Facebook exec says agencies not fully leveraging social media
Public agencies diving in but not fully using tools available
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Jan 20, 2011
Government agencies are diving into social media, but most are still
aren't taking full advantage of the special features of new media, a
Facebook executive said at a conference today.
About 66 percent of government agencies are using at least one social
media tool, Adam Conner, associate manager for privacy and global
public policy at Facebook, said at the Social Graph seminar at the
George Washington University School of Business. The event was a
collaboration with the L2 think tank.
However, many agencies view social media as just another set of
channels for their announcements and don't leverage the exponential
nature of social platforms, Conner said. On social platforms, users are
connected to many other users, so that shared content can be spread
exponentially through concentric networks, Conner said. That allows for a
much more rapid and broad spread of information, especially if users
share the agency information on their own Facebook pages, compared with
individual users visiting a website.
“On Facebook, one click is not just one click,” Conner said.
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Also, many public agencies are using Facebook and other social media
platforms as one-way channels rather than using opportunities for
two-way conversations and feedback, Conner said.
Rather than focus on output — such as the number of press releases,
videos and other content posted on an agency's Facebook site — the
emphasis should be on the amount and quality of feedback from users,
which ideally should be passed back to the top of the organization as
valuable information, he said.
Also, most government agencies haven't used their social media
fully to drive their communications and missions, Conner said. As
the Web and corporations are reorganizing to become more people-centric,
public agencies should do the same, he advised.
“The Web is reorganizing around people," he said. "You need to reorganize around people, too."
For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has established a
practice of setting up a separate Facebook page for each disaster in
addition to FEMA’s Facebook page, he said. That allows for a much more
local conversation about the specific disaster, the response and all the
immediate local effects.
For all public agencies, Conner recommended responding to comments on
Facebook as a best practice, and also periodically recognizing fan
creativity, such as by selecting a “featured fan” of the week.
He also recommended the Army’s social media policy as a best
practice, especially in dealing with public comments. “It is a great
example and very thorough,” he said.
He shared several more principles of operation for public agencies on
Facebook: Make it social, keep it simple, pace yourself, use a
consistent voice, interact, adjust and optimize, and be timely and
Conner suggested that some government agency executives may be
inadvertently turning off innovators and stifling experimentation in
social media by their attitudes in discussing red tape and tight budget
limitations. Especially sensitive are the start-up software developers who may be offering very creative and useful new products but are
told there is no money available to pay for them.
“There is this mistaken assumption in government that people will
work for free," Conner said. "The government executive will say, ‘We don’t have any
“To hear the manager of a multibillion-dollar agency say there is no
money…Well, you have far more resources than Joe Developer,” Conner
said. "I do fear for the start-ups trying to work with government."
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.