COMMENTARY

Information fuels social media

Twitter and Facebook are tools — not substitutes for strategy

Web 2.0 evangelists, such as our friend and esteemed adviser Brian Solis of FutureWorks, have stressed that social-networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook and others are just that: tools. Good content or information is still necessary to make those tools successful. Period.

Take for example a recent article in Defense Systems that says that 10 percent of the visitors to Health.mil are under the age of 25, yet 80 percent of the people in the military are between the ages of 18 and 25. The Health.mil site is interesting and is fairly easy to navigate. But it fails to highlight the various ways that warfighters and their families can take advantage of the tools to get the latest information on military health insurance, health care tips or other useful insight.

On Health.mil, information that points users to specific things they might want is almost nonexistent and not all that intuitive. No context is built around the widgets, a series of links can bring a user to any of six Twitter streams, and the page goes on and on. Where is the mission? Where is the context? Where is the enterprise tie-in?

Sure, more than 70 percent of people between 18 and 25 have some sort of profile on a social-networking site, but who cares? From the perspective of being able to engage stakeholders, those statistics are irrelevant. If the tools and the underlying processes are not tied to the mission or end-state, the site isn’t serving the agency or the agency’s customers.

That seems to be the trend with most government and, in particular, Defense Department social media. Blogs, RSS feeds and tweets are thrown around with little thought. That haphazard approach comes with little regard for the effect on overall communications goals and priorities and on the entire organization. Tying the social media outreach to the mission is essential no matter which organizational entity is using the tools.

To be successful, our nation's military, diplomatic and intelligence institutions must take a broader and more holistic approach to National Security 2.0, which means understanding the benefits of real-time communication, collaboration and command visibility. National Security 2.0 is an organizational approach to making the most of the benefits of the social Web, from back-office functions to frontline operations.

That is not to take anything away from the strategic communication and public affairs functions. Those shops can play a critical role in providing real-time information to stakeholders across the spectrum of operations. What we are suggesting instead is that the social Web, the processes and, yes, the tools cannot be owned by one function of an enterprise.

Facebook is not a strategy nor is Twitter. They are only tactics in a much larger and more complex strategy that includes massing the network effects of an enterprise to ensure that every facet is working with the mission and end-state in mind.

Matt Bigge is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Strategic Social, a company devoted to using social media tools in the interests of national security. An Army veteran, Bigge has co-founded more than 10 companies in his entrepreneurial career.

About the Author

Matt Bigge is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Strategic Social, a company devoted to using social media tools in the interests of national security. An Army veteran, Bigge has co-founded more than 10 companies in his entrepreneurial career.

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