In an indication of how pervasive social media has become, police in Oregon launched a campaign reminding citizens not to tweet officers’ locations or take selfies in the midst of an armed standoff.
Oregon’s Tweet Smart initiative, which we covered in August, warns citizens about the potential dangers of sharing too much information during an emergency. Police say they don’t want people to stop using social media, just to exercise a little common sense. One recommendation: “Do not put yourself in a photo (take a selfie) and endanger yourself, no matter how compelling.”
But 2014 also saw the introduction of helpful new platforms for the public sector and new sophistication in how governments use social networks.
One of the biggest developments was Nextdoor’s release of services specifically for local agencies. The popular Nextdoor social platform hosts private networks in 45,000 individual neighborhoods, according to the company. Government agencies could participate in these networks at arm’s length — and many did — but changes announced in September let local agencies conduct targeted two-way conversations with neighborhood residents through the platform.
Agencies also found other practical applications for social media. For instance, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services used social analytics to monitor Twitter, Facebook and other social networks for comments about state Medicaid services. Officials say they’ll use the unvarnished feedback — “South Carolina Medicaid seriously sucks!!” wrote one online forum user — to make improvements.
And CIOs in California began posting job openings on Twitter, with encouraging results. Palo Alto’s Jonathan Reichental noted in April that the free service is a great way to reach tech-savvy job seekers. And Adrian Farley, CIO of the state Attorney General’s Office, told Government Technology that early efforts to use Twitter as a recruitment tool already were paying off.
Despite a few headaches, it’s clear that governments have moved beyond questioning “why” they should use social media to address the more important issue of “how.”
Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.