Agencies question value of social media

Government agencies are expanding their use of social networks but are still unsure whether they're getting a good return on the investment, according to a recent survey.

The survey results from Market Connections Inc. released in a Dec. 15 webinar showed government use of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter rising to high levels in 2011, but also found that 31 percent of the government respondents viewed measuring ROI of social networking as a major difficulty.


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Government workers using mobile to access social media, survey shows


“Tight budgets in the coming months will continue to hold federal agencies’ feet to the fire in showing a return on investment for social media,” Lisa Dezzutti, president of Market Connections, said about the survey results. “Measuring ROI is still a big challenge for the federal side.”

The survey was based on interviews with 533 government employees—comprising 352 federal and 181 state and local workers. The federal workers included about half civilian and half defense employees..

It showed that Facebook was the most popular social media network for government employees in 2011, while visits to LinkedIn and Twitter were growing the fastest among that group in comparison to 2010.

Eighty-six percent of the government users visited Facebook in the last month, while for YouTube, it was 80 percent; LinkedIn, 70 percent; and Twitter, 50 percent.

In 2011, LinkedIn visits more than doubled, and Twitter use increased by more than 66 percent, compared with the previous year, while visits by government users to Facebook and YouTube grew by 19 percent and 31 percent, respectively, over the same period.

Asked about the three top challenges of utilizing social networks, 41 percent of the government respondents cited governance and legal issues; 40 percent named alignment with agency mission; and 31 percent cited difficulties with ROI.

To measure ROI for their social media activity, 64 percent of the government respondents said they are counting traffic and “clicks” on their websites; 64 percent used surveys to gauge increased awareness; 45 percent counted the number of new connections made; 44 percent used surveys to gauge agency “thought leadership”; and 43 percent counted the number of leads generated.

The survey also indicated that 52 percent of the government employees need pre-approval to use a social media site, and 45 percent said social media access is available only to specific employees.

The government employees surveyed also said they were utilizing government-specific social networks, including 35 percent using GovLoop; 31 percent using GSAInteract; 30 percent using GovTwit; 30 percent using GovWin; and 28 percent using the Federal Contractor Network.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 Lil Sebastian

Who doesn't have trouble measuring ROI for social networking?

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