Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So GSA Negotiated Terms of Service...Now What?

In the past few weeks, the General Services Administration (GSA) has signed Terms of Service (TOS) agreements with a number of new media providers. The agreements signed by GSA were negotiated with the assistance of a number of federal agencies. The goal was to arrive at a TOS federal agencies would be comfortable enough with to sign so each agency – and provider - would be spared from negotiating separate TOS agreements.

That so many agreements have been signed, and hopefully more will be coming, is great news for citizens, government agencies, and the providers, too. It chips away at a big part of a significant barrier to the federal government using the providers to connect with citizens where the citizens are, but it’s still just a first step.

Even though GSA has TOS in place that federal agencies can sign on to does not mean that anyone in any office can go to the provider’s website and open up an account like a private citizen normally would. The simplified process is that each agency will first have to sign the agreement with the provider (not every agency has done this as of yet). After that, each office or program will need to work through the regular chain of command and point of contact to establish the account with the provider.

Before you decide on the tool and after the account is established, remember something: It’s not the technology, it’s what we do with it that matters. Just because the door is open to using specific tools and channels to communicate with and engage our audiences does not mean that we should just for the sake of using them. While one program may be able to use a certain provider to great effect, a related program aimed at a different audience may be more effective using different methods.

One of the main reasons the Social Media Subcouncil exists is to create, collect, aggregate, and disseminate social media resources to assist government communication and web professionals use social media tools and providers effectively and consistently across government. We are here to help you better determine which channels will help you best connect with your audiences and how to use those channels most effectively. We haven’t gotten to everything yet, but we’re adding more and refining what we have all the time. So, please continue to read this blog, visit our wiki, follow us on Twitter , see us on GovLoop and take a look at the Social Media section of Webcontent.gov.

Jeremy Caplan is a Public Affairs Specialist at the International Trade Administration and a member of the Social Media Subcouncil.

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