USDA cultivates social-media campaigns through planning

Web 2.0 tools used for tour of rural revitalization projects

Social media played a key role in sharing information and getting feedback from the public during a nationwide Agriculture Department tour designed to find new ways to revitalize rural communities, according to Amanda Eamich, USDA’s director for new media.

Despite the ease of accessing and using tools such as Twitter and YouTube, the new media campaign required extensive planning, Eamich told the Potomac Forum today.

Determining who will write blogs, Twitter posts and shoot video should be decided before a campaign is launched, she advised.

“Social media is free, but time isn’t free,” Eamich said. “People don’t always have dedicated social media practitioners. So you have to take a serious look at what you can sustain on a day-to-day basis, because it is important to keep the lines of communications open and not just put up a blog post and walk away,”

Eamich recommended that agencies decide early what the new media campaign should accomplish, and the goal can be as simple as trying to communicate with -- and get responses from -- a target audience.

Another important step is to get early input from legal, security and information technology staff members about the feasibility of launching a new media effort, Eamich said, adding that it's important to ensure an agency’s network can support such a campaign. “It is important to talk to these folks before you embark on a social media campaign because if you make a mistake along the way it can be a lot more difficult to clean up.” 

For USDA’s Rural Tour, the goal was to highlight the progress of revitalization projects in rural communities. People at USDA who were already cleared to speak publicly often produced the blog entries, Twitter posts and videos, she said

“The lesson," Eamich said, "is social media is no different than other kind of communication that you do."

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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