Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What are the "Rules of Engagement" for Twitter?

The subcouncil team has had some active discussions about policy aspects of Twitter for government agencies over the past few weeks. At a time when Government agencies are starting to actively engage with constituents using social media tools, there's still different schools of thought about how to approach Twitter.

On a recent episode of Government 2.0 Radio, the point was raised that government agencies are now listening to the conversation happening online, but there's still some hesitancy to actually engage in conversation.

Questions come to mind about whom to follow and when to engage in the conversation. Twitter is no different than any other social media tool: how you use it really depends on your communication goals.

For the Massachusetts Governor's Office, the rules of engagement are clear, and posted right online.

To paraphrase:
-They follow people who follow them.
-They use Twitter to connect citizens with government and to get feedback.
-They review and update "as much as possible", along with other channels of feedback, outreach and engagement.
-They explain how the feedback they receive on Twitter is incorporated in the same way as feedback they receive through more conventional channels.

Some agencies have yet to take the plunge into full engagement. They aren't following anyone. They may be monitoring @ replies, but are not responding directly to them in the public forum. Although this cautious approach may be appropriate under certain circumstances, does it send the wrong message about openness and willingness to engage?

There are probably 101 uses for Twitter, so there's probably no 100% correct answer here. In establishing best practices for Twitter use by government entities, we want to consider all factors.

The Social Media Subcouncil asks you: what are your rules of engagement? How do you use Twitter, and how do you engage with followers?

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, June 4, 2009

Focusing Gov 2.0 Within

This week I caught up with Lynn Dean to talk about the impressive evolution of the Transportation Security Administration’s Idea Factory and get the scoop on the organization’s wisdom.

As a communications strategist, Dean knows how important it is to engage every audience. “When people think about social media, they assume communication always means external, but it’s not,” she explains. 90 percent of TSA’s workforce is in the field at airports of all sizes.

The Idea Factory is a great model to use when thinking about developing internal communication or collaboration tools.

If You Build it, They May Not Come

When you launch any new tool, education is key. People will have different levels of comfort and experience with web-based platforms. Instead of using comment cards people are now being asked to submit their ideas online.

Senior level buy in will only get you so far. “Change is often an inherent challenge in government,” said Dean. The communities that develop as a result of the Idea Factory are invaluable. A core community of users has evolved and officers are interacting more; contributors are known by name by officers in airports thousands of miles away.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back

TSA holds challenges for specific issues and offers awards for the best submission. Winners are recognized in a variety of ways and may be invited to DC to work on groups implementing the change, visited when officials are in the field or featured in the newsletter. The service has evolved over time and now features a newsletter for those most interested in what’s being voted on or adopted each week.

Let it Grow

Create a dynamic tool where users can contribute to the design. The Idea Factory posts surveys to see what officers and other TSA employees find most useful or want to see more of. The Department of Homeland Security, TSA’s older sibling, is even looking at using a similar tool in other areas of the department due to its success.

Consider Everything

Suggestions from small or large airports and HQ will likely differ. In Washington, I may not think that a bulletin board in the break room is a big deal but for officers who break at different times it means a lot. The Idea Factory’s voting function allows employees to decide what’s important to them. Practical suggestion and an easy fix.

As your organization moves further along the path towards Gov 2.0, don’t forget your colleagues. Some of the greatest innovation and creative energy is closer than you think. Just ask a TSA officer next time you fly.

Amanda Eamich is the Acting Director of New Media at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and member of the Social Media Subcouncil. You can connect with her on Twitter or GovLoop