USGS sets up Facebook 'ambassador' program

The U.S. Geological Survey is trying a new approach on Facebook to connect and coordinate expertise at the agency and with the public.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has started a pilot program on Facebook that offers links and regular status updates from 20 agency employees to aggregate and share expertise from the agency.

The goal of the "USGS Ambassadors" project is to aggregate and share publicly the Facebook status updates posted by the USGS employees on their Facebook profiles on their areas of expertise that include science, public affairs, application developers, customer service staff, and others, according to Scott Horvath, public relations specialist and Web developer at USGS.

“Our scientists and employees are very passionate about what they do, and this gives them a way to share that information,” Horvath said today.


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The program started when the USGS new Facebook page was introduced Nov. 29. As of today, 557 people “like” the new USGS Facebook page

The program is similar to Facebook’s own community pages, which aggregate information based on keywords, Horvath said. Instead of keywords, the USGS program will aggregate the status updates of the ambassadors, also allowing for public comments and interaction, he wrote.

Members of the public who have geological interest or expertise may interact on the program's Facebook pages, or they may interact on the USGS Facebook page, he added. Employees can “friend” members of the public on Facebook at their discretion, Horvath said.

“We are doing something different,” Horvath said. “There has been so much hesitation to use Facebook for professional purposes. There has got to be a way to make it work and make it professional.”

The 20 USGS emplolyees, including Horvath, are listed by full name, along with their area of expertise, on the new Facebook page. Their names contain live links to the employees’ Facebook profiles, where many of them have posted USGS information on their Facebook Walls. However, some of the employees have hidden their Wall access to the public; presumably their Facebook friends can access those Wall postings.

Horwath said the initial 20 USGS employees are being encouraged to post information and interact with the public on Facebook as part of their jobs. Over the next six months, the agency will track the effectiveness of the approach, he said.

The number of ambassadors may expand during the pilot period of the program, he added.

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