Social media

Instameets provide an inside view of government

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The National Zoo recently hosted an Instameet to give a handful of people an exclusive opportunity take photos of panda cub Bao Bao. Photo by Sharon Sipple.

Otto von Bismarck is credited with perhaps the most famous warning against exposing the inner workings of government. "Laws are like sausages," the Iron Chancellor supposedly cautioned. "It is better not to see them being made."

Bismarck governed a country that knows a thing or two about making sausages. But he never used Instagram, and the Berlin zoo didn't have panda cubs in the 19th century.

As federal agencies look for new ways to engage with the public, social media is playing an ever larger role. The latest avenues for allowing people to get behind-the-scenes glimpses of the federal sausage grinder are Instameets, which serve as meeting organizers for Instagram users to post photos of a place or event at a specific time.

Over the weekend, Instagram showcased the National Zoo's panda cub Bao Bao, and a handful of people got exclusive access to take pictures and upload them to Instagram.

Participants in the #ZooMeet were chosen based on an uploaded photo or video that explained why they wanted to be part of the Instameet.

For federal institutions that don't have a cuddly cub to attract an audience, posting pictures illustrating a day in the life of a Cabinet member or a shiny tech project could be a way to boost an agency's social media following.

"It could be everything from a Cabinet secretary to the receptionist who answers the phones taking over the [Instagram] account for a day and sharing images of what they're doing and how they're helping the American people through your agency," said Katie Harbath, a manager for policy at Facebook, during a recent webinar sponsored by the General Services Administration's Center for Excellence in Digital Government.

Other Instameets have been hosted at the Capitol and the White House gardens.

"I think that humanizing a lot of these agencies and helping to share what goes on can be a really great way to create some of that more authentic content," Harbath said.

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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