Thursday, April 16, 2009

Up, Up, and Away! Five Tips for Launching an Internal Network

So, you’ve been searching high and low for a way to jazz up your office’s internal communications and collaboration, and now you’ve heard that GSA negotiated a terms-of-service agreement with Facebook for federal agencies. Your agency is on board, too? You even got the go-ahead from your boss?! These are definitely exciting times. Let the Facebooking begin!

Wait a second.

Social media can make a big difference in the way your office works together and communicates, but it doesn’t just happen on its own once your coworkers all have usernames and passwords. Whether you’re using Facebook, Second Life, a wiki, or another platform, you need to have a solid plan to make your new internal network succeed.

Add Value. These platforms are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. As such, if the tool you have chosen is unlikely to actually improve communication and collaboration in your office, you probably don’t need it. Likewise, different tools have different purposes, so make sure you are using the right one.

Start Small. Nothing kills a new network faster than using it to take on too much, too soon. Set a discreet, simple objective with a short timeline, and make your objectives more ambitious as your office becomes more and more comfortable.

Provide Guidance. It doesn’t matter if your coworkers are from Generation X or The Greatest Generation. Either way, it’s a safe bet that they’ll benefit from – and appreciate – a set of brief but detailed instructions and best practices.

Get a Mandate. Many a promising initiative has died on the vine due to a lack of support from management. Your boss’s job isn’t done after he or she gives their initial approval. Rather, to ensure that everyone in your office participates, your boss needs to issue a mandate. After all, it’ll be next to impossible to get your coworkers – who are probably already burdened with multiple business processes and heavy workloads – to adopt a new tool “just because.”

Stick With It. In the perfect scenario, you turn the key and your new network takes off like a rocket. But even with a mandate from your boss, that’s unlikely to happen. Plan to promote participation with regular nudges and encouragements. If you’ve selected the right tool for the job – one that really adds value – your network or wiki will become a self-sustaining part of your new and improved office environment.

Zachariah Miller is a Presidential Management Fellow at the General Services Administration. You can connect with him on Twitter or GovLoop.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Last week my team was asked to develop an ‘internal blog’ that would reside on the intranet. The initial purpose was to create a blog that allowed two-way communication, much like a ‘bulletin board’. As it turns out, it wasn't a blog that we were being asked to create, but really a forum.

I’m sure we all have similar stories, and hopefully we can learn from misguided courses that have been charted by others.

When it comes time to implement Web 2.0 tools to your overall strategy, it is really important that everyone involved fully understands what your agency is trying to accomplish before committing to any tool. Knowing your mission should always come first.

While organizations are eager to join the social media phenomena they first ask “what are we trying to accomplish?” and only after having a clear answer comes “Which tool is the most appropriate?” Comparing and differentiating between blogs, wikis, micro blogs, and forums may be like comparing apples to oranges in the eyes of a tech-savvy ‘social-media butterfly’; but for some it’s all Greek and therefore all the same

Choosing the appropriate tool means that users can effectively and efficiently accomplish the agency’s intended tasks. After all, you wouldn’t use a spreadsheet to write a book report; similarly you likely wouldn’t want to use a forum as a blog, or a micro blog as your means of RSS.

Misapplication of Web 2.0 tools can leave users feeling unengaged or even confused, resulting in miscommunication and abandonment. Like two ships passing in the night, neither are the wiser.

The importance of getting it right the first time around is two fold: [1] failure could create resistance in future Web 2.0 initiatives within your organization, and [2] most important, once you have lost the unengaged or, worse, disinterested users it’s more difficult to get them back on track.

In joining the Social Media Subcouncil, I’m working to help share experiences and shed light on important issues like identifying the right channel. Hopefully if you have any similar stories, start a discussion. Even better if you have a best practice or other guidance to share, we’d love to see that too. If you haven’t already, head over to our wiki and see what others are talking about!

Yaron Benjamin is a Web Developer/IT Specialist for the Defense Commissary Agency. You can connect with him on Twitter or GovLoop.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How much exposure can $25 buy you on Facebook?

I don't know if you have given much thought to using Ads on Facebook. I really hadn't, but got curious last week. We're not using Facebook at Housing and Urban Development yet, so I thought of another way to test this capability. I put on one of my other hats: I serve on a non-profit board working to save/preserve an 18'th century farm in my community and put together an ad on Facebook.

Creating an ad is extremely easy. There are three simple steps: 1) what is the title for the Ad? 2) What do you want to say (there's a 135 character limit: Twitter skills useful here!) 3) What image do you want to use?, and 4) Where should someone be directed when they click on your advertisement?

This took me all of about 15 minutes to do. Anyone who clicks on the ad will be redirected to the non-profit's website.

You pay with a credit card and can schedule when you want it to run, and what demographics to target (age, geography, key words, etc.), and give the ad run a "daily budget." You can choose between paying by the click or by impressions (in thousands of impressions). You "bid" on what rate you'll pay.

There are some rules regarding ad creation and some specific policies you have to follow. I don't know how our use of this advertising would relate to the agreement being negotiated with Facebook, but so far I'm intrigued. I know we at HUD will spend a significant amount of money doing targeted advertising through traditional media, and I'll have to see how this compares to those costs.

For this ad, I targeted all Facebook users over 18 living within 10 miles of Annapolis, Maryland. I chose the click-through rate and bid 50 cents per click. Had I chose impressions, the suggested bid for 1,000 impressions was about 38 cents per thousand.

I set this up on a Wednesday night around midnight, it was approved by Facebook (they review every ad before it can run) and the ad began running at 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning. By 8:00 a.m. the ad had been shown 2,500 times and 2 people clicked through to the Goshen Farm website. So, I had spent $1 so far to get two people to visit our website. My daily budget was $5 a day for the next 5 days, with the "Campaign" ending Monday night at midnight.

This morning, I logged in to see the results. Over the last five days, the ad was shown 78,398 times to people who live within 10 miles of Annapolis, Maryland. Had I chosen to pay per thousand impressions, the cost would have worked out to 38 cents per thousand. Fifty-five people clicked on the advertisement and visited my non-profit's website, for a cost of 44 cents per click.

This might sound like a lot of effort to drive 55 visitors to our website. But, when you consider in five days we drove more than double the number of visitors to our site as we get in a normal month, I was pretty pleased. And, I know that the people who clicked on this advertisement were exactly who we were looking to attract: people living within 10 miles of Annapolis, who are over 18, and are interested in historic preservation. In addition, our message and organization name were shown on nearly 80,000 page loads. All in all, I feel pretty satisfied with the $25 this cost.

Only time will tell if we generate any additional interest for our cause with this experiment. But, I can definitely see some broader uses in the future. The targeting capability is extremely useful. Let's say for instance, HUD were to establish a new program for Seniors: something like reverse mortgages. One of the avenues to get the message out could be to advertise on Facebook pages of all people in the United States over age 55.

You might try some experiments with Facebook advertising as well. I'd love to hear from anyone who's tried this on a larger scale to see what the results were.

Guest Blog Post by Sam Gallagher, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Departmental Web Manager.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gone #Camping: My 2.0 Experience of #gov20camp

The unfortunate budget realities in the State of California prevented me from traveling to Washington, D.C. last weekend to attend Government 2.0 Camp, but that didn't stop me from participating!

Thanks to live tweeting, I was able to follow the event from the very beginning to the very end (and then beyond, as presentations, videos and pictures continue to be added). And although I would have much rather been there to meet the thought leaders in person and experience the rockstars in the flesh, I've discovered posts like this one from GovLoop that reinforce the idea that the wisdom of the crowd can be disseminated rapidly... and in real time.

I participated. I retweeted. I shared my activities - for the benefit of my local followers and co-workers who are interested in the newest developments in social media for government. I cheered on my fellow sub-council members as they presented an overview of the Social Media Subcouncil. And then I retweeted some more.

The nearest to real-time experience I had was the Ask the White House session with Macon Philips and Bev Godwin. The audience was asking questions of Macon and the whirlwind implementation of social media tools like "Open for Questions", an open source online tool that lets citizens ask the Obama Administration questions. (I imagined most people's jaws dropped when Macon told everyone it was implemented in only eight days). Then the conversation shifted to how to measure citizen engagement.

And others had inspiring and amazing things to share. From my fellow subcouncil member, Amanda Eamich. From Steve Radick. From Jeffrey Levy. From Mixtmedia (and again, urging participants to take advantage of the opportunity to present solutions and advocate their positions on social media). It was pretty amazing to observe the interaction and the desire this crowd has to be heard in such an open forum - all from 3,000 miles away and through Twitter.

I'm in no way advocating that monitoring a twitter stream is the same as being there, but it does speak volumes to the possibilities for equity and participatory engagement of citizens and small agencies who may not have resources to attend. It also reinforces a vision for a global community working together to solve the world's problems.

I leave you with the words of Jeffrey Levy (co-chair of the Social Media Subcouncil): "Misson! Tool! Metrics! Teach!"

Marilyn Clark is the Manager of Online Communications and Services for the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and a member of the Social Media Subcouncil. You can connect with her on Twitter or GovLoop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Government 2.0 Un-Conference, Un-packed

The first-ever government 2.0 un-conference was impressive and invigorating. Coming together with a reported 500 colleagues, enthusiasts and thought leaders in social media and web 2.0 applications was a great opportunity to focus my individual efforts as well as those driven by the Social Media Subcouncil on which I serve. Not to mention, the gathering allowed a forum for our Subcouncil to meet and interact with the larger community.

110 sessions over two days addressed relevant, and sometimes tough, questions that our Subcouncil is working through. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and expertise brought to each session I attended. From exploring how Federal employees can use social media to achieve their mission, how to effectively engage communities to a session drafting a list of transparency objectives for the new administration, every 45-minute session was filled with rich and thought provoking discussion.

I loved that attendees not only represented the federal or private sector inside the Beltway; I had great conversations with Congressional staff, local and state government managers and non-profit organizations. Government 2.0 is not an exclusive club and we want to continue the conversation.

Jaqi Ross led a session about the Social Media Subcouncil where we fielded questions from the crowd. We shared information about how the Subcouncil was formed, who’s represented, where folks can find us online, what everyone’s role is, and why they should get involved. Stay tuned to the public wiki for a growing collection of comments and suggestions.

We heard about access issues from GSA representatives and a great open forum with Bev Godwin and unannounced attendee White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips. Their presence and interest our discussion is proof enough that our work is more important than ever.

Many of the Subcouncil members led discussions during individual sessions that generated a buzz still lingering in cyber-space. I can’t begin to talk about sessions without acknowledging Subcouncil co-chair Jeffrey Levy – one of the Government 2.0 Camp organizers. Not only did he help plan and run the event, he brought with him a commanding portfolio of lessons learned and words of wisdom to share with all that would listen.

With him, one of my public health colleagues Andrew Wilson of the Health and Human Services sat on a panel with General Service Administration leaders on how social media has helped reach mission goals such as reaching new communities, motivating citizens to participate in activities or informing the public in the event of a public health situation. A great case study on using social media in a public health event, Erin Edgerton at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a case study on how they along with HHS agencies managed the peanut product recalls.

On the use of social media in public diplomacy and foreign affairs, Lovisa Williams was everywhere. She led and participated in a few sessions over the course of the barcamp and hopefully you were able to meet her. Hugely successful, Michelle Springer presented the Library of Congress Flikr Project as a case study on adding content to a public social media site and better understanding the impact social tagging and folksonomies.

Not surprising, employing Twitter as part of the overall mission or during a crisis situation was a popular topic. One of the Subcouncil’s state reps Julia Gregory covered one of these sessions along with Erin Malick at the Federal Trade Commission. The rate of expansion in this space is staggering and how different groups use the medium was interesting. Reinforced takeaway: It can be what you make of it.

After two days of talking all things social media and web 2.0 I left with wide eyes, a mind full of ideas and a pocket full of business cards. Even though these phenomena empower virtual connections and collaboration, it’s the people that matter most. If we didn’t meet this time around, it’s not too late.

Amanda Eamich is Director of Strategic Communications and New Media at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and member of the Social Media Subcouncil. You can connect with her on Twitter or GovLoop