Secrets to social media acceptance revealed

Concrete steps pave the path to adoption

When developing policies for using social media tools at your agency, be bold. Panelists May 4 at the 2010 Open Government and Innovations Conference, held by 1105 Government Information Group agreed that firm resolve in the face of skepticism from the top will help win over reluctant leaders.

“Remain fearless. There will be a lot of intimidation,” said Tamie Lyles-Santiago, senior policy advisor for the Defense Department’s chief information officer. “You have to show the value, and show examples of value.”

Lyles-Santiago described the skirmishes that social media advocates at DOD encountered when developing policies for the use of Web 2.0 tools as “a lot of screaming and yelling and battling." To win the battle, you have to convince leaders it isn’t just a social tool.

“It’s not social-social,” she said. “It’s social-business.” Promulgate the use of social networking as secure collaboration to get the necessary buy-in from officials concerned about security vulnerabilities, she said.


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In developing DOD’s policy, the CIO’s office canvassed the families of service members, who often communicate via Facebook and other social networking tools. “What would be the impact if we blocked access?” they were asked. The families were overwhelmingly opposed to blocking access, Lyles-Santiago said.

Be flexible in building policies, she added. For example, DOD’s policy allows for temporary blocking of access to social media tools in the event of bandwidth constraints.

Lovisa Williams, deputy director for the Office of Innovative Engagement at the State Department, advised audience members to “go out and talk to stakeholders” when developing policies.

“Look at policy as a way to empower people to use social media better,” she said.

State has produced practical field guides to the basic in’s and out’s and do’s and don’t’s of social media use for employees. “We knew that developing a policy would take a long time,” as social media in government is the intersection where technology, policy and culture convene, she said. “All this is change management on steroids.”

At the Transportation Department, officials are still working out a social media policy. “We don’t have a policy in place but we have a plan to put one in place,” said Jennifer Gustetic, a consultant for DOT's Open Government initiative.

 

About the Author

Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.

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