or not), those of us who at least work and provide advice in the space have not done as much as we need to offer the ammunition to the people who are really in a position to move government forward into using these tools. These are the web masters, communications managers, PR directors and other such people who are the voices waiting to be unleashed within government offices everywhere.

For them, there needs to be a simple reason to care about social media – and actionable advice to sell it into their organizations so they start focusing on it sooner rather than later. Thankfully, the new administration coming in offers that simple reason in three short crucial words: Get Obama's Attention. Since government loves acronyms, let's call this idea GOA.

GOA means building your public support. It means getting more funding and more attention from the new administration. GOA can allow you to have a greater impact on people in the US and have an easier time finding and connecting with those who believe in your mission and can help you. It can even make recruiting to get the best and brightest working with you easier. GOA, in short, could be any government agency's initial reason for starting to use social media.

Though this may be a vast oversimplification, consider that if used strategically social media for government can do all of the following:

  1. Share real voices and stories to help bring the mission of a particular agency to life.
  2. Demonstrate widespread public support for an issue or department's mission.
  3. Be findable by staffers who are the first point of research for any policy or legislation.
  4. Activate the most passionate voices internally and externally to promote an agency's mission.
  5. Own Google search results to manage negative comments or content on a particular issue or policy.

No matter how traditional or risk-averse the leader of a particular government agency happens to be … there is none that I could imagine who would not want to get more of Obama's attention (and by extension the attention of his administration). Those advocates of social media within government may finally have the reason they have been seeking to sell the idea of social media internally.

Update: Several responders on Twitter and people leaving comments shared the point that a social media strategy shouldn’t just be about Obama. I used him as a symbol in my original post, but the idea of GOA could more broadly be described as getting the attention of those influencers who matter when it comes to funding and support. Obviously that is more than just Obama – but the point is that sometimes the most powerful argument to support using social media is the visibility for an issue or mission that it can offer.

Note: This post was originally published on the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence blog.

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