Comment — Social media

How Facebook can work for you

Fan pages can informally connect agencies to the public

The Obama administration recently launched a Facebook and government fan page to give government organizations a popular location to send people for resources, tips and guidance.

What’s the big deal? And now that your organization is on Facebook, what's next?

Another good question is, “Why is your organization on Facebook?” Any social-media initiative should have a purpose. Otherwise, initiatives are just a trendy time sink.

Facebook is a social-networking site. Social networks allow people to post profiles, compare interests, and link with old friends, new friends, colleagues and co-workers.

And it’s not just something the kids are doing. The fastest-growing demographic on Facebook is users well into their careers — professionals, leaders and experts. As of February, 46 percent of Facebook users were older than 26. The largest-growing demographic is women older than 55.

Also, Facebook has matured quite a bit from its early days as a glorified yearbook as new features are constantly being added. Facebook Connect allows users to easily post content — pictures, links and videos. Fan pages answered the complaints by organizations that Facebook Groups were too limiting. Apart from all the games, there are a lot of decent Facebook applications that can enhance an organization’s presence. Some allow for crosstalk among other social-media platforms, such as Twitter. Some can gather RSS feeds from other sites, blogs or Facebook pages for convenient display in one place.

However, back to the point, why be on Facebook?

For one thing, if an organization wants to converse with its external audience, chances are many of its members are already on Facebook, so going where they are makes sense. A lot of an organization’s employees are also probably there. Having a Facebook fan page can be a great place to distribute content, link to stories, and solicit comments from an organization’s internal or external audience.

Don’t let the lingo trip you up. Facebook friends are all manner of people — bosses, church-goers, in-laws. Facebook fans are simply people who subscribe to a fan page’s feed. They aren’t necessarily people who are crazy in love with an organization. However, people who subscribe to a fan page have the potential to be flag wavers for an organization if they perceive it to be of value.

As an organization explores several areas of social media, having a landing spot such as a Facebook fan page can be a good, dynamic place for audience members to see goings-on with minimal effect on the organization’s official Web page.

Like good graphic design, inspiration for Facebook fan page features can come from others. An agency can get a lot of tips from seeing how other government fan pages are designed. The Army page is pretty robust, and the Environmental Protection Agency also has a good page.

We’ll see a lot of other good examples as more people take the second, third and further steps in exploring how Facebook can augment and amplify public affairs practices.

About the Author

Joshua Salmons graduated Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, earning a bachelor’s degree in video media production. After graduation, he joined a college friend in Michigan where Salmons helped begin Flannel, the film company that produces the successful Nooma film series. In January 2003, Salmons enlisted as an Army print journalist. He has served at three duty stations: Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Hood, Texas, where he deployed to Iraq for a yearlong tour, and has served here at the Defense Information School since June 2007. While he started at DINFOS as a basic journalism instructor, his insistence on adopting social media as a tool for military PA led to him being selected as the first DINFOS emerging media coordinator. He works with the various new and emerging media offices of each military service to develop best practices and policies for social media use in the military.

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