April 11, 2011    /    by

How Much Social Networking is Right for Government?

How important is social networking to leading companies right now? Very important. In some cases, it may even be the most important priority. Its time for state and local government agencies to reexamine these social networking trends and build new strategies to engage partners with social media.

How important is social networking to leading companies right now? Very important. In some cases, it may even be the most important priority.

For example, after taking over as CEO at Google, Larry Page issued a memo announcing that employee bonuses will be tied to their social networking success.

"It's a firm wide initiative across Google," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial. "There's no greater way to signal the importance of this than tie everyone's pay to it."

I know, Google is selling their products & services in competition with Facebook and others. But social media is also a top priority for small businesses as well as for large private enterprises seeking to gain a competitive edge.  While social media is very hot today, this trend actually started to develop several years ago.

But how much social networking is right for governments? No doubt, we are in tight budget times, and the ROI from social media investments is difficult to quantify. While defining and refining your social networking strategy may be difficult for leading private sector businesses, the business opportunities and issues are no less complex or less important for governments. 

I’m not talking about building more mobile apps for various government services – although social networking can help market those apps. Nor am I talking about whether politicians should have a Facebook page. Those ships have already sailed.

The question is: what is the priority of social networking for various government business areas? How should government employees be using social media? As governments participate in Government to Government (G2G), Government to Business (G2B) or Government to Citizen (G2C) interactions, how do you measure success? Bottom line, what’s the right strategy for governments?

There are many different answers to this question.

Some state and local governments have barred social networking sites altogether. Citing security risks, fears around data ownership or public perception challenges, they block most or all social network access at work.

Others use government-specific social media sites, such as Govloop.   

Most federal government agencies are now embracing Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Yes, there are a few simple rules, but it seems likely that social networking is (or will become) as popular as smart phones and tablet PCs at the office. It’s pretty clear to me that the momentum is in the direction of widespread adoption of social networks in governments around the world.

Of course, as with other technological advances, there will be misuse and even abuse of social networking tools. Effective interpersonal communication is always hard to implement. Governments, like private sector businesses, needs to be the appropriate level of accountability put in place surrounding acceptable use and more.  Nevertheless, social media is hot and getting hotter.

I think it’s time for state and local government agencies to reexamine these social networking trends and build new strategies to engage partners with social media.

What's you opinion?