Experts: Agencies should monitor crosstalk on social media

Important information can appear first on Web 2.0 sites, experts say

Federal agencies should closely monitor information and breaking news that appear on social media Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a military leader and experts on information technology use said today.

For example, Coast Guard officials are working to improve monitoring of information being published via Web 2.0 technologies, Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, said at the Potomac Forum's Gov 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration and Public Engagement Symposium. It is also important to monitor social media sites because those sites may be the only channel of communication available, Allen said.

"Oftentimes today, the first indication that there might be a situation happening is first reported online using Web 2.0 technology," said Mark Drapeau, an adjunct professor at George Washington University's school Media and Public Affairs. Tools to help agencies filter and find information on social media sites are maturing, and new tools should help agencies find the information they want on social media sites, he said.

For example, news of the recent collision of a private airplane and helicopter over the Hudson River in New York City first broke on Twitter, Drapeau said. "So I think it is increasingly important to be monitoring these conversations, whether they are happening over phone lines, through e-mail, over Twitter or on Facebook," Drapeau said.

Monitoring social media sites is a good idea for any agency, Drapeau said. Being aware of communications on the Internet can lead to interacting with the public or providing an official agency response to an incident, he said.

Using social media sites to communicate with the public is not much different than traditional ways of interacting with the people, said Ken Fischer, the program director of the symposium. For example, an alert that a boat is sinking could come via social media tools or a phone hot line.

"Either way, agencies have to plan for how they deal with information as it comes in from any channel," Fischer said. "That is a challenge agencies are dealing with to make sure that they're monitoring their Twitter accounts, their Facebook pages, or whatever."


About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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