How to defend against social-media brand thieves

Business strategies for social media work well for government organizations, expert says

Government agencies should consider using the same strategies that businesses employ to use social media to communicate and interact with the public, a Web marketing expert said today at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York.

The first step any organization should take is to claim usernames on the 15 most popular social media Web sites that include Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook, said Veronica Fielding, president and chief executive officer of Digital Brand Expressions, an Internet consulting firm.

For example, the Agriculture Department’s Twitter username is USDAgov because an individual claimed the name USDA before the agency attempted to get it, according to a USDA official.

Agencies should also choose a consistent username that can be used across several social media Web sites, Fielding said. It is important to factor in the restrictions some Web sites have for usernames. For eample, no more than 15 characters can be used for a Twitter username.

Agencies should also create and document other policies related to social media, Fielding said. For example. many sites require a birth date to register, so agencies need a policy on how to deal with that, and government organizations also need to decide who has access to official government social media accounts, as well as who creates the passwords and who updates those passwords.

Some social media Web sites deactivate dormant accounts, so agencies need to be prepared for that, Fielding said. If agency leaders are not ready to start using a site, they should ensure someone logs into the site often enough to preserve the username.

Although many social media tools are free, agency officials should know that resources are needed to maintain accounts, Fielding said.

Agency leaders should not fear that social media is a passing fad, she said. “Social media is what the people want, and government organizations need to communicate with the public the way they want to be communicated with.” 

In addition to establishing policies about creating social media accounts, agencies should also set policies around maintaining sites. A dormant site is worse than no site at all, so agencies should consider creating an editorial calendar to ensure sites stay fresh, Fielding said

Fielding also recommended that agencies develop policies about who owns the content created with social media.

“If a government employee uses a personal Twitter account during off hours to post information about an agency, who owns that content?” Fielding asked. “If everybody is clear that the person is part of this government organization, then who owns the content that they create? Who is responsible for it and liable for it?”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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