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.


  1. Hi Yaron,

    Great post! I urge audiences to ask five questions when thinking about a social media solution:

    1. Why? (Tie back to mission, goals, objectives, needs, gaps)

    2. Who? (Get a champion, think about consistent content contributors and keep the constituent/citizen/customer in mind every step of the way)

    3. How? (Only after "why" and "who" do we get the question of "How do we best accomplish our goal for the target audience?" and define the tools)

    4. What? (Here's the content question - what information/knowledge are you trying to share/elicit?)

    5. When? (The project manager in me wants a clear timeline for implementation and evaluation...a project plan that includes all of the above information, then holds people accountable through clear target dates).

    The project manager in me also wants to ask "Why?" 5 times in the planning process, which can be asked with every one of the subsequent questions after the first "why?" Mission first and foremost!

  2. One of the suggestions I have is that everyone needs to know what they are getting into. Social media needs to be fed. Comments moderated, questions answered, discussions guided. Without feeding the two-way communication aspect of social media, you may as well resort to a Web 1.0 solution.