How governments are using social media to join conversations, not just ‘broadcast’
Friday, October 8th, 2010

Federal, provincial and municipal governments across Canada are taking steps to use social media to communicate with and engage their publics.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), for example, uses social networking, microblogging, widgets and video sharing to provide information and participate in a dialogue on living healthily.  The City of Guelph is using social media to help local residents commute during an especially busy summer construction period, and give personalize help when users posted difficult experiences with roads or bus routes.

What do these examples have in common? They are based on an understanding that the public expects that government will join and participate in conversations taking place in social media spaces – not just use them simply as channels to broadcast.

In practical terms, this means that government organizations should have develop the following tools and processes to ensure that they are ready to engage in two-way communications on social media:

  1. Social Media Strategy: developed through internal dialogue and engagement, this blueprint will outline objective, desired relationships and target audiences, appropriate social media presences to meet these objectives, and performance measurement approach to assess ROI (return on investment)
  2. Monitoring Approaches: “monitoring” sounds sinister, but in the social media context is about finding and following relevant dialogues where government contribution would help participants and add value.
  3. Processes to Govern Interventions: Government organizations need to bring together traditional media and social media monitoring services, and ensure that the right tools and processes are in place to find conversations, assess whether to take part, and how.  This could include “triggers” such as incorrect factual information, or when government could help participants find services they are looking.  And, finally, bring able to post timely government contributions requires the right flexible approvals processes.

For me, this part of an exciting shift from Government 2.0, where information was made public through passive posting on websites, to Government 3.0 where governments bring personalized help and advice to people where they are on social media.

– Ellis Westwood –

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